After sinking a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send his team back to the state finals, you’ll have to forgive Preston junior Britten Atkinson for the premature celebration.
The Indians stormed the court as the buzzer rang only to have officials put 0.7 seconds back on the clock. But Preston survived Bishop Kelly’s full-court, desperation heave to escape with a 65-62 win in the 4A state semifinals Friday at Borah High.
“This is probably the biggest shot, the biggest high I’ve ever had in my life,” said Atkinson, still short of breath 15 minutes after his teammates mobbed him. “It was great. Right now, I’m on cloud nine. I’m really just the happiest I’ve ever been, going to the state championship. It’s the greatest feeling ever.”
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Preston (22-4) faces Vallivue (20-7) in the 4A state championship at 6 p.m. Friday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
The Indians trailed by 13 points in the third quarter before cutting the lead to two. Bishop Kelly rebounded and extended its lead to 12 points with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter of a rematch of last year’s state title.
But Preston mounted one last charge, ending the game on an 18-3 run to pull out the victory.
“We answered,” Preston coach Tyler Jones said. “We could have folded up shop. It’s just a tribute to these kids. They were not going to down. They were not going to be denied tonight.”
Atkinson led Preston with 22 points, including 17 in the second half. Derek Wadsworth added 15 points, and Brayden Parker finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Bishop Kelly’s Max Rice started the game on fire, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers in the first quarter and finishing the night with 30 points. He sank a game-tying runner 18 seconds left, but Preston held for the last shot, and Atkinson buried the game-winner over the outstretched hands of Jacob Russell.