NAMPA — Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber in the 1988 film Die Hard. Pearl Jam’s highly acclaimed 1991 album, Ten. The 2021-22 Owyhee boys basketball team.
The Storm added their name into the category of masterpiece debuts on Saturday by beating Centennial 50-43 to win the 5A state title in their first year of existence.
“This is starting what this program is all about,” said senior Jack Payne, who came over to Owyhee from Boise High. “We won districts, and there’s a curse, so they say. But there’s no curse here, I guess, and there’s not going to be a curse for a long time, I think."
Owyhee (24-3) put the finishing touch on its inaugural season by withstanding pressure from the upset-minded Patriots, who entered the game as the tournament’s No. 8 seed, pulling away in the final quarter. Owyhee is the first high school basketball team to win a state title in its first season since the Lake City girls basketball team did so in 1995.
“We knew we could do it from the start,” said sophomore Liam Campbell, who led the Storm with 16 points. “We put in so much time and work. When we met each other in Section 7 (a tournament over the summer), we knew we could go. And we proved that to everybody."
Owyhee held on to a 35-34, but Titus Bailey sparked an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer after nearly a couple of minutes went by in the fourth quarter without either team scoring a basket. Liam Campbell had a basket and free throw and then Jackson Rasmussen had a putback bucket to make the score 43-34.
It’s the first state title in school history, in any sport, for Owyhee High, West Ada’s newest high school which opened its doors this fall. But with a roster featuring three NCAA Division I recruits, the expectations were high for the Storm well before the season started. There were outside doubters, whose social media posts were posted in the Owyhee locker room this week.
The Storm lived up to every one of their expectations, and proved all its doubters wrong.
“We had a lot of eyes on us all year,” said Owyhee coach Andy Harrington, who won his second state title at age 29, after winning the 4A title with Middleton last year. “There were people who enjoyed watching us play, but also people who didn’t enjoy watching us play. We kind of felt, not the underdog, but villain. We wanted to prove to people, even with how young and new we were. There were some tweets we saw over the course of the year that we tucked away and had on the wall in there that we hadn’t proven anything yet. I think we proved some things tonight.”
Early on Saturday, it looked like Owyhee might roll to a big victory, scoring the game’s first eight points. But the Patriots (16-11), which upset top-seeded Lake City in the opening round on Thursday, then continued their run by beating Rigby in Friday’s semifinal and showed just why it was the team that nobody wanted to face in this tournament.
Centennial wasted no time getting right back in the game, with Weston Johnson hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game at 10-all late in the first quarter. Jack Payne responded for Owyhee with a 3-pointer of his own, putting the Storm back into the lead.
Still, Centennial was able to take a 24-20 lead into halftime, holding the Storm to seven points in the second quarter and getting 3-pointers from Johnson and Kyle Schabot.
It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that the Storm were really able to separate from the Patriots. Even after their 8-0 run, Centennial cut the lead to 43-39 with three minutes left with Kaden Christensen hitting a 3-pointer and Hayden Fletcher sinking a pair of free throws. It wasn’t enough to throw Owyhee, a team that beat defending state champion Meridian the night before in overtime, off its game.
“We stayed together and we played much better defense in the fourth quarter,” said Campbell. “We didn’t take bad shots in the fourth quarter, we wanted to get on the rim, because our 3-point percentage wasn’t very well. We wanted to get to the rim, pass the ball, play some lock down defense and we were able to do that.”
While Payne, the only senior who played for Owyhee, took just three shots and scored six points, he still pulled down six rebounds and set up plenty of scoring opportunities for the Storm. For Payne, his points didn’t matter, getting the state title was his only objective.
“We just have weapons, these freshmen are really good,” said Payne. “I’d rather pass the ball. But I only shot three shots? Sounds about right.”
With most of the roster returning, minus Payne who is orally committed to Colorado State, expectations figure to be high for the Storm once again next year. When they take their home court at Owyhee High, they’ll have a banner reminding them exactly what is possible.
“We really made history tonight,” said Campbell. “And we’re not done, that’s all I’m going to say. We’re going back-to-back next year. We’ll be ready next year, as well.”