POCATELLO — The Snake River Panthers got 24 points from senior guard Shane Parkinson and they knocked down an impressive 24 of 34 free throw attempts as they captured the fifth district championship with a hard fought 62-50 victory over the Bears of Bear Lake on Wednesday evening.
After a couple of nervous moments to begin the game, Snake River settled in nicely as they opened a 16-11 first quarter lead.
Brad Coombs was a big part of the opening quarter as he scored 7 points in the a quarter that the Panthers never trailed on the scoreboard.
That lead grew to 7 points after a Wyatt Wray lay up and it looked as if all the momentum was on the Panther side line. At 5:22 of the second quarter Coombs went down in a heap, grasping his ankle as the large Snake River contingent went silent for their fallen player.
Bear Lake took advantage of the lull as they proceeded to go on an 11-4 run, tying the game at 22-22 with 2:30 remaining in the half.
"We were concerned when Brad went down," Snake River head coach Bob Coombs said. "We were able to regroup, especially on the defensive end where we shut them down and then we were able to hit some big shots."
Coombs returned with a freshly taped ankle with just over two minutes remaining and the sophomore paid instant dividends as he put back in a missed shot for a basket at the buzzer, giving the Panthers a 27-24 lead heading into the break.
With the wind howling just outside the Palace doors, Shane "cool breeze" Parkinson took over the second half as the senior stepped to the forefront for the Panthers.
Parkinson, who has shown his deft touch from behind the arc was a key figure in the third quarter as he drilled a pair of long distant shots and was fouled on another which led to 2 of 3 charity tosses for the lanky guard and a 44-39 Panther lead.
"That's Shane's specialty, the three point shot," Coach Coombs said. "Bear Lake went into a zone look and we did a good job of moving the ball around and then found him open for some good looks and he hit them."
In the fourth quarter it was all about the free throws. Snake River actually made just one field goal in the deciding period. That score from the field came from Wyatt Wray as he worked his way inside for the lone bucket for the Panthers.
Despite that, Snake River was more than capable at the charity stripe as the men from Moreland connected on 16 of 20 in the frame. Once again, Parkinson was front and center for the Panthers as he connected on 7 of 8 attempts over the final minute and a half to clinch the district championship.
"We just sort of relaxed at the half, played our game and put the ball in the hole," Parkinson said. "I just tried to do what I do and pretend that I was in the gym shooting like I do everyday at practice."
With the offense under control, Snake River's defense shut down the Bears in the fourth quarter, holding the Bears to just two field goals of their own, the last a desperation three pointer with :15 remaining.
"We knew that they would want to go to Wallentine because he is such a good player," Coach Coombs said. "I thought that Cooper Peterson came in and did a great job of denying him the basketball and the steals that he got in the fourth quarter were a big key to our success."
With the first goal checked off the list, Snake River (14-6) will now head to Meridian where they will open their quest for a state title against the champion from the fourth district. Tip off will be at 6:15 at Meridian High School next Thursday.
SNAKE RIVER 62, BEAR LAKE 50
BEAR LAKE 11 13 15 11 - 50
SNAKE RIVER 16 11 17 18 - 62
Bear Lake (50) Shayden Poulsen 7, Derrick Gundersen 17, Kade Pitchford 3, Porter Wallentine 16, Dee Petersen 5, Caleb Phillips 2. FG: 13. FT: 18/23. 3-pointers (Poulsen, Wallentine). Fouls: 21. Fouled out: (Pitchford, Wallentine).
Snake River (62) Andres Garza 1, Jacoby Johnson 7, Cooper Peterson 4, Cole Rushton 3, Brad Coombs 13, Shane Parkinson 24, Wyatt Wray 10. FG: 17. FT: 24/34. 3-pointers (Coombs, Parkinson 3). Fouls: 17. Fouled out: (none).