Panthers capture district crown

MONTPELIER – It was a thriller at Bear Lake High School as the Snake River Panthers and the Bear Lake Bears tangled for the 3A fifth district championship. In a match that both teams deserved to win, Snake River emerged triumphant with a thrilling five game victory 25-23, 24-26, 25-23, 22-25 and 15-12.
“This was a great match, the kind of game that a championship match should be,”
Snake River head coach Shelli Van Orden said. “Bear Lake is a great team and it’s matches like this that will help us at state.”
Snake River came into the first game as the cold team as Bear Lake first dispatched with Marsh Valley to advance to the title tilt.
The slight advantage didn’t pay dividends however as Snake River came out playing from the opening tip. Both teams led by as many as 4 points during the course of the first game but in the end Snake River found a way to pull away at the tail end of the game for the win.
“Both teams know how important it is to win our district because the winner will get a seed that should wind up in the championship game as how the bracket looks,” coach Van Orden said. “There was a lot of heart on both sides.”
In game two the Bears shot out of the gate by winning the first five points. Snake River chipped away at the lead until finally tying the game at 15-15 and they looked as if they were going to win the second game, serving for the win at 24-22. After a time out, Bear Lake roared back with four straight points to steal the second game 26-24.
Bear Lake then parlayed that momentum into the third game, eventually taking a 21-16 lead over the Panthers but after a good time out, the Panthers got a much needed side out and then rode the strong serving of Shayla Christensen and the powerful right hand of Eden Van Orden to tie the game at 21-21.
From there the Panthers steamrolled to the finish for a 2-1 lead.
Down but not out, the Bears answered back with a 25-22 win in game four setting the stage for the fifth and deciding game.
Midway through the final game Bear Lake led on the scoreboard 8-5. Undaunted the Panthers got a side out and once again Christensen stepped to the service line. By the time she was done serving, the Panthers had reeled off five straight points to take a 10-8 lead. From there the teams traded side outs until Van Orden closed out the match with a thundering kill, her 33rd of the night, giving the Panthers the hard fought district championship that they so desperately have searched for throughout the season.
“I just absolutely love these girls,” coach Van Orden said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to coach them”
Along with Van Ordens 33 kills, Jocelyn Harper was able to pitch in 12. Alexa Lund dished out 32 assists while Van Orden collected 21 digs and Christensen added 15.
Next up for the Panthers is the state tournament next week in Wendall where they will enter as the top seed for the tournament.