HS boys bball: Sharpshooting Cooper Hobson lifts Preston over Middleton at 4A state tournament
BOISE – When Preston was most vulnerable and adversity arose, Cooper Hobson was the guiding force behind continuing the Indians’ wave of state tournament success into this season.
Hobson made critical 3-pointers down the stretch to lead a comeback from an 11-point, third-quarter deficit and help defeat Middleton 53-42 on Thursday in the first round of the 4A state tournament at Borah High School.
“As soon as the first one went in, I think coach trusted me to knock down the next one,” Hobson said. “So he started drawing plays for me, and I just started knocking them down from there.”
It was Preston’s 10th consecutive win at state, dating back to 2016.
Hobson posed as a unique Preston protagonist in the Indians’ hunt for their fourth straight state championship as this is the junior guard’s first season with his current team, plus he had never played in a state tournament with his previous squad – West Side.
The transfer admitted to nerves at the opening tip and took two quarters to work into the game, but he exploded onto the stage with four second-half 3-pointers en route to a game-high 16 points – 14 of which were from the final 10 minutes.
“He’s a great shooter,” Preston coach Tyler Jones said. “First half, he didn’t get a lot of good looks, but he has no conscience. He’s a great shooter and that’s what great shooters do. They keep shooting. Once he hit one, he got going there and really got us going there in the second half.”
Before Hobson entered the frame, Preston saw its 20-18 halftime lead turn into a 36-25 deficit, as the Vikings went on an 18-5 third-quarter run that was capped by a 3-pointer by junior forward Tyler Robinett, who had a team-high 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
“Defensively, they caused us problems. They got physical down low,” Jones said. “They hit a few shots and we got rattled in the third. Had some turnovers, got a technical (foul) and we kind of lost our composure for a few minutes and were able to get that back though instead of panic.”
Preston (23-2) finished the third period on an 8-0 run, fueled by Hobson’s two triples, to cut its deficit to 36-33. Indians guard Luke Smellie zoomed down the court for a quick score on a layup to tie it 36-36 with 6:30 left in the fourth.
Then, Hobson found enough space to knock down two more treys – one to give his team the lead back 39-36 with 5:50 left in the game and another nearly two minutes later to up the margin to 42-37.
After Middleton’s layup rimmed out and Ty Hyde (13 points, 10 rebounds) converted a shot around the rim on the other end to push the margin to 44-37, there was enough breathing room to secure the win.
“Lack of experience hurt us a little bit,” Vikings coach Andy Harrington said. “We started four juniors and a sophomore and made a lot of mistakes we generally haven’t made down the stretch. But again, you’ve got to give credit to them, too. They’re a really good team.”
Middleton (16-11) is amid its fourth state tournament appearance in five seasons after winning four games in five days to reach the big stage, including a state play-in win against Saturday against Bonneville. It took until the fourth quarter against the three-time defending state champion before the Vikings finally ran out of steam.
Middleton tallied one field goal in the final quarter and was outscored 20-6 during that period.
“We didn’t score well,” Harrington said. “We missed layups. We had some more costly turnovers and that’s the difference in state when you’re playing the defending three-time state champs.”
Preston faces fellow District 5 squad Century in the 4A state semifinals Friday at Borah High School, while Middleton matches up with fellow District 3 team Columbia on Friday in the 4A consolation semifinals at Borah High.