NAMPA — It hurts now, but Valley High School boys basketball coach Brian Hardy knows when his Vikings look back, it should be with fond memories.
Valley lost to Lapwai 68-46 in the 1A Division I state title game Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center.
“I’d want them to think about the whole journey, this whole season,’’ Hardy said of his players. “It’s been very special. It didn’t end with the storybook ending, but it was very special. We came a long way.”
The Vikings (19-6) proved they could take a punch and the mystique of Lapwai basketball, recovering from an explosive start from the defending state champs. Behind Emmit Taylor III, the Wildcats (22-3) jumped out to an early 15-4 lead, but Valley didn’t go away.
“We weathered the storm. We knew they’d been here before and they’d come ready,’’ Hardy said of Lapwai, which earned its 10th title banner with the win.
Led by junior Zane Mussmann, the Vikings clawed back to knot things at 19-19 on Mussmann’s putback of his own shot and only trailed 23-21 at the break. Mussmann posted double-doubles in all three state contests, finishing the game Saturday with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
“Hey, they’re a good basketball team. We knew they weren’t going to go away,’’ said Lapwai coach Bob Sobotta. “That big guy (Mussmann) is a great player. We just knew what we do best, and I think we did that in the second half.’’
Lapwai exploded for 27 points in the third period, bringing the Wildcat fans in attendance to their feet. Included in the Lapwai cheering section was the 1987 boys basketball team, which was honored at halftime for its 26-0 state championship season. That team set the foundation for the program’s still untouched 81-game win streak in the late 1990s.
“They have a great tradition. They’ve got such high expectations,’’ Hardy said of Lapwai, which was in its 14th state title game. “And they can shoot the ball.’’
Shoot they could, particularly coming out of the halftime break.
Led by Taylor, who backed up his 26-point effort in the semifinals with 18 points against Valley, including 4-of-6 shooting beyond the 3-point arc, Lapwai popped off a 17-9 run before Hardy called a timeout to try and slow the Wildcats down.
“He’s a great player, but they’ve got a lot of very good players who know how to play this game,’’ Hardy said. “If they get going, they’re tough to stop.’’
After hitting on just 37 percent of their shots from the floor in the first half, the Wildcats heated up after the break, finishing the second half shooting 59 percent, which included eight straight field goals in their 27-16 third quarter.
“Rating us by quarter, I’d say the first quarter was a seven or eight; the second a five and the third, maybe an eight or nine,’’ Sobotta said, using a 10-point scale. “I was very happy with the way we came out in the second half. I love these kids, they’re just awesome. They love to play.’’
Kendall Leighton led Lapwai with 22 points, while Payton Sobotta had 12.
Mussmann, who shot 10-of-26 from the field, was the only Viking to score in double digits.
“To watch these guys improve this year and play as a team is very rewarding,’’ said Hardy, who will lose seniors Ben Christensen and Trenton Stoker. “We lost in the third-place game last year, so I think we’ve progressed and took another step in the right direction.’’
Lapwai 68, Valley 46
Lapwai 15 8 27 18 — 68
Valley 9 12 16 9 — 46
LAPWAI (68) — Alessandro Domebo 2, Keith Kipp Jr. 4, Emmit Taylor III 18, Kendall Leighton 22, Maceo Henry 2, Payton Sobotta 12, JJ Reuben 8.
VALLEY (46) — Jason Hardy 7, Adam Elorrieta 5, Ben Christensen 6, Nic Anderson 2, Alex Korom 4, Zane Mussmann 22.