AMMON — In a game in which both teams made plenty of plays it was the home standing Hillcrest Knights who made the last, and as it turned out the biggest play of the night when Taylor Brooks tipped in a missed shot as the buzzer sounded, lifting the Knights to a thrilling 80-78 victory over the Shelley Russets on Tuesday evening.
"There's always a lot of what ifs in a loser out game," Shelley head coach Dave Hadley said. "My kids played their hearts out and we did everything that we needed to do to win this game but you have to credit Hillcrest because they made one more play than we did."
Shelley came out firing in first quarter play as the Dungeon looked more like the Spud Cellar as the boisterous Shelley crowd were in full throat. Chad Leckington, McKay Cannon and Christian Cather combined to make four straight three point baskets to close out the opening stanza for a 27-16 lead.
In the second quarter, Hillcrest got hot from behind the arc themselves as Kaden Miller came off the bench and connected on three of his team leading four three point baskets in the frame.
"We were playing a switching man-to-man defense and on three possessions, we just didn't find our guy and he made us pay with those three point shots," Coach Hadley said.
Despite that, strong interior play by Kaden Michaelson kept the Knights at bay as Michaelson combined on a pair of old fashioned three point plays as he banged inside, drew fouls and then converted on the basket and ensuing free throws to keep the Russet lead at 41-37 heading into the break.
Third quarter action was McKay Cannon time as the silky smooth junior erupted for 14 of his game leading 24 points in the quarter, including a dramatic three point shot as time expired to push the Russet lead back out to eight at 66-58.
Down, but certainly not done yet, the Knights opened the fourth quarter on a 13-4 run, keyed in large part to a trio of steals, which had plenty of contact, which led to easy baskets on the other end, eventually leading to the Knights first lead of the evening at 71-70 with 3:56 remaining.
"Hillcrest went into a box in one and then they slapped at the ball from behind, slapped up on the ball and then bodied our post from behind and on each one of those plays there was no call," Coach Hadley said. "They get lay ups out of those possessions and from there on, the whole style of the game changed."
From there, the two teams traded the lead four times until a pair of Chad Leckington free throws tied the game at 78-78 late in the quarter, leading to the dramatic finish.
"It's what's wonderful about High School athletics," Coach Hadley said. "It will build character or reveal character. I feel for the five seniors and all of the efforts that they put forth on a daily basis. I just couldn't be prouder of a team."
HILLCREST 80, SHELLEY 78
SHELLEY 27 14 25 12 - 78
HILLCREST 16 21 21 22 - 80
Shelley (78) Edgar Mendoza 3, T.J. Stommel 11, Chad Leckington 9, Christian Cather 5, Kaden Michaelson 23, McKay Cannon 24, Christian Mendoza 3. FG: 29. FT: 11/12. 3-pointers (E. Mendoza, Stommel 2, Leckington, Cather, Cannon 4). Fouls: 16. Fouled out: (none).
Hillcrest (80) Tyson McDonald 18, Kaden Miller 22, Taylor Brooks 14, Blake Phippen 8, Tanner Austin 7, Scott Baldwin 11. FG: 29. FT: 15/20. 3-pointers (Miller 4, Austin 2, Baldwin) Fouls: 12. Fouled out: (none).