THS Girls’ basketball rebounded excellently from a heartbreaking loss at Sugar-Salem in the District 6 Championship by making their way through the state play-in bracket without breaking so much as a sweat.
The first win, last Thursday night against Marsh Valley at Shelley, sent the Timberwolves to a win-or-die matchup against District 3’s 3rd place team Fruitland in Burley on Saturday.
The Lady T’ Wolves started strong against Fruitland to the tune of a 15-4 first-quarter lead behind 14 first-half points from forward Reese Kunz, including 8 of the first 10.
After entering the second quarter up 20-7, Teton put on a shooting clinic by sinking four 3-pointers and five field goals to hang an astounding 42 points on the board by halftime.
The game was practically over at the half, as Fruitland would not get to within 20 points of the Timberwolves through the rest of the contest.
Teton would carry a lead of 30 points twice before the fourth (including a 32-point lead to end the third) and three more times within the final frame.
By the time the buzzer sounded Teton would be up 28 points courtesy of a 63-35 final score, booking the trip to Nampa in emphatic fashion.
Kunz led the Timberwolves with 16 points in the contest followed by Melissa Bagley (13), Porter Wood and Morgan Johnson (10), and Grace Hogan (9).
“We are playing our best basketball right now,” said Coach Pat Hogan. “The girls are playing with a lot of confidence, so I’m super excited.”
“We jumped out on them and then we settled in and were able to maintain our lead,” said Hogan.
This year’s team prioritized depth scoring from the start of their season, and the last few games have started to show how far Teton has come in that regard.
“The neat thing is in our last five games every one of my starters has been the leading scorer. It’s not one girl that’s doing it. We’re doing it as a team, which I just think makes you really, really competitive and tough to beat,” said Hogan.
Teton’s depth approach is in stark contrast to last year’s team with the departure of the graduated Kinley Brown, who led the 2021-22 squad in scoring by a wide margin.
“Our biggest challenge this whole year was making up for losing our leading scorer. I feel like as a team, they’re moving the ball and relying on each other to make the shots. Everybody’s shooting good and playing with confidence,” said Hogan.
Hogan mentioned that the girls, being used to the pressure of facing tough district opponents, played with a weight off their shoulders because they are getting used to the mental strain.
“Instead of going into this game with a lot of pressure, they played a lot looser because they’re experiencing that pressure in our district,” said Hogan. I think that made these last few games not as big of a deal, you know, they played wide open.”
Hogan also was very impressed with non-starters putting up big numbers and pointed to junior Melissa Bagley’s impressive performance off the bench against Fruitland.
“She’s been doing it in practice and she’s playing with a ton of confidence coming off the bench. She’s also a great defender, but now she’s scoring. 13 points from a player off the bench is amazing,” said Hogan.
Teton, the #6 seed at state, will face #3 seeded Parma on Thursday in their first game. The intensity at state is something that Hogan looked to replicate in this week’s practices.
“We’re going to focus on getting the intensity up and push each other,” said Hogan.
Hogan has done his homework on his first-round opponent and characterized Parma as a “run and gun” type of team. Limiting Parma’s second-chance opportunities and utilizing the deep Timberwolves bench will be key for Hogan.
“Parma is a good team. They like to just shoot the ball,” said Hogan. “One thing they’re good at is they forget (quickly) if a girl shoots a bad shot. We will have to limit their second chance points.”
“I think we got a deeper bench and we will need to tire them out. That’s kind of what we’re going to try to do,” said Hogan.
Teton will be on the opposite side of the bracket from rival Sugar-Salem, meaning that the Timberwolves will only have a shot at district championship revenge if both teams make either the consolation final or meet on Championship Saturday.
Although Hogan “would love” to see Teton and Sugar duke it out one last time, like any great coach, it’s just about the girls playing the best ball they can.
“We’re going to go play how we play. It’s not about anybody else. It’s about us. That’s all you can do,” said Hogan. “We gave ourselves a chance so we’re going to go give ‘em heck.”
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