After Preston hit its own potential game winner, the Indians wanted the ball to find anyone but Zoey Moore.
But Middleton’s freshman and leading scorer fielded a diving pass from Emerson Sauer on the baseline, then floated and sank a running 3-footer with 5 seconds left to lift the Vikings to a 56-55 victory in the 4A state semifinals Friday at Mountain View.
“It was crazy. I looked up at the clock and there were 4 seconds left and I was like, ‘Ok, we got this.’ I just couldn’t believe it.”
The win marks Middleton’s 15th straight victory and send it to the 4A state championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Idaho Center, where it will face Bishop Kelly (20-7) for the fourth time this year.
Middleton has won two of the three previous meetings, including last week’s district title.
The Vikings return to the Idaho Center for the first time since 2012, the last of its three straight championships.
“These kids, it’s their first time,” Middleton coach Andy Jones said. “So they don’t know what it’s like being back. They’ll walk in that place tomorrow and they’re going to be absolutely on cloud nine.”
Moore took over the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of her game-high 29 points. She gave Middleton its first lead of the night when she drained a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:53 left, then added a pair of free throws with 36.3 seconds remaining that put Middleton back ahead 54-53.
Preston briefly answered when Harley Carlisle sank an 8-foot jumper off the inbound pass with 20 seconds left. But instead of calling a timeout and allowing the Indians to set up their trapping defense, Middleton pushed the ball up the court until it found Moore in the soft spot under the zone for the game-winner.
The floater capped a comeback that saw Middleton fall into a 17-4 hole to start the game. The Vikings slowly chipped away until finally overtaking the Indians late in the fourth quarter.
“We just knew that we weren’t going to back down,” Moore said. “We just kept fighting. The score didn’t really bother us. We just knew in our heads it was going to end in our favor.”