After an early missed shot, the Centennial High student section hounded Mountain View guard Abby Kreiser with chants of “air ball” every time she touched the basketball.
The noise reached its peak when Kreiser stepped to the free-throw line with 37.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
But the junior wasn’t distracted, quieting the opposition by swishing both free throws to give the Mavericks their largest lead of the game.
Mountain View made 8-of-10 free throws in the final three minutes — and took its first lead with 1:40 to play — in a 64-59 defeat of Centennial in a 5A Southern Idaho Conference game Tuesday at Mountain View.
“The crowd is always a factor in big games like this, so I honestly tried to zone them out and just focus on my game,” said Kreiser, who finished with 15 points and a 6-for-7 performance from the line. “I knew that coming down to it, I just had to put those free throws in to help us win this game.”
It was the first league loss for the Patriots (12-2, 7-1), and creates a three-way tie for first alongside Mountain View (9-4, 7-1) and Boise (10-2, 7-1).
Centennial held the defending state champions in check for three quarters with quick ball movement and a height advantage inside. Reigning 5A All-Idaho Player of the Year Destiny Slocum is the Mavericks’ tallest starter at 5-foot-8, while the Patriots start a pair of 6-foot-plus forwards in Dominique Williams and Lauren Brocke.
The result was a 34-29 Centennial lead at the half and a six-point Patriots edge midway through the fourth quarter.
“I think that Phoenix tournament got us prepared, because the teams there were always playing at a high level. Tonight, Centennial was playing great,” said Mountain View coach Connie Skogrand, whose team played in the Nike Tournament of Champions over Christmas break. “I said, ‘Hey you guys, we haven’t even started playing yet.’ We were stagnant. We were standing around. I knew once we started moving, we were going to start scoring.”
Following junior guard Tori Williams’ 3-pointer that put Centennial ahead 54-48 halfway through the fourth, the Mavericks finally came alive.
Slocum — a Maryland signee — drove to the basket for a layup and followed up 12 seconds later with another layup when Kayla Anderson assisted her downcourt off a steal. Slocum then picked off a Centennial inbounds pass under her own basket and was fouled as she went to the hoop. She scored 10 of her team-high 22 points in the final three minutes of the game.
“I think after that fourth quarter, that’s going to change the way we play the rest of the games going into districts and state,” Slocum said. “I think that game was our found game. We found ourselves. We found our groove. We found our progress. We found what we’ve been working for all season. We finally found that game that sets our standard. Now we know how good of a team we are, and we know that we can do better, because we had an off night.”