If one word could summarize the theme of the Idaho Press’ Sports Stars Awards ceremony Thursday, it would be perseverance.

This event marks the fourth year the Idaho Press has been hosting Sports Stars, an annual banquet and ceremony that recognizes outstanding high school athletes from across Canyon County and showcases their accomplishments. St. Luke’s sponsored this year’s event.

The event’s keynote speaker, former Boise State basketball star Matt Bauscher, has a resume of overcoming setbacks.

Bauscher, who graduated from Vallivue High School, got no full scholarships after high school. But still, he kept at it.

He got a full-ride scholarship to Montana State University. Days later, it was given to someone else.

Eventually, someone saw the same potential he saw in himself, and he walked on to Boise State, later earning a full-ride scholarship and becoming a starter.

“Never let anybody tell you you can’t make it. Never let anyone discourage you,” Bauscher told the audience. “You know, deep down, the work you put in will pay off.”

Coincidentally, the athlete that was named the 2017-18 Inspirational Athlete of the Year is also a prospective Bronco with a story of adversity: Scott Matlock.

Matlock found his mother unresponsive on the couch in eighth grade. His father had previously died of cancer and with the death of his mother, Matlock was pushed into foster care. Matlock was in several different foster homes before he began living with Mike and Donna Marose in Wilder.

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“They’ve done everything. They’ve moved mountains for me and I couldn’t be more thankful,” he said.

While in Wilder, Matlock became a star athlete at Homedale High School. Matlock accepted a full scholarship to Boise State and was recruited as a defensive lineman.

The Idaho Press has in depth coverage of each athlete and team honored at Sports Stars available online and in its own printed special section.

The evening’s most coveted award — the overall athletes of the year — went to Kori Pentzer, a Melba girls basketball player, and Jared Nielsen, a Parma boys tennis player. Each received a $1,000 scholarship.

Nielsen was not in attendance, but his uncle, Lary Nielsen, accepted the award in his name.

Jared and his cousin, Ryan Nielsen, were also named 2017-18 boys tennis athletes of the year. The duo won a third consecutive 3A state championship in boys doubles this year.

Lary Nielsen told the Idaho Press after the event that his nephew, Jared, plans on going on a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after graduating high school. But before that, the tennis duo wants to win a fourth state tennis championship.

Pentzer, a who averaged 19.9 points on 49.3 percent shooting from the field, was the 1A Western Conference player of the year for the second straight season and she led the Melba Mustangs to the most wins in program history, with a third place finish at the 2A State Girls Basketball Tournament. The star senior guard verbally committed to play for Weber State in August.

“I’m just going to work my butt off,” Pentzer said of her future in an interview with the Idaho Press. “I’m not sure what God’s got prepared for me, but he led me there. We’ll see where he takes me.”

Kyle Pfannenstiel is the night digital reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy.

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