NAMPA — Just because he’s coaching the senior-less Kendrick Tigers and a return trip to State is highly likely, don’t think Ron Ireland is happy with second place.
“I’m a coach, you know we want to win them all,” Ireland said, a hint of a smile behind his mandated mask. “You sit there and in the back of your mind you think we’ll be back next year, but you never know what happens in the course of a year.”
The Tigers scratched and clawed their way to the Idaho Class 1A Division II girls’ basketball state championship game before finally running out of steam against Tri-Valley, dropping a 54-48 decision Friday at the Idaho Center.
It was the fourth runner-up finish in Kendrick’s history to go along with three championships.
Tri-Valley (20-3), a co-op of Cambridge and Midvale, was participating in its first state title game as the Titans. Separately, Cambridge has three state championships and Midvale one.
The story was Tri-Valley’s defensive change at halftime against Kendrick’s Erin Morgan, and the Titans’ dynamic backcourt duo of Emme Hollon and Josey Jones.
Morgan, a junior, had her way inside the paint in the first half, making 6 of 9 field goals and totaling 13 points. But she was just 2-of-6 in the second half as Tri-Valley collapsed its zone defense and dared Kendrick’s guards to win the game from the outside.
It was 29-29 at halftime, but the Tigers went 4 minutes, 5 seconds in the third quarter before scoring. That was in large part to the Titans packing it in against Morgan and Kendrick’s shooters being unable to hit medium- and long-range jumpers.
Morgan’s two second-half field goals came in the final 38 seconds of the game when the outcome had been decided. The Tigers shot 43 percent from the field in the first half but only 24 percent in the second.
“We caved down our backside help and said they have to throw it outside and let the other girls shoot because (Morgan) is gonna beat us if we don’t,” Tri-Valley coach Jeff Springer said.
Hollom and Jones, both senior guards, were shooting the lights out to help Tri-Valley slowly pull away. Jones scored 19 points and Hollom added 17.
But more than that, they applied pressure on Kendrick at both ends.
Tiger freshman Harley Heimgartner, who played nothing like a ninth-grader all tournament, expended a great deal of energy defending Carey guard Kylie Wood on Thursday, and she and her teammates finally ran out of gas as the Titans built leads as large as 10 in the fourth quarter.
“I started to see fatigue in Harley,” Ireland said. “She worked her (expletive) off last night, and that got us here.”
Heimgartner finished with 12 points while Morgan had 17 for Kendrick (20-6).
“They sealed it up on Erin,” Ireland said. “And we had a hard time against their pressure. It’s hard to prepare when you don’t see something (during the season). I thought we got out on their shooters; they were just shooting it over us.”
Rose Stewart 3 0-0 6, Harley Heimgartner 5 1-4 12, Drew Stacy 0 0-0 0, Hannah Tweit 1 0-0 3, Morgan Silflow 2 0-0 4, Erin Morgan 8 1-3 17, Ruby Stewart 1 0-0 3, Hailey Taylor 1 0-0 3. Totals 21 2-7 48.
Hadley Atnip 0 0-0 0, Bailey Whitener 2 3-5 8, Lauryn Mitchell 0 1-3 1, Emme Hollon 5 3-4 17, Josey Jones 6 6-15 19, Zoe Ertel 3 1-2 7, Maren Hansen 0 0-0 0, Manon Tyler 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 14-29 54.
Kendrick 15 14 5 14—48
Tri-Valley 17 12 12 13—54
3-point goals — Heimgartner, Tweit, Ru. Stewart, Taylor, Hollon 4, Whitener, Jones.
Tatko may be reached at (208) 848-2268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.