Vallivue’s Ryan Lundgren is only 28 years old. But the Falcons’ second-year coach pulled a veteran move Friday.
After his team’s 55-45 victory over Idaho Falls in the 4A state semifinals at Borah High, Lundgren left his sport jacket outside the locker room in preparation for the celebratory water fight as Vallivue clinched its first berth in the state championship game since 2008.
“I know these guys,” a soaked Lundgren said. “We work really hard, and we hold these guys to a high standard. So when we win, we love to celebrate.”
Vallivue (19-7) faces defending state champ and No. 1-ranked Preston (22-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center for the 4A state championship.
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“I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I was a kid,” Vallivue junior Steele Hadlock said. “I know all the other guys were too. It’s just all excitement.”
The Falcons pulled away from Idaho Falls (13-13) in the second quarter and held on for the win despite going scoreless for the opening 6:23 of the fourth quarter. Vallivue’s defense bailed it out and added another chapter to its Cinderella run.
Vallivue had two starters suspended after a scuffle in a district semifinal game against Bishop Kelly. The Falcons had to win one loser-out game without them, and then the district’s third-place game just to qualify for state.
With a trip to the Idaho Center secured, all those emotions came out in the locker room celebration.
“I told them this is the type of story movies are made about and books are written about,” Lundgren said. “Just all the resiliency and backs against the wall, the us-against-the-world mentality. We just find ways to do it on a nightly basis.”
Landon Cain led a balanced scoring effort with 12 points for Vallivue. Nick Fitts added 11 points and five assists, and Hadlock also scored 11.
PRESTON 65, BISHOP KELLY 62
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 return to the finals.
“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.”
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.
BURLEY 71, MIDDLETON 66
Junior guard Ryan Bagley racked up 28 points and nine assists to lead the Bobcats (17-8) into the consolation finals, where they will face Moscow (9-12) at 9:15 a.m. Saturday at Borah High.
Carter Arrasmith scored 16, and David Kofoed added 14 points and five assists for 4A SIC regular-season champ Middleton, whose season ends at 16-10.
MOSCOW 47, JEROME 36
The Bears (9-12) broke a halftime tie with a 16-4 run in the third quarter and held Jerome (15-12) to 4-for-26 shooting (15.4 percent) in the second half.
Glen Gosse led Moscow with 13 points, while Hunter Pickard added nine points, 16 rebounds and three blocks.