POCATELLO â€” In the opening quarter last Friday night against American Falls, Snake River did not come out and play it's best quarter against the winless Beavers.
Tuesday night the Panthers took on Bear Lake with the 3A District 5 championship on the line and this time they were determined to show that last week's game was a fluke.
Kade Keller did his best to make sure the Panthers made a statement early and take the feisty Bears out of the game.
Keller slashes and knifed his way to the basket to a tune of a game-high 27 points, seven in the first quarter as the Panthers dominated the Bears from start to finish earning a 57-37 victory, the district title and the chance to defend their 3A state championship.
"I thought Kade did exactly what we wanted him to do," Snake River head coach Bob Coombs said. "They keyed on Curtis (Keller) and we told Kade to be aggressive and drive to the basket and he did that. Our big three Curtis, Kade and Brad (Coombs) have been doing that all season."
Snake River jumped out to a 12-2 lead after Brad Coombs nailed a there-pointer from the left wing. As there ball went through the net Coombs pumped his fist in excitement as Bear Lake head coach Brandon Carlson was forced to call a timeout.
The timeout did little to slow down a Panthers offense that was clicking on all cylinders. Snake River went on an 11-6 run over the next four minutes spanning two quarters to build a 23-8 lead.
"We wanted to take control of the game and take them out of their game from the start," Coombs said. "With a team like Bear Lake who we have seen a lot we knew how we had to play and the kids responded."
If there was a moment in the game where Coombs was less than pleased with his teams effort it would have been the final two minutes of the first half.
During the stretch the Panthers got careless with the basketball turning it over on consecutive possessions and committing four fouls.
But it did not seem to affect the play of the Panthers any as they went into the locker room leading 33-18.
The Panthers offense slowed a bit in the third quarter as they managed just 10 points, but the Panthers defense continued to be tough for the Bears to solve.
Bear Lake managed just nine points in the third quarter as the Panthers continued to build a big lead realizing the district title was a mere quarter away.
With the end result in little doubt Coombs pulled his starters to a large standing ovation from the large contingent of Snake River faithful that made the 20 minute trip down I-15.
Snake River opens 3A state tournament play at 6:15 p.m. on March 6 at Meridian High School.
Snake River 57, Bear Lake 37
Bear Lake 5 13 9 10 â€” 37
Snake River 16 17 10 14 â€” 57
Bear Lake â€” Theron Wallentine 3 2-4 9, Jaden Crane 2 0-0 5, Derek Weston 3 2-3 9, Ryan Gunderson 1 2-2 4, Kasey Keetch 3 0-1 6, Daymon Shaul 1 1-2 3, Bridger Steele 0 1-2 1.
Snake River â€” Kade Keller 10 9-13 27, Curtis Keller 4 0-0 8, Brad Coombs 1 4-4 7, Klay Keller 1 0-0 2, Kade Harral 1 0-0 3, Trey Albertson 2 0-0 5, Dakota Gilbert 1 0-0 2, Kade Watt 1 0-0 2.