Boise High coach Manny Varela preaches taking it one game at a time, not looking ahead and that each contest counts for only one game in the standings.
But Saturday’s matchup between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked 5A teams in the state meant a little more.
No. 2 Boise shut down No. 1 Borah in the third quarter to break open a back-and-forth battle, and the Braves pulled away for a 62-51 victory over their previously undefeated rival in front of a sellout crowd at Boise High.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for a really long time,” Boise junior wing Cole Alton said. “... This win means a lot. It showed what we can do, and it proved to us we should be No. 1 in the league.”
Boise (13-1, 9-1 5A SIC) entered the year as the preseason favorite, but a Dec. 16 loss at Meridian had the Braves looking up in the standings and the state media rankings at Borah (13-1, 9-1). The Braves erased that deficit Saturday, took over first place in the SIC and should inherit the state’s No. 1 ranking Tuesday.
After entering halftime tied at 32, Boise broke out with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter. Senior point guard Paul Pennington kickstarted the spurt with a pair of driving buckets, and Emmett Plummer added an 8-foot jumper and a hook shot. The Braves’ defense forced three turnovers in the opening three minutes of the half.
Boise held the Lions to four points in the third quarter and built a 12-point lead entering the fourth. Borah never got any closer than nine points the rest of the way.
“We were really neck and neck for a while there. But when we went on that run, it felt like we kind of took the life out of them,” Pennington said. “After that, we just put our foot on the gas and kept going.”
Pennington led Boise all over the court, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket at will. He finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and the attention he drew from the Borah defense opened lanes for his teammates.
“When he gets going, he’s pretty much unstoppable,” said Alton, who finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. “You either foul him or he scores.”
Boise staved off any late Borah run by holding the Lions to 18-for-54 shooting (33 percent) and dominating the glass, finishing with a 45-28 rebounding edge.
“We just dug in and they just held to it,” Varela said. “All of our guys were hitting the boards, and I think everybody that was out there got a rebound.”
Ellis Magnuson led Borah with a game-high 24 points, and sophomore forward Austin Bolt accounted for more than half of the Lions’ rebounds with 15.
While he never wants to lose, Borah coach Jeremy Dennis said ditching the undefeated record could help the Lions down the road.
Defending 4A state champ Preston (15-0) is the only undefeated boys basketball team in the state.
“I’m of the mindset that I really don’t necessarily want to lose to prove a point,” Dennis said. “But on the same token, we can forget about that (undefeated record) and just get back to work and start working on the things we’ve got to improve on.
“In the long run, I hope this makes us better. It needs to make us better because Boise was just a little bit tougher tonight.”