Powder Valley threw its best punch at top-ranked Sherman Saturday night.
The Huskies took it in stride and proved that they are the state’s best Class 1A team — again.
Isaiah Coles scored a game-high 21 points and Sherman had an answer for every Powder Valley run in defeating the Badgers, 78-57, at Baker High School to repeat as state champions.
“My kids played their hearts out tonight,” Powder Valley Coach Michael Lieuallen said. “We could have played better, but in the second half, we settled down and really ran our offense better. We wanted to be quick, but we wanted to then get ball movement and a good shot. We settled down there in the second half.”
Isaac Colton scored 17 in the loss for the Badgers, who were making their first appearance in the state championship game since winning it all back in 2009. Cade Browne added 14 points, and Gus McGinn and Brogun Tibbitts both chipped in nine.
Few gave the Badgers any chance of keeping up with the high-octane Huskies’ offense, which entered the contest averaging more than 71 points per game and had nine times reached 80 points or more.
“They’re a dang good team,” Colton said. “They run. They’re strong. We came out and gave it a good fight. Our last game, we put it all on the line.
“They were going to be good. And we had to face the fact that we were going to have to play our best game.”
The Badgers lingered most of the night, coming up with timely plays to keep up the belief that perhaps they could knock off Sherman.
The biggest run came in the second half. Max Martin hit a jumper to put Sherman ahead, 54-36, giving the indication the Huskies were about to run away from the Badgers as they had most of their opponents this season.
But Powder Valley responded. Browne connected on a 3-pointer and Colton hit a jumper to trim the deficit to 13. After two quick Sherman baskets pushed it back to 17, Tibbitts canned a trey and Colton snagged a steal and converted a layup just before the buzzer to bring Powder Valley within 58-46 after three quarters.
“It says we have heart,” Lieuallen said of his team’s effort. “We were probably outmanned at every position on the floor at all times. We have heart. We don’t quit. We just keep working hard.”
McGinn opened the fourth with a jumper to make it a 10-point game, but that was as close as the Badgers came. A flurry of six points in less than 50 seconds pushed the lead to 64-48, and Sherman’s Kyle Fields made it 75-55 with a layup with 3:33 to play, effectively sealing the win.
Sherman (26-5 overall) torched the nets to the tune of 55 percent shooting for the game and was repeatedly able to get to the rim due to the speed and size of its players. The Huskies also dominated on the boards, 44-22. Powder Valley (23-5) shot 38 percent.
“They’re just good. They just keep coming at you. You have to stop five guys,” Lieuallen said.
Max Martin and Treve Martin finished with 20 and 15 points, respectively, for Sherman.
Powder Valley showed from the outset it wasn’t going to back down. Browne scored the team’s first seven points, including a 3-pointer, for an early 7-6 lead.
“He didn’t start until about two-thirds of the way through (the season),” Lieuallen said of Browne. “He started coming on. Before that he was a good sixth man off the bench and then we had some injuries and he stepped in. He really did play well tonight.”
Sherman responded with a 13-2 run to take the lead for good, going up 19-9 on a Max Martin 3-pointer with 2:33 to play in the first. The lead, which was 26-15 after one quarter, reached as much as 18 points in the second and 19 in the third.
Though the outcome didn’t end in the ultimate glory for the Badgers, they embraced the underdog mantra, knocking off both Days Creek and Jordan Valley, higher-seeded teams, en route to a title game appearance many gave them no shot of reaching.
The Badgers were hoping to add a 5th state title to the trophies they won in 1979, 1980, 1994 and 2008.
“I’m beyond proud of my team,” Tanner Eubanks said. “We’ve worked our butts off all year, through blood, sweat, tears, the rolled ankles, through it all. We busted our butts to make it here. It’s more than a privilege to be here playing the state championship game against the best team in the state. We came in as the underdog, taking out the second seed, taking out the sixth seed. We took on the 1 seed tonight (and) came up short but it doesn’t matter to me. I’m more than honored to be playing here tonight.”
POWDER VALLEY (57)
Colton 8 0-1 17, McGinn 4 1-1 9, Browne 5 2-4 14, Eubanks, Tibbits 2 4-4 9, Benites, Bingham, McCall 0 2-2 2, Zink, Smith, Nesser, Davis 2 0-0 6. Totals 21 9-12 57.
SHERMAN (78) -
Justesen 4 0-0 9, T. Martin 5 4-5 15, I. Coles 10 1-2 21, M. Martin 8 3-4 20, Fields 4 0-2 8, Winslow 2 0-0 4, K. Coles, Whitaker 0 1-2 1, L. Martin. Totals 33 9-15 78.
Powder Valley -15 14 17 11 — 57
Sherman -26 18 14 20 — 78
Three-point baskets — Colton, Browne 2, Tibbits, Davis 2, Justesen, T. Martin, M. Martin. Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Powder Valley 14, Sherman 16. Technicals — none.