POCATELLO — Dexter Hale jumped into Derek Thomas’ arms as Blackfoot’s student section rushed the court.
The mob formed a circle around the two, and the celebration began at mid court. Blackfoot’s students pumped their fists as Hale embraced his teammates, all while Century’s student section stood stunned.
Hale connected on the game-winning layup with four seconds remaining to beat the home Diamondbacks 38-37 Tuesday in the first round of the 4A District 5-6 tournament.
The win avenged the Broncos’ 43-40 loss Jan. 9 at Century, when Connor Haines knocked down the game-winning 3-pointer with 5.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
“This is what all the summer work is for,” Hale said. “This is so fun. It is a great feeling. Our goal is the state tournament and this is one step closer.”
Hales’ bucket came after Century (11-11) turned the ball over with 33.2 seconds remaining and a 37-36 advantage, giving the Broncos (7-14) another possession. Blackfoot coach Cody Shelley then took a timeout with 21.4 seconds remaining to draw up a potential game-winning play.
In the huddle, Shelley’s play featured guard Reece Robison and forward Trevor Miller. When the Broncos hit the floor, neither player had room to work, so the road team improvised. Rayce Shelley received a pass from Robinson at the top of the key with under 10 seconds remaining and drove down the left lane, where he found Hale cutting from the wing for the game-winning layup. Century did not get a shot off before time expired.
“We stopped plan A and plan B, but hats off to them for going to plan C and D,” Century coach Ryan Frost said. “They made a play. The last possession didn’t lose us the game.”
Century’s Coleton Adamson put the D-backs ahead 37-35 with 1:13 left in the fourth after the Broncos went ahead 35-34 on a bucket from Miller with 1:22 remaining.
Miller split a pair of free throws on the possession after Adamson’s triple to inch Blackfoot closer. The Broncos’ senior forward had five points in the fourth quarter after not scoring in the third. He finished with a game-high 15 points.
“Everybody needs a player that wants the ball and everybody has confidence in,” coach Shelley said. “The last few games, he’s been playing well, and we are riding him.”
After going ahead 34-30 with 6:49 remaining in the final frame, the D-backs made one field goal and turned the ball over twice. The team finished with 16 turnovers and 13 field goals.
Century shot 8-of-26 from the field in the second, third and fourth quarters combined.
“We played great in the first quarter, we were looking good,” Frost said. “Then we weren’t taking care of the basketball.”
Blackfoot never led by more than two points and had the lead for more than 71 seconds.
“The kids battled,” coach Shelley said. “We kept finding ourselves down two points, down four points. We made enough stops and both teams played great defense. It was a one-possession game. We had the ball to end the game.”
Century’s Max Rogers was the lone D-back in double figures, scoring 11 points. Fourth seeded Century hosts sixth seeded Pocatello on Thursday in a loser-out game, while fifth-seeded Blackfoot heads to top seeded Preston on Thursday to play for a spot in the district title game.
“We have to carry the momentum,” Hale said. “Cody always has a great game prep, so he’ll have us ready. Our season ended (at Preston) last year, so we still have that bad taste in our mouths.”
BLACKFOOT 38, CENTURY 37
Blackfoot 13 9 6 10 — 38
Century 17 5 8 7 — 37
Blackfoot (38) Hale 6, Robinson 6, Miller 15, Brower 2, J. Shelley 7, Thomas 2.
Century (37) Harwell 6, Ordyna 4, Adamson 7, Zink 5, Haines 4, Rogers 11.