POCATELLO — All season long Snake River Lady Panthers head coach Rich Dunn has said he wanted his team to fly under the radar after winning last season's 3A state title.
To return to this season's state tournament the Panthers would have to defeat an American Falls team that came into the game with nothing to lose.
The Beavers and their fans made Highland High School feel like it was a home game, but in the end Ivy Goff and Makena Shelley each hit a pit of big shots as Snake River defeated American Falls 45-42 in overtime to win the 3A District 5 championship and earn the automatic berth to state.
"We have won nine of our last 10 ballgames and they haven't been pretty and we have done it different ways, but we have found a way to win," Dunn said. "Tonight we were on the ropes a little bit and give credit to American Falls, but some big shots and our senior leadership were the difference tonight."
The Panthers found themselves trailing 28-20 at the beginning the fourth quarter, instead of folding the Panthers clamped down with their patented Panther defense which in turn led to fast break points.
Snake River went on a 13-1 run with Shelley's three pointer gave the Panthers a 31-29 lead.
American Falls answered with a 7-0 run of their own to take a three point lead with less than two minutes to go.
With 45 seconds remaining the Panthers Ivy Goff lined up a three pointer from the left baseline that would have tired the game. The shot missed everything and gave the ball back to the Beavers.
Goff would get a shot to redeem herself.
With 22 seconds remaining, Goff found in herself in the exact same spot on the floor in the same situation, this time she did not miss.
Goff's three-pointer hit the rim bounced straight up and then right through the night to tie the game at 36-36.
"I knew I go the air ball out of the way on the first one, so I told myself I would make the next one," Goff said. "I had a feeling it was going to go in when it left my hand and it did."
"When the ball hit the rim I knew it was in," Dunn said of Goff's shot. "A year ago Ivy would have cowered in a situation like that, this year we kept feeding her the ball and tonight she made a couple of big shots."
American Falls attempt to get of a game-winner failed and the game went into overtime.
Goff hit another big shot with 43.6 seconds left in the extra period to give Snake River a 43-40 lead, freshman Alyssa Crumley sealed the game with a pair of fee throws.
"How about Alyssa Crumley," Dunn said. "A year ago she was playing eighth grade basketball, and tonight she was closing out a district title game at the foul line."
Crumley finished the night with 12 points and a handful of big rebounds for the Panthers.
"All night long we were just one or two steps behind," Dunn said. "I know people will look at the score and think we did not play well of American Falls played really well, but we were close to controlling the game, but just were a step slow."
The Panthers definitely looked out of sync at times early in the game as the aggressive Beavers attacked the basket and jumped into the passing lanes to get steals.
The atmosphere in the gym at Highland was just like a title game as neither team could hear the plays being called out by their respective coaches.
"The x factor tonight was that we have been in games like this before and know how to respond," Dunn said. "Our seniors were big tonight, Max was great and while Brylie Bair did not show up big on the score sheet was a big key to our defense."
Shelley also scored 12 points for the Panthers.
"We pride ourselves on defense," Dunn said. "In recent years we have just had a bit more offense.
The Panthers will now rest and prepare for state which begins Thursday, Feb. 20 at Middleton High School.
Snake River 45, American Falls 42
American Falls 6 12 10 8 6 — 42
Snake River 4 14 2 16 9 — 45
American Falls — Maria Sanchez 4 4-4 13, Lindsey Woodworth 4 3-4 13, Sammie Neaman 6 1-2 13, Hunter Morris 0 1-2 1.
Snake River — Brylie Bair 1 3-7 5, Scout Baldwin 3 2-2 8, Maegan Peace 2 0-2, Makena Shelley 4 1-2 12, Alyssa Crumley 4 4-4 12, Ivy Goff 2 0-0 6.