Lady Tigers qualify for state -- the hard way
The Mountain Home Lady Tigers' loss to Middleton in the semi-finals of the District III 4A girls basketball tourney meant that if the Lady Tigers were to reach their goal of making it to state they would have to go through the back door, winning two district consolation games to claim third place, then win a play-in game against the District VI runner-up.
It may seem like a long road to haul, but it was no problem for a determined bunch of Mountain Home Lady Tigers. They destroyed Kuna, then beat Skyview for third and traveled down to Burley Saturday to whip Madison.
As a result, when the state 4A tourney opens Thursday afternoon at Timberline High School in Boise, the Lady Tigers will be there to open the tourney at 1:15 p.m. against Wood River.
Mountain Home 65, Kuna 20
After their crushing 66-36 loss to Middleton in the semi-finals, Mountain Home Lady Tigers fans were wondering how focused the girls would be three nights later, when they traveled to Nampa to face Kuna in a loser-out game.
The Lady Tigers quickly dispelled any worries, annihilating the Lady Kavemen 65-20.
Mountain Home shot out to an 8-0 lead before Kuna finally scored, then hit the last nine points of the quarter to lead 17-2 after a quarter.
After stretching their lead to 35-14 at the half, the Lady Tigers responded with another 17-2 quarter in the third to put the game out of reach, 52-16. It ended 65-20.
"It was a good team effort, everyone contributed," said a happy Mountain Home coach Brent Keener after the game. "Offensively, that's probably our most balanced game of the season."
Three Lady Tigers scored in double figures, led by Rachel Warila and Dakota Barrie with 14 points each and Jessica Liercke with 11.
Keesha Janis-Gibson added eight points, Courtney Christiansen and Emilee Schetzle both scored six -- for Schetzle, a new season high -- and Kelsey Egusquiza and Jacci Cristobal each added three.
Mountain Home shot 47 percent (22/47) from the field, hitting 30 percent (3/10) of their treys, and put in 78 percent (18/23) of their free throws.
Kuna managed a frigid 21 percent (8/38) from the field, missing all 11 of its three-point attempts, and hitting four of eight (50 percent) of their foul shots.
Mountain Home 61, Skyview 49
The Kuna win put the Lady Tigers in the third-place game at Nampa on Thursday against Skyview. The young Lady Hawks had avenged a season sweep by Emmett by knocking off the Lady Huskies 58-53 Tuesday night.
Mountain Home had three wins over Skyview going into the game and after a shaky first quarter took the lead and went on to complete their mastery of the Lady Hawks, 61-49.
It was a slow start for the Lady Tigers. After taking their first lead, 4-3, with 5:20 left in the first quarter, Skyview went on an 8-0 run to take an 11-4 lead after a quarter.
With Skyview still up by seven, 17-10, just 90 seconds into the second quarter, the Lady Tigers went on an 18-2 run over the next six and a half minutes to shoot to a 28-19 half-time lead.
The Lady Tigers built it to 32-19 early in the third before Skyview battled back to within seven, 32-25, halfway through the quarter. It was 38-28, Mountain Home, after three.
Skyview managed to get within six, 49-43, with 1:40 left in the game, but the Lady Tigers cashed in at the free-throw line, going ten for ten the rest of the way. Keesha Janis-Gibson got eight of them as Mountain Home prevailed 61-49.
"That first quarter, I think nerves had a little bit to do with it," said Coach Keener after the game. "We were a little tight, and turned the ball over way too much in that first quarter. Luckily, we kept it 11-4 and gave ourselves a shot -- it wasn't 18-4 or 20-4, so that was good, because it's hard to score four points in the first quarter and win a ball game."
Keesha Janis-Gibson and Dakota Barrie paced the Lady Tigers in scoring with 24 and 17 points, respectively -- the 24 points a new season high for Janis-Gibson. Jessica Liercke and Hailey Belt both added seven points, Rachel Warila had four, and Emilee Schetzle two.
The Lady Tigers shot a hot 51 percent (22/43) from the field for the game, hitting two of four (50 percent) three-point shots and shooting 63 percent (15/24) from the free-throw line.
Skyview managed hitting just 28 percent (15/54) of their shots, making five of 23 (22 percent) long balls, and 67 percent (14/21) of their shots from the foul line.
Mountain Home 54, Madison 33
Winning the third-place game put the Lady Tigers in a state play-in game Saturday afternoon at Burley against Madison, the second-place team from District VI.
Mountain Home took the lead early and never looked back, shooting to a 54-33 win to qualify for state.
Mountain Home shot extremely well for the ball game, and led 16-8 after a quarter, stretched it to 30-17 at the half, and put the game away in the third by increasing the lead to 41-20 after three. Madison never got any closer than 20 points in the fourth as the Lady Tigers won 54-33.
"We were a little nervous at first, but after that first minute and a half or so, the girls started getting after it defensively and that helped them relax," the Mountain Home coach said.
Dakota Barrie and Jessica Liercke led the way for Mountain Home with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Keesha Janis-Gibson added eight points, Rachel Warila five, Courtney Christiansen and Hailey Belt both scored four and Kelsey Egusquiza put in two points.
The win over Madison secured a state 4A tourney berth for the Lady Tigers.
They open the tournament Thursday afternoon against Wood River at 1:15 p.m. at Timberline High School in Boise.
"They've got two girls that are big-time (players)," said Coach Keener of Wood River. "I think if we can really limit those two, we could surprise some people. Not many people are going to expect us to win, obviously. Wood River has been ranked all year, and all the publicity's been on them. We have nothing to lose."