MERIDIAN — His nerves shaking and his legs cramping, Capital High junior guard Derrick White stepped to the free-throw line with the District Three championship and the Eagles' unblemished record at stake.
White missed his first shot with 3.7 seconds left.
"The nerves go up a little bit. I just tried to remain calm," White said.
He made the second free throw to give Capital a 42-41 lead and its 23rd consecutive victory this season - after Rocky Mountain senior John Sherle's good shot at the buzzer fell short.
The Eagles and their fans celebrated - and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Scared the crap out of us," 82-year-old Bill Sikes told his grandson, Capital coach Paul Rush, after the game.
Sikes wasn't the only Capital supporter sweating it out. Rocky Mountain, which lost in the state title game last season, led by as many as six in the first quarter and held a small, but persistent lead for most of the game.
"We're tough. We've got a bunch of tough kids, a lot of kids with a lot of experience, big-game experience," Rocky Mountain coach Dane Roy said. "I knew they'd battle and fight, and they did to the end."
Capital did, too. Though Capital (23-0) and Rocky Mountain (17-6) had already qualified for next week's state tournament, it didn't diminish the effort Friday night in front of a large crowd at Meridian High.
The teams were never separated by more than three points in the fourth quarter. Capital took its first lead at 36-35 on White's three-point play with 6 minutes, 53 seconds remaining.
But on the ensuing possession, junior Logan Skurdal knocked down a
3-pointer to put the Grizzlies ahead once again. Nicholas Dow tied it for Capital at 38-38. The teams traded 3-pointers - E.J. Boyce for Rocky Mountain and White for Capital - to set up the final minutes.
With 1:51 left, Rocky Mountain opted to hold for the final shot. The Grizzles worked the ball and the clock, but Capital forced a jump ball with 27 seconds left to gain possession.
White drove to the basket in the final seconds and was fouled. He made the second shot for his team-high 13th point, the deciding point.
"That was not what we usually do," said the 30-year-old Rush in his fourth season as Capital's coach.
Capital averaged 60.5 points per game in the regular season. Playing without junior Keegan Hansen, a starter who suffered a concussion in practice this week, the Eagles struggled to score against Rocky Mountain's tough defense and big inside players. The Grizzlies have two Football Bowl Subdivision post players in Kekoa Nawahine (Boise State) and Jake Knight (Oregon State).
"They're tough suckers," Roy said.
Nawahine led Rocky Mountain with 14 points and eight rebounds. Knight contributed four points and three rebounds.
Capital focused its defensive effort on the sharp-shooting Boyce, who was limited to 2-for-7 shooting.
"I like chasing good players. I enjoyed it. You only a get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to guard someone like that who can just shoot and make any type of shot," said sophomore Talon Pinckney, one of several Capital players who chased Boyce all over the court.
Now both teams can turn their attention to state - and a better finish than last season. Capital squandered a late lead and lost in the first round of the tournament.
"We have that real clear in our sights right now," Rush said. "It's exciting to finally get down to this point in the season and really get after it."
4A: BISHOP KELLY 59, SKYVIEW 36
Luke Meyers scored 16 points to go with nine rebounds, and Ryan Matunas chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead Bishop Kelly to the District Three championship at Skyview High. The Knights led by as many as 29 points.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @murphsturph