With double zeros on the clock and a deafening buzz permeating the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa, Idaho, the ball clung to the rim for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally, Genesis Prep junior Josie Scribner’s desperation shot rolled off the iron, sealing a dramatic 43-41 victory for the Butte County Pirates in the 1A Division II title game.
The win marks a championship repeat for the Pirates (23-3), who survived the Jaguars’ gutsy comeback and won it on Tausha Cummins’ midrange jumper with 10 seconds left.
In the ensuing chaos, Genesis Prep point guard Rachel Schroeder tried to feed post Bella Murekatete in the key. The ball was deflected to Scribner, who squeezed off an attempt just before the buzzer. For what felt like several seconds, overtime hung in the balance.
“I was just waiting for it to go in, or for us to get the rebound,” Genesis Prep coach Brandon Haas said. “It didn’t fall, but I’m so proud of these girls and the way they continued to fight.”
Murekatete turned in an incredible performance, finishing with 25 points, 30 rebounds, seven blocked shots and three assists. The 6-foot-4 junior played all 32 minutes and had a double-double in both halves on her way to setting a classification record with 86 points in three state tournament games.
“Coach always tells us to go out there and be a family,” Murekatete said. “They couldn’t guard us in the second half. We came up short, but we proved we belonged here.”
In the early going, Butte County looked poised to run away with its third blowout of the tournament. After winning their first two games by an average of 38 points, the Pirates scored the game’s first eight points and led 15-4 after one quarter.
With a swarming defense and hot 3-point shooting, Butte County had Genesis Prep on its heels. But a deep 3-pointer by Schroeder (14 points, six assists) and three buckets by Murekatete sparked a 9-2 run to close the half as Genesis Prep trimmed the deficit to 23-17.
The rally continued in the second half. Schroder found her touch on inside lob passes to Murekatete, who began dominating the paint.
“We just couldn’t guard Bella,” Butte County coach Carla Hansen said. “I thought my girls fought as hard as they could, but she’s so good down low and so hard to defend with the height differential.”
Senior guard Shay Lambson (22 points) kept Butte County in front, extending the lead to nine by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers. But Murekatete answered, scoring seven unanswered points to tie the game on a free throw with 5:01 to play.
Both teams struggled to score down the stretch. After Lambson hit two free throws to make it 41-38 with 39 seconds remaining, Haas called his last timeout.
The Jaguars executed the out-of-bounds play to perfection, with Schroeder nailing a 3 from the wing to tie the score.
But Butte County punched right back. Cummins (12 points) shook loose for an open jumper from below the left elbow – the shot that proved to be the difference.
“What a championship game,” Haas said. “There are tears of sadness right now, but these girls will look back on being part of this game as a great memory for the rest of their lives.”
Timberlake 65, South Fremont 46: Brooke Jessen scored 23 points and the Tigers (21-4) topped the Cougars (16-13) in the state third-place game at Skyview HS in Nampa.
Jessen went 10 of 12 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers. Shelby Starr had 15 points with seven rebounds and Kaylee Jezek added 10 points with eight boards for the Tigers.
Olivia LeCheminant led South Fremont with 21 points.
West Jefferson 52, St. Maries 48: Allison Severe scored 22 points and the Panthers (23-6) edged the Lumberjacks (16-8) in the state consolation final at Kuna HS.
Kaylee Auer scored 13 points for St. Maries, while Devyn Wilson added 12.