Marsh Valley beats Snake River in OT to force rematch for district title

by 24USATVFeb. 23, 2021, 7 a.m. 18
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BLACKFOOT — When he finally came out of the locker room, Kent Howell wanted to find a quiet corner.

A half-hour before, he had been hollering at the top of his voice, alternately crouching and standing, pacing the sideline as he tried to find his Marsh Valley Eagles any hint of an advantage over their mirror-close rivals, Snake River.

But after the game, he spoke softly, the big coach's words barely getting out, the exhaustion plain to hear.

And who could blame him?

His Eagles had just wrapped up a 46-43 overtime win over Snake River in the 3A District 5 tournament on Monday, stretching their lead in the season series to 3-1 over their rival. Those four games have been decided by a total of 10 points.

"We hit a couple, they missed a couple," Howell said. "Its tough, because their defense is great. It's a chess match. You just have to believe in your kids, keep calling stuff out, let them go to work, and that's what they did."

The three-point margin represented the largest of the four games, tying Marsh's 62-59 and 57-54 wins from the regular season. The other game, a 58-57 Snake River win last week in double overtime, was what put Marsh Valley in its predicament Monday, needing to win to force a rematch for the district championship.

The Eagles got it — but it took them quite the effort.

Down 14-0 to start the game, they closed to 18-17 at one point in the second quarter before Snake River bounced back to lead 22-17 at halftime.

Marsh Valley trailed most of the game in last week's loss as well, going down 11 points in the fourth quarter before storming back to force OT.

"Last time we got down about the same," Howell said. "I don't know why we're doing that, but I just told them to dig in, stay focused, try to keep going one possession at a time. Get back into it."

This time, it took them until the fourth to take the lead, which they did on a Stanton Howell 3 from the right corner with under two minutes to go. One Snake River bucket and one missed opportunity for each team later — Payton Howe's layup was blocked for Marsh Valley before Mitch Lindsay missed a triple at the buzzer for Snake — the two teams went to overtime tied at 41.

In the third overtime between the teams in five days, Cole Gilbert's floater for Snake River gave the Panthers a 43-42 lead but Michael Belnap answered with a midrange jumper for Marsh Valley. Noah Watt's wild layup didn't fall for Snake River and, after two free throws left the Panthers no chance but to go for the tie, Howe got a piece of Lindsay's last-second 3-pointer to clinch the win for Marsh Valley.

The teams will play again at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Marsh Valley. The winner wins the district, while the loser will have to play two play-in games to make the state tournament.

"Guys have to show up and hit big shots," Kent Howell said. "I think that's what it comes down to. Who's going to play solid defense for four quarters and who's going to hit big shots."

At Butte County, Grace saw off Challis to keep its season alive and advance to a Wednesday matchup with Butte County in the 1A DI District 5-6 tournament.

"We beat (Challis) pretty handily during the regular season, but the kids were really focused tonight, we had a great effort," Grace coach Rory Lloyd said. "We hope to come back with that energy Wednesday, which I'm sure we will."

Payson Andersen scored 19 points to lead the Grizzlies, who also got 14 points from Gage Stoddard and 13 from Trey Draper.

Grace will have to beat Butte County twice, starting with Wednesday's game at Butte County, to win the district title.

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