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Middleton Moves Past Preston for 4A Title
Middleton earns its' first state championship since 1965
Published: 3/8/2021 11:05:26 AM
Brandon Baney
Content Manager/Broadcaster
brandon@idahosports.com
 

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Despite being separated by more than 250 miles, the Middleton Vikings and Preston Indians have become quite familiar with one another.

After suffering defeat at the hands of Preston the last two seasons at state, Middleton finally got revenge on the biggest stage, earning the 4A state championship with a 47-45 triumph.

Preston (19-8) led for much of the first half, and took a 23-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.  But Middleton's pressure defense finally caught up to the Indians in the second half.

"We're picking up teams 94 feet (out) defensively," Middleton coach Andy Harrington said.  "We're sending nine or ten guys into the game, and I thought that in the second half, they (Preston) had some tired legs because of that."

Middleton senior Merit Foote agreed with his coach.

"I just think that we're such a deep team that in the second half, so many teams get worn down," Foote said.  "And we have so many guys that can pressure, and that's so tiring for the other team."

The momentum swung to Middleton's side for good with 5:01 remaining in the fourth quarter.  Middleton held a 37-34 lead when Preston freshman Druw Jones scored on a tough shot in the lane.  When a whistle was blown following the shot, Preston though Jones would have a chance to tie the game with an "and one" free throw.  But the basket was waved off, as senior center Braden Hess was called for an offensive foul.

Middleton went on an 8-2 shortly after, and Preston never seriously threatened again.  Jones made a three at the buzzer for Preston to make the final score 47-45.

For Middleton, the victory represented payback after a gut-wrenching 51-50 loss to Preston in the 2020 semifinals. 

"That one hurt quite a bit," Foote said.  "I laid in bed at night for probably three months thinking about that one, so it feels great to finally get them back, but they're a great team.  Shout out to them (Preston), they're one of the best programs in the state."

Harrington echoed those sentiments.

"It was a big goal of ours to get Middleton on the level of competing with Preston," Harrington said.  "I knew that there's always been talent in Middleton, you just had to make some good decisions (toughness, not taking shortcuts, playing hard all the time on defense, and sharing the love with each other), and the guys bought into the culture."

Junior center Tyler Medaris led the Viking attack with 12 points and 6 rebounds.  Foote added 8 points and 2 steals.

For Preston (19-8), Gabe Hammons scored 13 points.  The Indians were trying to win their fifth state championship in the past six seasons.

"Preston's a super good team, super well-coached, super gritty," Medaris said.  "But we just knew we had to get to our spots (to win)."

The win gave Middleton (23-4) its' first state championship since 1965.  Foote said that championship drought was a gigantic motivator for the Vikings.

"It started with our coaches.  They've been bringing it up forever," Foote said.  "I guarantee you there wasn't a week of practice where they didn't the '65 championship team and how it's been so long, so it's just been a huge motivation for us, and I'm so grateful that we were finally able to get it done."



The championship win was Harrington's final game as Middleton's coach.  Earlier this year, Harrington was hired as the boys' basketball coach at Owyhee High School, which will officially open in the fall of 2021.

"The Middleton community was hungry for a championship," Harrington said.  "Everyone bought in, the community got behind us, the kids worked hard, and they'll continue being successful. 

"I'm really excited to follow them moving forward," he added.  "I'll always be a Viking.  I'll always root for the Vikings."


 


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