DEARY — After the Timberline High School boys’ basketball team slipped away with a stunning 40-39 victory Thursday against Deary, the Spartans were determined to match that showing in Friday’s winner-take-all Class 1A Division II district championship game at Deary High School.
Timberline showed its muscle and downed the Mustangs again, this time by a score of 51-40 behind a group effort as the Spartans punched a return ticket to the state tournament in Caldwell, Idaho, which will run from March 3-5.
Before last season, Timberline (12-10) hadn’t made it to State in 48 years. Now, the Spartans are going for the second consecutive season. They’ll face the winner of today’s play-in game between Council and Richfield at 6 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday at Caldwell High School.
“It was a great team defensive effort,” Timberline coach Jason Hunter said. “We keyed in on Brayden (Stapleton). He is their best player and a standout shooter. I think our guys had a lot of confidence from our win last night and they believed in themselves. ... Just really disciplined and everyone who played contributed.”
The Spartans held Stapleton, a senior, to just four points on 2-of-11 from the floor and 0-of-7 from distance for Deary (17-4). Meanwhile, Timberline connected on 22-of-23 from the free-throw line, an efficiency level the Mustangs could not replicate, going just 2-of-5 on their attempts.
Timberline sophomore Parker Brown recorded a team-high 15 points and was 8-of-8 at the line, senior Rylan Larson added 12 points and junior Jaron Christopherson had 10 as the Spartans outscored Deary 19-8 in the final period to ice the victory.
Deary senior guard London Kirk kept his team within striking distance for most of the contest and logged 21 points in what turned out to be his final game.
“We missed shots and that was the moral of the story tonight,” Mustangs co-coach Jalen Kirk said. “We missed a bunch of bunnies and just couldn’t finish. ... I think after today it’s more of a life lesson for some of these guys, sometimes things don’t always go your way and it’s not meant to be. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”
After the first quarter, Timberline led 12-7 and took every opportunity it could to prevent Stapleton from getting out in transition for fast-break chances.
Deary battled back in the second, when senior Karson Ireland hit two of his three 3s in crucial moments as the Mustangs went into halftime with a manageable deficit of 23-19.
In the third, both teams picked up the aggressiveness.
With bodies diving on the floor for almost every loose ball, Deary made it a priority to push the ball off missed shots and turnovers.
Stapleton used his nifty Euro-step move on the break several times, but almost every bucket spun off the rim as he went 1-of-4 in the quarter.
Kirk had six of his points in the third to compensate for Stapleton’s off-night from the field, and Ireland splashed in a 3 at the buzzer as Deary took advantage of a 2-of-9 Timberline third-quarter shooting display to tie it at 32 heading into the fourth.
Timberline was able to squeeze as much as it could off free-throw attempts in the fourth, when it went 13-of-14 and continued to apply defensive pressure out of its 2-3 zone, which had been successful all night.
Brown hit all eight of his free throws in the fourth, while junior Micah Nelson went 3-of-4 as the Spartans held the Mustangs to a 3-of-17 shooting performance in the fourth.
Deary went scoreless for the first six minutes of the final period, and Timberline quickly grew its lead to 40-32.
The Mustangs couldn’t generate enough late baskets to make a final push at Timberline, and the Spartans held on to beat Deary for the second time in two nights.
Rylan Larson 5 1-1 12, Parker Brown 3 8-8 15, Micah Nelson 2 3-4 8, Chase Hunter 0 4-4 4, Devon Wentland 1 0-0 2, Jaron Christopherson 2 6-6 10. Totals 13 22-23 51.
London Kirk 8 2-3 21, Brayden Stapleton 2 0-1 4, Preston Johnston 1 0-0 2, Kalab Rickerd 0 0-0 0, Gus Rickert 2 0-0 4, Karson Ireland 3 0-0 9. Totals 17 2-5 40.
Timberline 12 11 9 19—51
Deary 7 12 13 8—40
3-point goals — Ireland 3, Kirk, Nelson, Brown, Larson.
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