Bishop Kelly’s Mike Martinez pulled his jersey over his head, stared straight at the floor at the Idaho Center and trudged off the court.
After pulling a rabbit out of their hat in the first round and in the semifinals of the 4A state tournament, the Knights and their lone senior starter ran out of magic Saturday, falling 42-37 to No. 1-ranked Preston.
The loss earns Bishop Kelly (16-6) the second-place trophy at the 4A tournament for the second year in a row.
“When you’re in those fights, you just think anything can happen until the buzzer,” Bishop Kelly coach Ryan Kerns said. “We had success with that kind of theory last night and Thursday, and we just didn’t quite get there tonight.”
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Preston (22-4) jumped out to a 13-4 lead early in the second quarter, but the Knights fought their way back, taking a lead in the third quarter and heading to the fourth tied at 32.
The Bishop Kelly offense dried up from there though as Preston held the Knights to five points in the final quarter. The Indians started the quarter in a 2-3 zone to slow dribble-penetration. Bishop Kelly couldn’t take advantage from behind the arc until Max Rice drained a 3-pointer with 2:53 left. But Preston returned to its man defense after a timeout and kept the Knights scoreless the rest of the way.
“I feel like the shots just didn’t fall the way we wanted them to,” Martinez said. “That happens. We just had to keep being aggressive and draw fouls. That was the easiest way to get buckets because their defense was really good. I give all the credit to them.”
The championship is the first for Preston since 2004, when it competed at the 3A level. The Indians moved up to 4A the next year and only managed to qualify for state in 2007 before this year’s run.
A pair of highly-ranked Indian teams fell one win short of qualifying the past two seasons. But Preston made up for the disappointment with its seventh championship in program history.
“It’s our first one in 12 years, so I think it definitely puts us on the map a little bit again,” Preston senior Austin Smellie said. “We’ve been talking all year about earning that respect back, and I think we’ve finally done that.”
Smellie finished with 15 points, and 6-6 sophomore forward Brayden Parker racked up 16 points and 15 rebounds as Bishop Kelly struggled to match up with him inside.
Preston’s title continues the Jones’ family run at state. It’s the first title for Preston coach Tyler Jones. But his father, former Malad coach Terry Jones, won six titles. And his older brother, Rigby coach Justin Jones, has won three, including last year’s over Bishop Kelly.
“My whole life being at the state tournament, just to be a part of it tonight and be here with this team is special,” Tyler Jones said.