NAMPA — Scott Thompson has spent almost as much time recovering from injuries this season as he has on the basketball court.
Mountain View High's 7-foot junior center has battled a wrist injury, a bone contusion on his knee and, Thursday in the first round of the 5A boys basketball state tournament, an ailing left ankle.
But Thompson, who missed the District Three tournament because of the knee injury, refused to allow the ankle to keep him sidelined.His gutsy — and valuable — performance in the final minute of regulation and overtime proved the difference in the Mavericks' 56-50 overtime win against Borah at the Idaho Center in Nampa.
"Scott is just kind of gutting it out right now. We all know he's not at 100 percent. He kind of dug down and took care of the game at the end," Mountain View coach Jon Nettleton said.
Did he ever.
Thompson, who finished the game with 11 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks, tied the game at 47-47 with 56 seconds remaining in regulation. Then he scored the Mavericks' first six points in overtime. He also grabbed three defensive rebounds in the four-minute overtime period — which Mountain View played without star Josh Smith, who fouled out with 1:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"He was leading the team the whole game. When he fouled out, someone else had to take that role," Thompson said.
Despite his overwhelming size — Borah's tallest player was 6-7, five inches shorter than Thompson — the soft-spoken center wasn't a likely candidate.
He's missed several easy opportunities around the basket and converted 1-of-5 free-throw opportunities before the final minute of regulation. All four of his blocks came in the first half, as Borah shied away from challenging him in the paint.
"When it counted and when it mattered, he made his free throws and played big down in the post," Nettleton said.
Thompson made his first two free-throw attempts in overtime, had a layup and then put the exclamation point on his performance with a baseline dunk to give Mountain View a 53-50 lead with 45 seconds remaining in overtime.
The dunk was nice. But it's a rare forceful move in Thompson's developing game. At this point in his career, he's much more finesse than raw strength and prone to disappear offensively. He spent much of Thursday's game on the baseline offensively, waiting for a teammate to drive and open room in the Lions' collapsing zone.
At a stringy 215 pounds (think Shawn Bradley, not Shaq), Thompson isn't putting defenders on his back and demanding the ball. He's slithering in for putbacks.
"He's so light that it's hard for him to push people around without it being obvious. He doesn't have that leg strength that a lot of big guys have," Nettleton said. "I want him to be more aggressive, but this is his first year really playing varsity ball."
Thompson averaged "eight or nine" minutes per game last season at Timberline. His family moved to the Mountain View district in the offseason. Now he's averaging closer to 27 minutes per game, a level of activity that has made it difficult for him to add strength and weight to his lanky frame.
Add in the injuries, which have limited his court time, and the exotic defense that he faces every game, and it's not hard to see why it's been a learning year for Thompson.
"He's been real resilient. He's bouncing back and coming back and playing hard," Nettleton said.
Said Thompson: "You fight through (the injuries). ... You take what (defenses) give you. You work with what they give you. But it's been a lot of fun. Nothing beats playing basketball."
Thompson should have plenty of opportunities to continue after another season at Mountain View. Washington, Gonzaga, Utah, Oregon State and Boise State have expressed interest in him, he said, a reminder that you cannot coach height and 7-footers who run the floor well don't grow on trees.
In order to better suit his game for the next level, Thompson will spend the summer hoping to add strength and weight. Nettleton said he'd love to see Thompson get to 260 pounds this summer. Realistically, the goal is 230 pounds.
"At the next level, you have to be a lot stronger," Thompson said.
But Thompson and the Mavericks (18-6) have some more business to take care of this year. Thanks to his late-game heroics, 3-year-old Mountain View earned its first-ever state tournament victory and moved within two wins of a first basketball state title.
A somewhat healthy Thompson — his ankle was heavily iced and a run on ibuprofen was in store — gives the Mavericks a solid chance at the 5A crown. Nettleton was among the first to check on his big man's physical condition.
Said Nettleton: "Anytime he's in the game, it's a factor that's helps us. It definitely doesn't hurt us."