With just over a minute remaining in the 25th annual Golden Throne boys’ game, the Bengals were down 10 to Clarkston, but the boisterous Lewiston faithful refused to cease their “I believe that we will win” chant.
They must have figured there was still a chance to bring home that cherished gilded toilet, or even sneak back in for a victory.
Sorry Bengals, neither aspiration came to fruition.
After Clarkston took a 60-55 win — which wasn’t as close as the score suggests — at the LCSC Activity Center on Friday night, the Bantams erupted upon being announced the winner of the spirit award.
It’s finally Clarkston’s year to rejoice with the Throne for the first time since losing it in 2014.
“It’s so satisfying,” ninth-year Bantams coach Justin Jones said. “Not just to win, but when you get that Throne, it’s the cherry on top.”
But the Clarkston boys are no strangers to doing their part in the classic Snake River rivalry; they’ve toppled Lewiston seven straight times now and, according to Jones, the 2019 edition featured perhaps one of the competition’s brightest displays in recent memory.
“Tru Allen was spectacular on the biggest stage,” Jones said of his junior point guard, who led Clarkston with 29 points (26 through three quarters) on over 50 percent shooting. “That was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen at the Golden Throne. For him to put on a show like that was truly special.”
Allen scored seven consecutive points in the first quarter and ended the frame in double figures. It was only foreshadowing.
He said he fared well due to an identification of a frontcourt mismatch, not to mention the momentum he garnered the night before on his overtime buzzer-beater, which downed league foe Pullman.
“I wanted to take advantage,” said Allen, who executed a hodgepodge of deep triples, stepbacks and drives into the lane before fouling out early in the fourth. “You never know when it’s your last game or not. We won last year, so we had to do it again. We had that mentality coming into the game. … We wanted to keep ’em on their toes.”
Big-game jitters were evident early, what with over 3,000 spectators watching intently. But while Clarkston (11-7) appeared to shed the nerves in the second quarter and play smooth, cohesive basketball ― leading to a game-high 20-point lead early in the fourth ― Lewiston (6-9) took too long to function at full capacity.
Jones had an inkling why.
“Our guys came out and played with great defensive energy,” he said. “We were excellent for three quarters. … For the most part, we limited them on their end enough to extend it. All the credit goes to the defense.”
It caused Lewiston droughts and hindered Bengal scoring abilities, which were limited mostly to one player ― Donaven Santana, Allen’s childhood friend, who had a game-best 32 points. Lewiston’s second-leading scorer, Connor Spencer, finished with seven.
Meanwhile, the Bantams had three in double figures. Gus Hagestad ― who Jones said was the first-half “difference maker” ― had 16, and Brandton Chatfield contributed 10.
“We were getting the shots we wanted,” Jones said. “All one through 12 (of our players) contributed when they got in there.”
The tilt opened up for Clarkston after intermission, during which Lewiston performed a skit to Ah-ha’s “Take on Me” and Clarkston did a country-themed dance. In the third, the Bantams seemed to take the lyrics of that 1985 gem to heart.
They took on Lewiston, and did so enough to build an impassable edge. But with Allen sitting out, the Bengals certainly tried.
The final minute of game time lasted about 15 real-time minutes. Lewiston kept nabbing takeaways, and Clarkston kept missing shots. Santana hit a couple of deep triples with under 30 seconds left, but the late-game run was too little, too late.
“That press they had at the end is good for our team,” Allen said. “They forced a lot of turnovers, and because I’m the main ballhandler, it helps them work on it with me out.”
There’s that, and there’s these facts ― Clarkston’s won nine straight, can proudly display the Throne in the main lobby of its school and is a bit more prepared in another aspect.
“The environment this produces is similar to a postseason one, so we’ll use those parallels in our preparation, and it’ll help us down the road,” Jones said. “This rivalry is decades old, and will always be a rivalry decades down the road. I always feel honored to coach in this. My time here has been really special because of these moments.”
Jace McKarcher 0 0-0 0, Will Kokernak 1 0-0 3, Kash Lang 1 0-0 3, Dylan Johnson 2 0-0 5, Joel Mullikin 0 0-2 0, Connor Spencer 3 1-2 7, Donaven Santana 7 14-17 32, George Forsmann 0 1-2 1, Kyle Van Boeyen 2 0-1 4, Brayden Forsman 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 16-24 55.
Christian Robbins 0 0-0 0, Tru Allen 10 6-9 29, Alex Italia 0 3-4 3, Austin Roueche 0 1-4 1, Jaxson Allen 0 0-0 0, Kaeden Frazier 0 0-0 0, Gus Hagestad 4 5-6 16, Max Johnson 0 1-5 1, Colton Dudley 0 0-0 0, Brandton Chatfield 3 4-4 10, Tayler Garrett 0 0-2 0. Totals 17 20-34 60.
Lewiston 10 8 11 26—55
Clarkston 15 15 16 14—60
Three-point goals — Kokernak, Lang, Johnson, Santana 4, Allen 3, Hagestad 3. Total fouls — Lewiston 26, Clarkston 21. Fouled out — Allen, Van Boeyen, Lang.