POCATELLO — A 3A fifth district championship was on the line on Tuesday evening as the top seeded Snake River Panthers looked to close out the Bear Lake Bears for the tournament title and the bid into the big dance in Boise next weekend.
By nights end Snake River had accomplished that goal as they built a double-digit lead and then cruised home with a 51-37 victory thereby avoiding the dreaded play in game.
"It's a lot easier to go through the front door than the back and I've done it both ways," Snake River head coach Bob Coombs said. "We're excited to be here and I really like our draw at the state tournament so hopefully we will have a shot at it."
The Panthers erupted out of the gates as they opened the first quarter with back-to-back-to-back treys by Brad Coombs, Cole Rushton and Jacoby Johnson forcing a Bear Lake time out at 6:11 of the first quarter with Snake River leading 9-2. Snake River wound up with four treys in the quarter as Johnson added another late in the quarter for a commanding 14-5 lead.
"First half they played zone and were giving us the outside shot and we were able to step up and knock those shots down which is what enabled us to get our big lead," Coach Coombs said. "Eventually they had to come out and then it did get real physical on both ends of the floor."
Adrian Castaneda added another three ball to open the second quarter as Snake River built a 25-12 lead by half's end.
Out of the break Bear Lake opened with an impressive dunk by Porter Wallentine but that momentum was short lived as Snake River responded with a 7-0 run to open their largest lead of the night at 32-14.
Back came Bear Lake however as they chipped away at the Panther lead, eventually closing the gap to just five points at 34-29 one minute into the fourth quarter.
"Third quarter we didn't execute real well, had a lot of turnovers and got rattled a bit but then in the fourth quarter we got our composure back, started running the offense and doing what we wanted to do," Coach Coombs said.
Composure regained indeed as the Panthers began attacking the rim, many times over the top of full court pressure, leading to several easy lay ins and 13 free throw attempts.
Jacoby Johnson was the biggest benefactor of the press break as he tallied 8 of his game high 16 in the deciding fourth quarter of play.
"In the fourth quarter we wanted to go over the top and push the ball up the floor because we were up there messing around with our guards when we had guys down the floor that were open and that's something that we will need to work on this week before we go over to Boise because we can do better than that on the press," Coach Coombs said.
Cole Rushton added 13 points while Brad Coombs shrugged off his toe injury from the semi final round with a well rounded 9 points in the victory.
"I'm proud of the kids, they played well against a good Bear Lake team," Coach Coombs said.
Snake River will open their state tournament with a 1:15 game at Meridian High School on Thursday against an opponent yet to be determined.
SNAKE RIVER 51, BEAR LAKE 37
Bear Lake 5 7 13 12 - 37
Snake River 14 11 9 17 - 51
Bear Lake (37) - Kasey Keetch 2, Keaton Price 2, Ryan Gundersen 8, Derek Weston 8, Kade Pitchford 4, Porter Wallentine 11, Caleb Phillips 2. FG: 13. FT: 10-14. 3-pointers: 1-10 (Porter Wallentine 1). Fouls: 19. Fouled out: (Kasey Keetch).
Snake River (51) - Adrian Castaneda 3, Jacoby Johnson 16, Cole Rushton 13, Brad Coombs 9, Mason Watt 2, Curtis Keller 2, Wyatt Wray 6. FG: 17. FT: 12-21. 3-pointers: 5-12 (Adrian Castaneda 1, Jacoby Johnson 2, Brad Coombs 1, Cole Rushton 1). Fouls: 18. Fouled out: none.