With Minico’s late run cutting Middleton’s lead to one point, Zoey Moore caught the ball in front of the Vikings’ bench.
The Middleton freshman quickly drew a foul with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter and stepped to the free-throw line looking to stem the tide. Moore never showed her age and calmly sunk both, kick starting a 10-for-14 performance at the free-throw line that allowed Middleton to hang on to a 51-44 victory in the first round of the 4A high school girls basketball state tournament at Mountain View High.
“We just needed to make one free throw, and we did it,” Middleton coach Andy Jones said. “And then everybody kind of relaxed and we can make the next one and the next one.
“Getting that one free throw to go down, we were all able to take a breath, relax and figure out this is what we need to do to win.”
The victory is Middleton’s (19-6) 14th straight victory and sends it to the state semifinals, where it will face Preston (17-7) at 6:15 p.m. at Mountain View.
The former powerhouse missed the state tournament each of the past two years, leaving only one player who ever suited up at state — senior Sage Huggins. So when the final buzzer rang, the Vikings celebrated like it was their first time.
“It’s very exciting,” Moore said. “No one has ever been here, so it’s all new to us. We can’t wait to keep going forward.”
Middleton took control of the game in the second quarter, when it closed the half on a 10-1 run and went into the locker room with a 33-6 rebounding advantage. Middleton finished the game with a 53-27 edge on the boards.
Minico’s press kept the Spartans (16-9) in the game as they forced 13 first-half turnovers. But they could only force four in the fourth quarter when a fifth could have turned the momentum permanently in their favor.
“The kids played poised, we played calm and we took care of the basketball,” Jones said.
All 10 Vikings who played scored but none reached double figures. Meriah Deugan led Middleton with nine points, while Moore added eight.
Minico’s Saydi Anderson scored a game-high 11 points, shooting 9-for-11 at the free-throw line, and Tayla Sayer added 10.
PRESTON 44, SANDPOINT 39
Preston overcome a 14-3 deficit, a decided height advantage and the Trinity Golder show to advance to the semifinals.
The Indians utilized a full-court press to dig out of the early hole and flustered Sandpoint’s guards the rest of the game. Harley Carlisle led Preston with 11 points and nine rebounds, and Sydnee Selley added nine points.
Golder scored a game-high 26 points on 10-for-22 shooting for Sandpoint (10-12).