The Prairie City Panther boys basketball team is moving on to the state playoffs, hosting a second round game on Friday, after winning the championship title at the Feb. 14-16 District 8 High Desert Tournament.

The team is in celebration mode after defeating the Crane Mustangs 46-45 Saturday night in John Day.

The win, at the packed Grant Union Junior-Senior High School gym, was a repeat for Prairie City, which also had a second-place finish at state last year.

The Panthers, entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed for the west, reached the championship game after defeating the Huntington Locomotives (No. 3 east) 80-34 on Thursday and the Jordan Valley Mustangs (No. 1 east) 70-58 on Friday.

Saturday’s contest came down to the last second — when Panther Lucas McKinley shot the ball, it rolled off the rim and Levi Burke took it up to score for the lead with 1.1 seconds left on the clock.

“When I hit the shot I tried to stay calm, but I couldn’t help freaking out,” Burke said.

Crane’s final attempt didn’t fall, and the Panthers came away with another district tournament title.

Prairie City knew the Mustangs would present a challenge as the Panthers lost a 65-55 game in Crane Jan. 29 — one of only two losses on the season, the other to Jordan Valley 53-51 on Feb. 1. The Panthers also defeated Crane 77-45 on Jan. 18 in Prairie City.

Crane was the No. 1 seed from the west entering the tournament.

On Saturday night, Prairie City led 16-7 in the first quarter, and Crane took a 26-20 lead going into halftime.

The Panthers came back with fury after the break.

“We went in the locker room, and I said we’ve got to keep moving more without the ball,” said Prairie City head coach Sam Workman.

Crane’s Chase Joyce hit a 3-point shot near the start of the third, and his teammate Peyton Kreuger added 3 near the end. Prairie City’s Levi Burke, Cole Deiter and Jojari Field combined for 12 points in those eight minutes.

Deiter blocked a Crane shooter’s attempt early in the quarter and, with one minute left, stole the ball, scoring on a fast break.

Kreuger’s 3-pointer tied the score 32-32 going into the final quarter.

The teams knotted up the score 34-34, then 38-38. Crane’s head coach Matt Zander called a time out.

Joyce scored 2, and another timeout was called with 3:40 left to go, Crane leading 40-38.

Crane players Jake Dunn and Kreuger and Panther Syd Holman traded scoring twice, then Holman tied it 44-44 when he scored off a steal.

The Mustangs called a full timeout. Then Crane’s Jacob Dunn was fouled and hit 1-2 at the free-throw line, with 51 seconds left.

Joyce was next at the free-throw line but was unable to score as Panther fans made noise.

Then Burke scored for the win.

During the timeout before the winning shot, Workman told the team “to go to the basket for an offensive rebound and a put back — that’s what they did,” he said.

“We’re all excited now,” the coach said. “We played good together.”

Holman was named player of the game.

“I think it’s pretty cool that we can all come together as a family, as brothers, and have that satisfaction of winning,” Holman said. “Being able to play through what we faced, it shows how strong our connection is.”

McKinley said the win was a relief.

“It was a rough start, so I’m glad we were able to pull it off,” he said.

Field said, if they keep it up, they’ll make it to the state championship game, like last year.

“Every single player on this team — each person has their own special role, and that’s the reason we won,” he said. “We’ve built a strong brotherhood.”

Crane’s coach said his boys “played their hearts out.”

“Congratulations to (Prairie City),” he said. “They’re a great team.”

Prairie City stats

Syd Holman: 14 points (4-6 free throws)

Levi Burke: 10

Cole Deiter: 8

Jojari Field: 7 (one 3-pointer, 2-2 free throws)

Lucas McKinley: 7 (3-7 free throws)

Crane stats

Brian Clark: 18 points (four 3-pointers, 2-2 free throws)

Jake Dunn: 7 (1-2 free throws)

Chase Joyce: 6 (one 3-pointer, 1-3 free throws)

Rhett Landon: 6

Peyton Kreuger: 4

Jesse Roozeboom: 2

Mitch Clark: 2

Angel Carpenter is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. She can be contacted at angel@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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