NAMPA — Barring crazy, unforeseen circumstances, the Nampa Christian High School boys basketball team probably won’t win the 2A Western Idaho Conference championship.
But it made another team, which hasn’t won one in 30 years, wait at least another game to do so.
The fifth-ranked Trojans ended a two-game slide by upsetting No. 2 Marsing 52-37 to keep it from clinching the 2A WIC title for the first time since 1990 on Friday.
“We came in knowing that we haven’t been performing the way that we should, so we wanted to make a statement tonight,” Nampa Christian coach Nate Rex said. “If you want to be the best team, you have to beat the best team, and that’s what we were preaching tonight.”
But don’t be fooled by the final score, the Trojans (14-5 overall, 6-4 WIC) gutted one out.
They were hit with four technical fouls and a player ejection, which nearly turned the tide of the game in the second half.
Despite technical fouls on Caden Yett and Ryan Schober in the first half, Nampa Christian still held double-digit leads twice, including 24-14 at the break.
And up 28-21 with three minutes and 29 seconds left in the third quarter, it was on the verge of doing so again when Dane Bradshaw boxed out Marsing’s 6-foot-8 big man Jacob Ankeny on a shot. Bradshaw appeared to have inadvertently fallen underneath the legs of Ankeny, causing him to take a scary flip to the hardwood floor.
The Husky bench cleared, seeking a flagrant foul. One was assessed.
So Bradshaw, the team’s starting point guard, was ejected from the game.
“That’s like the last person we think to get a technical,” sophomore guard Landon Cheney said. “So it was defeating. But we knew we all had to step up after that, and we all did.”
Just 26 seconds later, Rex was hit with a technical for arguing another call. Marsing (15-4, 8-2), the winners of its last 11 games coming in — the then longest streak in the 2A classification — rode that momentum swing.
It got the deficit down to two at 36-34 on a jumper by Merrick Hall with 5:50 left. The Huskies were then positioned to either tie or take their first lead since 48 seconds into the game after another missed by the Trojans, who started the fourth quarter 1 of 5.
But Cheney, who took the place of Bradshaw, had other ideas.
He took advantage of a block by teammate Brendon Smith and turned it into points on a transition layin to give Nampa Christian some breathing room at 38-34 with five minutes remaining. The play ended up igniting a 16-3 run.
“I thought it was really impressive that our guys kept their composure and battled through because a lot of teams could have folded,” Rex said. “I think that was really important for us. The last few games we’ve been struggling, so showing grit like that, can really boost us into the final few games of the year.”
Cheney scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
Russell Vander Woude also came alive in the second half. Fourteen of the junior wing’s game-high 21 points came in the final two quarters, including nine in the fourth. He scored the next six points after Cheney’s layup.
“I think he’s trying to make a case that he should be Player of the Year in our conference,” Rex said. “He has my vote.”
Not to get lost was the play of the Trojan defense.
It held Marsing to just 13 of 53 (24.5%) shooting from the field. After going 4 of 27 (14.8%) in the first half, including making only one field goal in the second quarter — and that came 40 seconds in, the Huskies closed the game by missing six of their final seven shots.
They went more than five minutes without a field goal during the 16-3 run.
“It was definitely ball pressure and our man defense. We really stepped up in that,” Vander Woude said. “We’ve been struggling a little bit with our defense, so to see everyone come out like that and give that much effort, felt good.”
The dramatic win was much-needed for Nampa Christian.
Since leading the conference and being ranked as high as No. 2 in the state poll, even garnering some first-place votes when the Trojans were 11-1 on Jan. 14, they dropped four of their last six games — all on the road. It had knocked them all the way down to fourth in the league standings.
"I kind of call it the sophomore slump," Rex said. "We are really young. We have a lot of new kids on the varsity team. I mean it's hard to win on the road in such a great conference like we have. But we believe if we play our game, we can beat anyone."
Ankeny had 17 points and Hall 10 for Marsing.