NAMPA – Every member of the Dietrich Blue Devils boys’ basketball team walked off the Idaho Center floor with their heads held high Saturday morning. Tears flowed from a number of eyes, but not a single chin drooped toward the floor.
And for good reason.
Despite falling to Genesis Prep 68-62 in the 1A D-II state championship game Saturday morning and coming up short of winning its second straight title, Dietrich couldn’t help but celebrate what it had accomplished the past two seasons.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Dietrich head coach Wayne Dill. “You talk about a thrill ride. For me that’s what this has been. I don’t know how to put it any other way.”
“Every moment of it has been special,” said Dietrich senior Garrett Astle. “I wouldn’t want to be on any other team in the state.”
Saturday’s contest against Genesis Prep, a private school located in Post Falls, was a battle of wills. The Blue Devils held the early momentum, succumbed to the Jaguars’ pressure in the second and third, but made a Herculean comeback in the fourth to turn a blowout into a tight affair.
Slade Dill canned a 3-pointer in the opening seconds, Dietrich got a steal on the other end of the floor that it turned into a layup, and the Blue Devils were off and running. They led 9-2 midway through the first quarter before Genesis Prep was able to find its footing.
From there, the two teams played neck and neck until the buzzer signaled the end of the opening period, at which time Dietrich was on top 13-12.
Early in the second quarter, everything changed. The Jaguars were able to slow the game down to a speed that better suited their style and skill set. Dietrich tried to get out and run like it is accustomed to doing, but Genesis Prep was ready.
The Jaguars pushed ahead behind the play of guards Junior Williams and Jonny Hillman. They went on a 9-0 run to build a lead as the Blue Devils were unable to hit their own shots, partially because of 6-foot-9 Stephane Manzi patrolling the paint.
“It got a little frustrating for us,” Dill said. “There were some things we were trying to attack, but we couldn’t get it done. We were out of sync. We weren’t changing gears, we were changing direction.”
Dietrich was able to settle down late in the second quarter and finished with a 7-0 run of its own. Genesis Prep held a 32-29 lead at halftime.
Things really got away from the Blue Devils in the third as Hillman went to work. They had no answer for the Jaguar sophomore as he finished the day with a game-high 29 points.
“We spent four minutes after we talked about it at halftime trying to attack them in the way we wanted to,” Dill said. “We just couldn’t do it. We saw some things we wanted to attack. We were trying to get them to stop and shoot, but we kept going to the hole. We had our man beat after a dribble or two, but we didn’t stop and shoot.”
It all led to a 48-36 deficit for Dietrich entering the fourth period.
“We had bad second and third quarters,” Astle said. “Shots weren’t falling. We just showed up too late.”
“We were running the floor as hard as we could, like we normally do,” said senior Jake Smith. “The ball didn’t bounce our way a couple of times and they did a couple of things that got us off balance. They had a great defensive game plan, but it was also us taking ourselves out of the game.”
Smith, who set the 1A-DII record for three-pointers made in a single tournament, got hot in the fourth. He connected on six treys in the game, giving him 15 for the weekend. He also tallied his 1000th point as a Blue Devil.
“This has been a fun ride,” Smith said. “We work hard and it’s because of my teammates that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done. I’m known for shooting 3-pointers, and I have the confidence that I’m going to knock it down when I shoot.”
Genesis Prep led by as many as 15 points in the final period, but Smith and Co. fought their way back. Astle made back-to-back layups, Dill went to the free throw line, and Smith continued firing from deep.
Slowly Dietrich chipped away at the lead and got as close as six points before time ran out. The Blue Devils scored 26 points in the fourth quarter after recording 36 in the first three quarters.
“We really got things going the way we wanted to in the fourth quarter,” Dill said. “When we finally did it, the whole game changed. You could see it. We just didn’t know if we were going to have enough time, and we ended up coming two or three minutes short.”
“This is something we really wanted,” said Dietrich senior Kaden Tew. “We were going to let our hearts take over and go as hard as we could. That’s what we did.”
In addition to Hillman’s 29 points, Genesis Prep got 16 from Manzi, nine from Max Reidt and seven from Williams.
Smith led the way for Dietrich with 22 points, while Shaw had 14, Dill 12 and Astle 10.
“This has been awesome for us,” Shaw said. “It feels great to have made it here. Not a lot of teams do.”
The Blue Devils finish the season with a record of 24-2, another massive accomplishment to heap onto the long list of achievements.
“We didn’t get it done today, but we have to step back and look at the big picture,” Smith said. “It was a good run.”
“This is a special group,” Astle said. “It took hard work and dedication to get to the point where we are now. We wanted one last chance on the big floor for our seniors.”
“We’ve been playing together since third grade,” said Kaden Tew. “These guys are my family. Everything just flows with us. It’s been amazing.”
Genesis Prep 68, Dietrich 62
Genesis Prep 12 20 16 20 -68
Dietrich 13 16 7 26 -62
GENESIS PREP (68)
Jake Shelton 4, Max Reidt 9, Junior Williams 7, Jacob Schroeder 3, Jonny Hillman 29, Stephane Manzi 16. Totals 25 13-18 68.
Garrett Astle 10, Kaden Tew 4, Jake Smith 22, Kade Shaw 14, Slade Dill 12. Totals 18 16-20 62.