MERIDIAN — The Meridian High School boys basketball team spent a decade losing to Borah.
It wasn’t about to start a new one doing the same thing.
The No. 5 Warriors upset the second-ranked Lions 45-43 on Jan. 31 in 5A Southern Idaho Conference play to snap a 15-game losing streak that spanned 10 years. It was their first win over Borah since Jan. 2, 2010.
“It feels great. I’m proud of the boys. It’s a step, but this is so far from our goal,” Meridian coach Jeff Sanor said. “Our goal has to do with March. I’m very proud of our boys. I’m very happy for them. But we aren’t even close to being satisfied.”
Meridian senior guard Donovan Sanor led the way with nine points — all 3s. Junior guard McKay Anderson added eight points and five assists for the Warriors (14-2 overall, 11-2 5A SIC), who took over sole possession of second place in the conference with a win that seemed like it would never come.
Eleven of their losses to the Lions (13-3, 10-3) came by double-digits with a point differential of 17. The last time before Friday that Meridian didn’t experience that kind of torment, everyone on its roster was in elementary school.
“I didn’t know it was that long,” Donovan Sanor said. “I just knew that in the four years I’ve been here, we never beat them. So it just feels good to be that caliber of a team.”
But the drought looked like it was going to continue. Borah twice had double-digit leads, including at the start of the fourth quarter. The Lions led 39-29 after ending the third quarter on a 13-4 run. Sophomore guard Ray Ray Bergersen was a big reason why. He drained three of his five 3-pointers during that stretch.
The Warriors shut him and nearly everyone else on the Lions down in the final quarter, though. Borah scored just four points. Senior All-SIC forward Austin Bolt, who had 12 points through three quarters, was limited to just two points in the fourth. Senior guard Isaac Dewberry had the other basket — a one-handed slam. Other than that, the Lions went 2 of 10 from the field for the quarter.
Meridian senior post Jordan Pearce sparked a 13-2 run with a layin at the 7-minute and 20-second mark. Donovan Sanor, who wears the No. 24 in honor of the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, capped it with a step-back 3 at the top of the key. Sanor was even wearing an old worn out pair of Bryant-brand shoes, which one of them had a hole in the sole that had to covered up with athletic tape, when he did it.
Sanor’s shot was reminiscent of the ones the former Los Angeles Laker star, who was honored before the game with an 8-second moment of silence, routinely made throughout his storied career. It also gave the Warriors their first lead of the game at 42-41 with 2:15 remaining.
“I just kind of felt like him,” Sanor said. “I’ve grown up idolizing him. Before every game, I’ll watch some of those highlights. Yesterday in class, I was watching his 81-point game. The most impressive thing was he never talked trash to anybody. His game winners, there was no doubt that when he took one, that it was going in. That’s what I felt.”
But Bolt gave the Lions the lead right back. He grabbed the rebound of a missed 3 by Bergersen, drove the lane and laid it in to put Borah back out in front at 43-42 with 1:10 left.
However, the Warriors didn’t panic. Instead, one of their own came to the rescue.
Junior guard Joe Mpoyo hit a corner 3 with 50 seconds to go. Afterwards, he held up the 3-point sign to the raucous student section that was directly behind him.
But the Lions still had opportunities at the end to win it.
Bergersen missed another 3. Bolt banked in a 3-point shot of his own with seven seconds left, but it was quickly waived off because Meridian fouled him before the shot. Borah’s last gasp was a potential game-winning 3 from junior guard Luke Hoetker with 3 seconds remaining. But the shot hit iron and bounced out to preserve the Warriors’ improbable win.
“Our mindset was that we’re not going to lose. We’re not going to go out like that like we’ve been going out in previous years,” Mpoyo said. “We said in the huddle that it was going to come down to our defense. And we did exactly that.”
It’s the latest chapter in what’s been a remarkable turnaround for Meridian, which hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2006 — the longest drought of any 5A team in the state.
From 2011 to 2017, the Warriors won a combined 40 games. Jeff Sanor earned win No. 41 in just his third year at the helm.
“I get pretty emotional about this because it comes down to my guys and them trusting me, which is what you ask your players to do,” Jeff Sanor said. “We’ve got really good players. That’s a big part of the difference. But we also have players that have bought into that they never see themselves as a finished product, as an individual or as a team. They’re just wonderful kids and the guys that have come before them, really set the tone for that and bought into that and helped pass that to this group.”
Bergersen scored a game-high 17 points, while Bolt recorded a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds for Borah.