It was everything a game deciding a region championship should be - for a half.
Then Boulder Creek's bomb squad, led by senior guard Ryan Crane, found its range and shot Mountain Ridge out of its own gym. The Jaguars connected on six three-point shots in the third quarter, transforming a three-point halftime advantage to a 17-point bulge.
Mountain Ridge (13-9, 9-2 Northwest Region) could not cut the lead to single digits and watched Boulder Creek (21-2, 11-0) wrap up the league Friday with a 71-60 win.
"It's disappointing because I thought we were well prepared for this game and we let down," Mountain Ridge coach Craig Marcus said. "The third quarter buried us and that's usually when we've been playing a lot better lately, so that's why I didn't understand what was going on - poor decisions on shots, turnovers and then we couldn't guard anybody."
Crane, the Jaguars' leading scorer, was quiet in the first half, converting only one layup in the final minute. Boulder Creek earned a 27-24 lead mainly on the back of senior center Alex Dykhuizen, who worked inside for nine points and six rebounds.
But Crane came out firing in the third quarter, hitting from the corner to give the Jaguars a 32-26 advantage. Junior guard Ryan Zettle and Dykhuizen followed with their own treys, forcing Mountain Ridge to call a time out with 4:57 left in the quarter.
After the Mountain Lions missed Crane supplied the dagger, burying a three from the top of the key while getting fouled. He made the free throw to give his team a 16-point cushion. Crane capped his 15-point quarter by swishing a three with two seconds left.
Then he delivered the exclamation point, another triple in the opening moments of the fourth quarter. Crane finished with a game-high 20 points and Dykhuizen added 18 points and 13 rebounds.
"We worked on getting out on the shooters and making sure they don't beat us the last two practices, but we let the big guy go by us and make layups. And we didn't box out," marcus said.
The Mountain Lions' offense also went south in a third quarter replete with bad passes and difficult shots. Boulder Creek limited Mountain Ridge to 11 points on 3-21 field goal shooting.
Forward Jared Zoller and guard Taylor Pickle were the only Mountain Ridge offensive threats. Both juniors finished with 15 points.
Only Zoller grabbed more than four rebounds for Mountain Ridge. Senior forward Cameron Akins, the squad's leading board man, watched on the bench in street clothes. Marcus said Akins is academically ineligible and might not play next week.
Though the Mountain Lions entered Friday on an eight-game winning streak, this loss may cost them a chance to make the playoffs in the unforgiving 5A-I classification. Right now, they're No. 19 in the power rankings.
Marcus and his players know they must win their final three games - Tuesday at Willow Canyon, Feb. 12 against Goldwater and Feb. 16 at Kingman - to have a chance. Even then, Mountain Ridge will likely need help to get in the top 16.
"We have to take care of our job, win games and hopefully we get some points," Marcus said.