REXBURG — The Shelley Russets held a 9-point lead heading to the tail end of the third quarter at Madison High School on Tuesday night. Call it the Madison mystique or the Hawkins magic, whatever the case was, Shelley got caught up in a late wave of a Madison run and when that wave came crashing down, Madison had prevailed in the High Country Conference title game by the final tally of 63-54.
"Our kids played as well as I could ever expect of them for thirty minutes," Shelley head coach Dave Hadley said. "We executed just the exact way that we wanted to. I thought defensively we got great rotation and then the gym got loud and I don't know if it was our inability to communicate because we couldn't hear, or whatever, they were able to get the ball into their high post."
The game was a fabulous affair, played before a packed house in Madison's beautiful new gym. On the court, the two teams traded the lead 13 times on an evening that witness both teams with big runs over the other.
Shelley opened the game on one of those runs as McKay Cannon and Chad Leckington both dialed long distance, leading to an 8-0 score and an early time out by the Cats'.
Madison answered with a 9-0 run of their own, setting the tone for the rest of the evening as the two teams scratched and clawed for the district title.
Shelley bombed away from the perimeter on the offensive end as the Russets connected on 11 of 31 from behind the arc. Jason Christensen and Chad Leckington each had 4 for the Russets.
On the defensive end, Shelley tried to take away the Madison middle as the Cats' tried to pound the ball inside.
At the end of the day, Madison was able to take advantage down low, going to the free throw line 24 times on the evening, where they connected on 17 charity tosses, 8 of which came in the final minute of play.
"I'm proud of our kids, they battled their ass off, unfortunately the momentum swing came at the wrong time and we couldn't get out of it," coach Hadley said. "Once we got behind, I thought that we lost composure a little bit and they were able to take advantage of us."
Shelley will look to rebound from the loss when they travel to Rigby on Thursday for a 7:30 game. The winner of that will play on Saturday for the state play in game.
"I told the kids, you got to let it hurt for a minute and then we have to decide whether losing this game will reveal us as characters, or prove that we have character and I believe in our kids," coach Hadley said. "I'm still not convinced that we aren't the better team, unfortunately we came up short but you don't work this hard, this long long and care as much as our kids care to not come out and play hard on Thursday."
SHS 12 14 18 10 - 54
MHS 11 12 18 22 - 63
Shelley - Jason Christensen 14, Chad Leckington 12, Chad Cather 3, Will Higham 9, McKay Cannon 12, Christian Mendoza 2; rebounds - 17 Chad Cather 10; assists - 10 McKay Cannon 6; FT - 5/11; 3pt - 11/31 Jason Christensen 4, Chad Leckington 4, McKay Cannonn 2, Will Higham 1; fouls - 20; fouled out - none
Madison - Kyle Blanchard 15, Mitch Powell 2, Rhett Robison 12, Jason Luthy 2, Ryker Pierce 11, Taylor Groom 2, Kaden Michaelson 11, Austin Blair 9; rebounds - 30 Ryker Pierce 10; assists - 11 Kyle Blanchard 7; FT - 17/24; 3pt - 2/10 Rhett Robison 2; fouls - 15; fouled out - none