Parma came to the 3A state tournament with nothing to lose.
Somehow, the upstart Panthers are headed home with the first state championship trophy in program history. Senior guard Tanner Kramer was one of three Parma players to record a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds as Parma earned a 56-47 victory over league rival Fruitland in Saturday’s 3A title game at the Ford Idaho Center.
Senior post Colten Merges had 10 points and 11 rebounds, junior forward Payton Pinz added 10 points and 10 boards, and freshman guard Jared Nielsen chipped in 12 points off the bench for Parma (16-11), which grabbed an early 12-4 lead and never surrendered it.
“It seems like every game since the district tournament, we were the underdog,” Kramer said. “We didn’t shy away from it.”
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Fruitland (17-12) won both regular-season meetings between the Snake River Valley conference rivals, but this clash was different from the outset. Kramer sparked the Panthers with aggressive drives to the hoop, and when Fruitland sent extra defenders at him, he found his freshman sharpshooter for three huge 3s — all from the left corner.
“I always know Tanner is going to be there to kick it to me in the corner,” Nielsen said. “He’s been doing it all season.”
Added Parma coach Scot Garrick: “(Nielsen) doesn’t know he’s a freshman. He’s going to be a really special player.”
Parma led 33-18 at halftime, and the advantage ballooned to as many as 18 in the third quarter, but Fruitland still had some fight left. Led by junior forward Tyler Eiguren, the Grizzlies clawed their way back into it.
Eiguren, who finished with 22 points, dominated in the paint and then stepped outside for a 3-pointer, scoring 12 consecutive Fruitland points to cut the lead to four.
Fruitland senior Conner Benear, who scored 10 points, was fouled on a 3 and made all three free throws on the next possession and, just like that, it was a one-point game.
“We knew we’d make a run,” Fruitland coach Mike Fitch said. “The key to a run is you have to finish it and get over the hump.”
But Parma was able to steady the ship. It started with Nielsen, who stopped the bleeding with two free throws and then a layup. Pinz added free throws as part of a 7-0 run that restored a 49-41 cushion. The Panthers were able to close it out from the free-throw line, where they shot 22-for-30.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Garrick said. “We’ve had some peaks and valleys this year, but the kids have battled, especially our seniors. We knew coming in that they needed to have a really special weekend for us to have a chance, and they did.”
Kramer added four assists and two blocks to his big double-double as Parma won despite shooting 29 percent from the floor. The Panthers compensated by outrebounding Fruitland 51-32 and earning 18 more trips to the free throw line.
“There are no words to describe it,” Kramer said of the championship victory. “It’s the first one in school history, and it’s something I’ll always look back on.”
State boys basketball championships from current Snake River Valley members:
Source: IHSAA records