ST. ANTHONY — With three minutes remaining in the 2A Nuclear Conference boys basketball championship game, Butte County emptied their bench in a sign of defeat. Moments later the four time defending champion Firth Cougars did the same and after a few scruffy moments, the buzzer sounded on a 56-29 Cougar victory as Firth celebrated their fifth straight district title.
"You know it all started with Shawn Ellsworth who is one of my assistants now," Firth head coach Scott Adams said. "They started with good leaders there and set a standard of excellence for us. These kids have seen it, I have a son who will be in high school next year and he's seen it all these years and they want to be a part of it. They learned from good leaders and then in turn they become good leaders themselves."
Butte came into the game needed not one win, but two, if they were to wrestle the title away from the Cougars. Two weeks ago Butte handed the Cougars their first conference loss in five years so Firth was in no mood to give the Pirates any thoughts of accomplishing that feat.
Butte opened the game in a four corner stall right from the opening tip, scoring the first 4-points of the game and eventually taking a 7-4 lead after the first quarter.
A trio of treys in the second quarter, two by Austin Leslie helped ignite the Cougar offense however as they outscored the Pirates 13-2 in the quarter, leading to a 17-9 half time advantage.
"When they came down and tried to stall a little bit I think that they got those first two baskets because we got a little lazy on the defensive end and let up a bit," coach Adams said. "We needed to come down and get some scores to get into our press and get some steals which is what ultimately got us going or they would have kept taking a lot of time off the clock."
Out of the break the Cougars kept their collective feet firmly on the pedal as they pushed the lead to double-digits and a Logan Wynn drive to the basket at the end of the stanza put the Cougars up by 15.
Butte County tried in vain for a comeback attempt in the fourth quarter as they tried to extend the game by putting the Cougars on the free throw line.
That tactic did nothing but extend the lead for the Cougars however, as Firth connected on 16 of 22 second half charity tosses for the final margin of victory.
"This was the best feeling for me because with this being my senior year, this one feels more like mine and it's how I wanted to go out, it's awesome," Kory Andersen said. "Right now we've been focused on a district championship but we have a week to prepare for our ultimate goal. I can't wait to get to state, it should be fun."
Firth will celebrate the district title for a while and then set their sights on a bit of history. No team in any classification has won 5 straight state titles, a feat that the men in blue are more than aware of, and are setting their sights on accomplishing.
That quest will begin next Thursday when they tangle with the third district champions at 8 P.M. at Capital High School.
BHS 7 2 10 10 - 29
FHS 4 13 17 22 - 56
Butte County - Wyatt Anderson 5, Brandon Pearson 3, Daniel Isham 3, Micheal Carey 2, Hayden Isham 2, Shawn Steenson 4, Zac Hansen 5, Tyler Andreason 5; rebounds (16) Tyler Andreason 3, Daniel Isham 3; assists (3) Zac Hansen 2; FT - 5/11; 3pt - 2/10 Tyler Andreason 1, Daniel Isham 1; fouls - 22; fouled out - none
Firth - Morgan Giles 14, Brenner Coughlan 1, Mitch Orme 13, Logan Wynn 9, Austin Leslie 10, Quincy Wilson 1, Kory Andersen 3, Jacob Fielding 5; rebounds (22) Kory Andersen 8; assists (11) Kory Andersen 5; FT - 20/28; 3pt - 6/10 Morgan Giles 2, Austin Leslie 2, Mitch Orme 1, Logan Wynn 1; fouls - 13; fouled out - none