PRIEST RIVER — Tuesday night’s game against Bonners Ferry (8-9, 2-2 IML) had plenty of firsts for the Priest River Spartans.
First halftime lead.
First game without a second-quarter slump.
And, most importantly, the Spartans’ first win of the season in a 43-42 nail-biter.
“We haven’t been [ahead at half] all year, so it was something we knew could hinder us late in the game,” Priest River head coach Kevin Wylie said. “But our guys hung tight, played smart, secured the ball and made the right play when they needed to.”
Making the right plays was key for the Spartans, who were still learning an offense implemented earlier last week. Guards Robert Anselmo (team-high four assists) and Keegan Hegel (team high 12 points and three assists) appeared to get the hang of things; both were instrumental in finding open teammates in give-and-go situations. Extra passing was a change for a team inclined to taking the first shot available.
“We’re trying to eliminate an early shot in our possessions,” Wylie said. “I tell our guys that if we take quick shots, we’ll play defense longer than we play offense, because that puts us at risk.”
Priest River finished shooting 35.7 percent from the field and committed a season-low 12 turnovers.
Despite out-rebounding the Spartans 42-23, the Badgers couldn’t capitalize; they shot 16-48 (33.3 percent) from the field and only 2-10 from three.
The second three was almost the dagger. Senior point guard Dylan Hittle hit his first three of the night with 21 seconds to play, putting Bonners Ferry up 42-41.
But on the next play, Anselmo found a streaking Brandon McCracken, who beat the defense and hit a left-handed layup with 14 seconds remaining. Hittle turned it over with nine-tenths of a second on the Badgers’ last possession, and Hegel’s recovery sealed the win.
Badger senior Seth Bateman finished with a 25 point, 11 rebound double-double. Teammate Chris Durette added four points and 13 boards. McCracken finished with 11 points, four boards and three blocks, while Caden Brennan scored eight points and added six steals.
Priest River (1-13, 1-5 IML) plays at Wallace on Feb. 8, while Bonners Ferry plays at Sandpoint on Feb. 8.
Bonners Ferry 9 8 12 13 — 42
Priest River 7 14 11 11 — 43
BONNERS FERRY — Hittle 5, S. Bateman 25, Petersen 2, Morgan 2, Stockton 4, Durette 4, Hines 0.
PRIEST RIVER — Anselmo 0, Hegel 12, Brennan 8, Mathews 6, McCracken 11, Thompson 2, Lucas 2, Kreager 0, Zapfe 0, Bell 0, Parkes 0.