POCATELLO – Highland’s Cedar Washakie knocked down a corner 3-pointer that turned out to be the game-deciding basket in a 53-47 win over Pocatello on Saturday at The Pit.
Rams senior Cooper Duffin set up the shot, starting a fast break before finding an open Washakie for a triple that put Highland ahead 47-45 with 2 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter in what was the last lead change.
“That was much-needed. It was very timely,” Highland coach Ty Pearson said. “The ball happened to bounce our way tonight and I’m just so excited for the kids. They work really hard and it’s fun to see their hard work pay off.”
That critical 3 followed a 9-1 run by the Indians, who erased a 43-36 deficit to take a one-point lead with 3:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Indians guard Jadyn Downs accounted for the lead-changing points, knocking down two free throws to put his team ahead 45-44.
But Highland (4-11, 1-2 5A District 5-6) never allowed Pocatello to have the lead for long, not allowing the Indians to go ahead by more than two points the entire game.
“They played good defense and I didn’t think we moved the ball enough on offense,” Pocatello coach Joe Green said. “They made plays when they needed to.”
With the Rams’ win, they avoid getting swept by Pocatello in the season series for the first time in at least 10 years.
Highland had lost nine of its last 10 games, including Tuesday’s 45-42 loss to Century.
“You just try to stay positive,” Pearson said. “It’s tough when you’re losing. Trust me. But I think you’re defined when the chips are down, and the kids kept fighting and kept competing.”
The Rams gained control of Saturday’s game from the jump.
While Pocatello struggled from 3 in the opening quarter and finished 3 of 13 from that range, Highland immediately went down low and found success.
Halfway through the first quarter, Washakie zipped a pass through the defense to an open Mason Mickelsen (team-high 12 points) for a dunk to put Highland ahead 6-2 in what was the third gimme field goal for the Rams.
“We finally hit a few shots, and we were patient and didn’t shoot as many 3s and really got to the basket well,” Pearson said. “Post entry passes are really improving and the kids are being more aggressive too, going to the basket, and our spacing is improving. And we’ve got to continue to do better there, too.”
The Rams led for almost the entire first half. Rams guard Easton Wheelock punctuated the first 16 minutes by scoring eight points in the final 3 minutes of the second quarter.
The junior guard closed the half by stripping the ball on defense and scoring a buzzer-beating layup to give his team a 28-25 halftime lead.
The second half was like the first, as Highland mostly kept Pocatello at bay without putting them away.
While Highland left the night with reason for optimism, Pocatello (10-6, 8-4 4A District 4-5) is on a four-game losing streak. The Indians did get star guard Isaac Brown (game-high 16 points) back from injury after he missed the last two games.
“We’ve got to regroup and figure out who we want to be and what we want to do,” Green said. “I have a ton of faith and I believe in this team. I think we can go really far, but we have to earn it. I don’t think we’ve earned it as of late, and that’s coaches and players.”
Rivalry game used to raise money for mother of Pocatello player
The longstanding Gate City rivalry was used to raise money for the mother of a Pocatello basketball player Saturday.
Shelby Williams, mother of Poky sophomore Jaxon, was diagnosed with central nervous system lymphoma in October.
In addition to collecting donations for her at the game, Pocatello and Highland basketball players wore Team Shelby warmup shirts.
“It’s not about Pocatello. It’s not about Highland. It’s about family,” Pocatello coach Joe Green told the crowd before the game.
After Green told attendees “I want to show her how much we’re fighting … how much we love her,” spectators gave her a long round of applause.
Shelby, who was grateful for the support, is Idaho State University’s assistant director for intramurals and sports clubs. She said she has two more rounds of chemo, but her future outlook is good with a high likelihood of survival.
Pocatello plays Wednesday at Minico. Highland hosts Thunder Ridge on Wednesday.