PARMA — The Fruitland boys basketball team reminded the state who the top team was Friday night, as the No. 1-ranked Grizzlies (per the Idaho Coaches Poll and the Media Poll) held on late for a 54-47 win at No. 2 Parma.
The Grizzlies were led by Cole Eiguren and Drake Stampfli, who both scored 10 points. Jake O’Neil and Hunter Stampfli each scored nine points.
While the Grizzlies were able to keep control of the game for most of the first half, the Panthers started to roll in the second half, taking a 36-34 lead halfway through the third quarter.
But the Grizzlies turned right around and scored seven points in a row, capped off by a three-pointer by Jayden Stice and then another by Pri Weatherall two possessions later.
Hunter Stampfli, who made four of his five shots and gave the Panthers fits all night in the post, said the Grizzlies just made sure to stay calm as they got back to playing their style of basketball.
“We just started fighting harder and playing better as a team,” Stampfli said.
Friday night’s game was the fifth time in the past two years the Grizzlies and the Panthers have met (four district games, once in the district title game). With Fruitland graduating one senior and Parma graduating three, both teams came into the 2018-2019 season with the same core group of players.
That familiarity showed Friday night as neither team had a strong offensive performance. The Grizzlies made 42.9 percent of their shots from the floor and made four of 17 three-pointers. Parma made 14 of 38 field goals and five of 18 three-pointers.
Stampfli, who has played in all five games against the Panthers the past two years, said the Grizzlies haven’t changed up their approach to Parma as they keep focusing on themselves.
“We just worked hard in practice,” Stampfli said. “We continued to work on defense. We just worked on everything that we normally work on.”
Over the last two weeks of the season, the Grizzlies have had to stave off second-half comebacks (Friday at Parma and at Weiser on Jan. 30). That run resembles last season as the Grizzlies got taken to the limit against Payette and Parma in back-to-back games late in January.
Stampfli agreed that these close games against the tough slate of Snake River Valley competition helped prepare the Grizzlies (then a young team) for the state tournament as they went to the wire with tough teams like Snake River and Sugar-Salem.
And this year, the competition in the district has kept the Grizzlies constantly on their guard, Stampfli said.
“It does, definitely does,” he said. “We always want to be prepared for the best.”
The Grizzlies had already sealed the No. 1 seed in the SRV prior to Friday’s game, thanks in part to Weiser upsetting the Panthers early in the regular season. The Grizzlies will play in the district semifinals against the winner of the play-in game on Feb. 16 at Treasure Valley Community College.