Patience proved to be a virtue for a veteran Jivaro Headhunters squad Wednesday night in the championship game of the Blaine County Recreation District men’s basketball league tournament at Hailey’s Community Campus gym.
Never leading until less than three minutes remained, top-seeded Jivaro (15-1) picked up its running game down the homestretch and won its third consecutive Outlaw League championship 55-50 over the No. 5-seeded Coeneo/Merrick Construction team (11-7).
Leading Jivaro in its comeback from deficits that reached 12 points in the first half to 10 points with 11:32 left in the game were Jeff Stedman (17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 assists), Buddy Peterson (13 points, 8 boards) and Darryl Tullis (10 points, 4 rebounds).
Veteran forward Erik Lisk (6 points, 2 rebounds) was the Jivaro spark on defense—inspiring his teammates to hold Coeneo without a field goal in the final seven minutes and to limit the upset-minded Merrick Construction men to just 13 points in the second half.
Coeneo/Merrick, led by veteran Jesus Villanueva (17 points, 13 rebounds) and outside shooter Alberto Vazquez (16 points, four 3-pointers), shot a high percentage, building a 37-29 halftime lead. Villanueva scored 15 of Coeneo’s first 25 points, most from 17-foot range.
But Coeneo’s key player was Ricardo “Papas” Paredes, the 6-foot, 3-inch star who plays more like 6-6. Paredes was the tournament Most Valuable Player in 2011 when Jivaro kicked off its three-year winning streak with a 64-54 championship game triumph over Coeneo. Papas played every minute of Wednesday’s game.
Jivaro’s defense led by Lisk worked hard to make every Paredes shot a difficult one in the second half. The hard-working Coeneo team seemed to tire in the final 10 minutes. Coeneo made only 2 of 10 free throws after half. Paredes converted his final field goal on transition with fully 18:00 left.
A Tullis shot on a pass from point guard Eric Dobbie (3 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) gave Jivaro its first lead at 51-50 with 2:42 left. Jivaro used its experience to work about two minutes off the clock, and Peterson and Stedman each went 2-for-2 at the line in the final 19 seconds to nail down the win.
Other Jivaro contributors included Mike Payne (2 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists), who played on the league’s first unbeaten team, Low Profile, 25 years ago; Ron Harrison (3 assists); and Mike Schlatter (4 points, 2 boards). Rounding out the 10-player squad were Dan Willett and Ben Sinnamon.
Coeneo, using only seven players, got contributions from Antonio “Tona” Hurtado (7 rebounds, 2 assists), Cano Martinez (2 points), “Rafa” (5 points, 2 steals) and Benjamin Romero (4 rebounds, 2 assists).
Jivaro, a 17-year-old league franchise appearing in the Outlaw League title game for the 12th time in 13 years, captured its fifth league title in six years—and eighth overall. The Headhunters boast an 87-11 league record over that six-year span, including 46-2 in last three years. Their threepeat matches the Jivaro 2001-to-2003 threepeat.
Check Wednesday’s Express for photos from the title game.