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Surreal Feeling for St. Maries
The Lumberjacks cut down Ambrose 51-50 to win the 2A state title.
Published: 3/6/2021 5:19:25 PM
Brandon Baney
Managing Editor/Broadcaster


The St. Maries boys basketball team has developed a flair for the dramatic.

The Idaho 2A boys basketball state championship game wasn't decided until the final minute of play, as St. Maries erased a 5-point deficit late and earned the school's first championship since 1960.

The Lumberjacks (23-1) led at halftime 23-18 at halftime and pushed the lead out to ten early in the third quarter.  Ben Blythe brought Ambrose back, though, hitting a pair of threes to keep the Archers (21-3) close.  Blythe scored all 19 of his points in the second half.

One night after scoring 23 points for the Archers, Hudson Hughes hit his only basket of the game with 2:30 to play.  His three from the left wing broke a 45-45 tie, and two free throws from Hughes followed, putting Ambrose up 50-45 with 1:47 remaining.  It would be the last time Ambrose scored.

St. Maries began their comeback with 1:26 to play.  Eli Gibson made a free throw to cut the deficit to four, but missed his second opportunity. Tristan Gentry rebounded the miss and scored on a putback to bring the Lumberjacks within two at 50-48.

Gibson then stole the ball from Hughes, and was fouled with 58 seconds to play.  Gibson again made 1-of-2 from the line.  And again, Gentry rebounded the miss, and was fouled on the putback attempt.  Trailing 50-49, Gentry made both free throws to put St. Maries in front 51-50.

Ambrose coach Ken Sugarman opted to run the clock down and attempt a potential game-winning shot.  Johnny Sugarman put up an off-balance shot from the right block with 5 seconds to play, but missed.  The ball fell out of bounds, and St. Maries took possession with 3.8 seconds to play.  Gentry ran out the clock from there, and the Lumberjacks celebration began.  

St. Maries junior post Colby Renner said, "It's pretty surreal. We haven't won since 1960.  We've been talking about it all year, and we just came out with some fire and wanted to get it done today."

St. Maries coach Bryan Chase came into the game wanting to exploit Ambrose inside.  The game plan was executed perfectly, as the Lumberjacks' top three scorers were big men Tristan Gentry (16), Randie Becktel (10) and Renner (9).

"Our coaches were talking all last night and this morning, watching film, we've got to work inside out.  Pound the ball inside, and then when they double, we can kick it out," Renner said.  "And it ended up working.  We got out to a 10-point lead doing that, but man, that team (Ambrose) can shoot.  They just come down and shoot a bunch of threes, and it was an interesting game towards the end."

Renner should know a thing or two about three-point shooting.  Trailing by one with just 0.6 seconds to play against North Fremont the night before in the semifinals, Renner hit the game-winner to vault St. Maries into the championship game 45-43.

"It's still crazy," Renner said of his game-winning shot.  "I've been getting text messages all night and all day.  My teammates gave me a new nickname of "Logo Larry", I hit it from almost the logo there."

That shot, along with this year's team, will be talked about for years to come.  St. Maries' only other boys basketball title came in 1960, and a few members of that squad are still alive and living in St. Maries.

"I bet when we get back to St. Maries, they're all going to be there, talking to us about when they won it," Renner said.  "And we can tell them about when we won it."


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