MERIDIAN – Last year the Snake River Panthers fell to the Fruitland Grizzlies in the Idaho Center, settling for the second place trophy. This season, Snake River knocked out the Fruitland squad, advancing to today’s 3A state title game with a well played 50-37 victory over the Grizzlies.
“Our game plan was to come out and control the tempo because Fruitland likes to come out and get up and down the floor at nine hundred miles per hour,” Snake River head coach Robert Coombs said. “I thought that our zone was able to slow the tempo down and get the game to our liking.”
Indeed, the zone defense caused the Fruitland squad fits as the Panthers held the defending state champs to a paltry 23% from the field.
“As I say all the time, our defense is what makes us go and our goal is to hold other teams in the forties and if we can hold teams in the thirties it gives us a chance to win,” Coach Coombs said. “We just didn’t want to get into a running game with them.”
With the defensive side of the ball under wraps the Panthers then turned to the task at hand of putting more points on the board than their opponents. Nate Martin got the offensive party started when the lightning quick guard hit a three ball to end the first quarter and then opened the second with a long range bomb that ignited the Panthers to a 20-2 run, leading to a 26-13 halftime advantage.
“Nate has confidence and when they were doubling from the back side he was able to pop to the point and then stepped up and hit two big shots which gave us a cushion and I thought that those shots were huge,” Coach Coombs said.
Adrian Castaneda also dialed long distance in the barrage as the Panthers outscored the Grizzlies by a 17-2 margin in the second quarter.
Fruitland were able to cut the lead down to 8 on three different occasions but in each instance, Snake River had an answer as they closed out the Grizzlies by knocking down 10 of 14 charity tosses over the final four minutes of the contest.
Brad Coombs was the major benefactor as he tallied 9 of his team leading 12 points in the final quarter of play.
With the win Snake River advances to today’s 3A state championship game where they will face Bingham County rival Shelley who knocked out Filer in the night cap.
“The seniors that we have back this year knew that when we left the floor last year at the Idaho Center that we had not played our best game so I think that they have had a little more incentive all year long,” coach Coombs said. “We’ve been to the Idaho Center so it won’t be knew to us but this year we need to be the aggressor. Last year we stood around and watched and this year we need to come out as the aggressor.”
The state title game will tip off at 3:50 at the Idaho Center in Nampa.
SNAKE RIVER 50, FRUITLAND 37
Fruitland 11 2 8 16 – 37
Snake River 9 17 6 18 – 50
Fruitland (37) – Bryce Nattress 16, Lane LaCrone 2, Hagan Graves 6, Kris Olinger 2, Joel Van Patten 6, Jordan Little 5. FG: 11. FT: 11-16. 3-pointers: 4-18 (Bryce Nattress 1, Hagan Graves 1, Joel Van Patten 2). Rebounds: 29. (Jordan Little 5). Assists: 5 (Lane LaCrone 2). Fouls: 19. Fouled out: (Kris Olinger).
Snake River (50) – Adrian Castaneda 10, Jacoby Johnson 6, Kade Harral 2, Cole Rushton 6, Nate Martin 6, Brad Coombs 12, Curtis Keller 2, Wyatt Wray 6. FG: 16. FT: 14-22. 3-pointers: 4-8 (Adrian Castaneda 1, Nate Martin 2, Brad Coombs 1). Rebounds: 34. (Cole Rushton 7). Assists: 8 (Adrian Castaneda 4). Fouls: 19. Fouled out: none.