The slipper still fits for Centennial.
The Patriots continued their Cinderella run at the 5A boys basketball state tournament Friday, knocking off Rigby 61-53 to advance to Saturday’s state championship game despite entering the tournament seeded No. 8 out of eight teams.
After an up-and-down season, few expected much from Centennial (16-10) at the state tournament, other than to serve as a roadkill for top-seeded Lake City, the tournament favorite. The Patriots instead delivered a stunning upset Thursday and followed it with a dominant performance Friday to prove that it was no fluke.
Centennial will face Owyhee (23-3) at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center for the title.
“I think people are starting to believe a little bit,” Centennial senior Kaden Christensen said. “We made it here as an eight seed. It’s really incredible what we did as a team.”
“Believe” remains the key word around Centennial. The Patriots were the only team in the 5A tournament with double-digit losses. They finished sixth out of 12 teams in a 5A SIC preseason coaches’ poll. They lost their district tournament opener by 33 points.
Just getting to the state tournament was supposed to be their reward. But the Patriots weren’t satisfied.
A streaky 3-point shooting team caught fire early Friday, draining 5-of-6 long-range shots to open the game and build a commanding lead that Centennial never relinquished.
Tyler Shipp led the onslaught, scoring 15 of his team-high 17 points in the first half while sinking 5-of-5 3-pointers. The Patriots were 8-for-14 in the first half behind the arc and finished 10-for-20 to avoid a letdown after Thursday’s high.
“This group, I can’t say enough about them,” Centennial coach Josh Aipperspach said. “... That’s hard to turn the page after yesterday. But these guys are so resilient and buy into everything.”
Centennial led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, and Rigby (17-9) never got any closer than six points the rest of the way.
Christensen added 14 points, Hayden Fletcher chipped in 10 and Weston Johnson finished with seven points, eight rebounds and five assists for the underdog Patriots.
The Cinderella run features plenty of similarities to Centennial’s run at the 2017 state tournament. The Patriots also upset the No. 1-ranked team (Madison) and followed that with a convincing semifinal win.
But that team went home with the runner-up trophy, a fate Shipp said the Patriots plan to avoid. They last won a state title in 2003.
“We didn’t come this far to lose,” Shipp said. “We’re gonna win.”