IDAHO FALLS — The Shelley Russets were in the drivers seat as they entered Monday nights 3A Mountain Rivers championship game against Sugar-Salem. As it was, Shelley enjoyed the fact that they were unblemished in the double-elimination tournament so a loss on Monday would not eliminate their conference title dreams as the dreaded if needed game loomed on Wednesday evening.
Shelley decided to avoid that route however as they broke open a 32-32 third quarter tie with a dazzling 17 point fourth quarter to capture the district title with a 49-41 victory.
"Sugar are so well coached, they present such match up problems for us and I felt like tonight we could just come out and play because there wasn't a lot of pressure because we just needed to win one out of three games this week," Shelley head coach Dave Hadley said. "Now do I feel deep in my heart that way? If we would have lost tonight we would have faced a lot more pressure on Wednesday. Not that I'm afraid of the pressure but it was nice to win this and have a couple of days to prepare for our state trip without having to rush to get it done."
First half action was a contrast in styles as the Shelley Russets bombed away from behind the arc while the Diggers pounded the ball inside to their massive front line.
"I don't care how long you've been playing the game. I don't care how confident you are. When you look up and see a front line of 6'7", 6'5" 6'5" mentally it's tough to say give me the ball and let me go attack," Coach Hadley said. "We settled a bit for what they gave us but they weren't bad shots but if we could get them out of the high post I felt that defensively it gave us just a half step of more room for us to shoot."
Tyler Fredrickson and Chad Leckington were the key sharpshooters from behind the arc as the duo combined for all five of the Russets first half treys for 17 of the teams 19 points.
Fredrickson finished the evening with 4 treys and 12 points and Leckington added 3 treys for nine of his game high 15.
Despite that, the Diggers were able to hit a lay up late in the first half for a 20-19 advantage heading into the break.
"I'm most proud of Tyler because earlier in the season he would have fumbled it a little bit and then would think that I've still got to shoot it," Coach Hadley said. "I thought that he showed a lot of maturity for a sophomore when he passed on a shot because it didn't feel right and then got it back, understood when he was in the rhythm. He hit a couple of those shots where you could just see that when he caught it that he was in a good rhythm and was able to knock them down."
Out of the break the long range shooting continued as Shelley knocked down three more in the third quarter as McKay Cannon, Fredrickson and Kaden Schmitt etched dialed long distance with their free roaming plans eventually leading to the 32-32 tie by quarters end.
Fourth quarter action is where the game was eventually won however as Fredrickson opened with a trey from the top of the arc for the three point lead. That shot sparked a 12-1 run over the first four minutes as the Shelley faithful went berserk with jubilant celebration in the stands.
Dalton Nelson was huge in the run as he penetrated the Digger defense for a pair of buckets on the low blocks including one which drew a foul for the and one.
"I think that one of the biggest keys was the fact that we were able to get the ball into the high post there in the fourth quarter," Coach Hadley said. "Dalton Nelson did a great job and it was one of his best games of the year."
With the lead it became hack a Russet time as Sugar-Salem tried to extend the lead but 8 of 12 free throw shooting by the Russets in the final minute and a half put the game on ice as Shelley cut down the nets with their conference championship.
"It's nice be be asked to the dance and it's nice that we now have a little bit of time to schedule our hair appointments and our tux fittings or whatever it is," Coach Hadley said. "We know that we can sit back for a couple of days, make some plans and then get back to work on the little things that will make us successful in practice. I like my team. They are a hard working bunch and I like that we get a chance to go over and get a shot at a state title."
Shelley will begin their state tournament on Thursday against the second place finisher out of the third district. That game will tip off at 8 p.m. at Meridian High School.
Sugar-Salem will play in a play in game on Saturday for a shot at joining Shelley at the state tournament. That game will be against the second place finisher out of the fifth district and will tip off at 1 p.m at Century High School.
"Sugar-Salem are a quality team, they are so well coached and they deserve to be at state just like we deserve to be there and I hope that they go out and put a thumping on whoever they play on Saturday," Coach Hadley said.
SHELLEY 49, SUGAR-SALEM 41
Sugar-Salem 11 9 12 9 - 41
Shelley 9 10 13 17 - 49
Sugar-Salem (41) - Tim Fuller 2, Jason Hawkes 12, Keaton Small 6, Beau Choffin 13, Devon Smith 3. FG: 10. FT: 13-17. 3-pointers: 4-15 (Beau Choffin 4). Fouls: 18. Fouled out: none.
Shelley (49) - Tyler Fredrickson 12, Kaden Schmitt 4, Garrett nelson 2, Chad Leckington 15, Dalton Nelson 8, McKay Cannon 8. FG: 15. FT: 10-15. 3-pointers: 9-27 (Tyler Fredrickson 4, Kaden Schmitt 1, Chad Leckington 3, McKay Cannon 1). Fouls: 12. Fouled out: none.