BURLEY – Not satisfied with just clinching spots in the upcoming 4A state basketball tournament, Jerome and Burley took the floor Friday night eyeing a district championship to use as a springboard into the big dance next week.
To the white and green-clad victors go the spoils.
Led by Swiss Army Knife guard Ryan Bagley, the Bobcats took control of a tight game in the fourth quarter and raced to a 58-47 victory over Jerome to claim the district tournament title Friday night at Burley High School. Burley also claims the top seed from the Great Basin Conference heading into next week’s state tournament.
“It’s been a long time since we cut down our net,” said Burley head coach Jack Bagley. “The environment and the atmosphere for our school were awesome. It’s going to be a great thing to go to Boise for the state tournament. We’re excited.”
“This is a big for us, to win the conference,” said Burley junior Ryan Bagley. “It’s good to have the No. 1 seed heading into the state tournament. It’s a better path for us up there.”
The contrasting styles of each team shone through early on. Burley wanted to race up a down the floor in a sort of controlled chaos scheme; Jerome tried to slow things down and limit opponent possessions, while maximizing its own.
Midway through the first period the Bobcats led 3-0, but Jordin Myers finally got the Tigers on the board with a layup. Things picked up from there as each side found its footing in its own time.
Burley held a 9-7 lead after one.
Jerome imprinted its style in the second quarter as senior Logan Geist carried his squad offensively. While it seemed Burley had all the momentum, the Tigers’ scheme and ruthless execution allowed them to stay in the game, something that has been a theme for them all season.
For the Bobcats, senior post Coty Hackett put on a shooting clinic. At 6-foot-7, his finesse and touch surprises opponents. He hit jump shot after jump shot in the second quarter.
“Hitting those shots was big. It was big,” Hackett said. “Once we got a lead, we were able to control things.”
Hackett had 12 points in the first half.
“He can step out and hit those shots,” Jack Bagley said. “He brings some guys out with him and that opens things up for us. It’s nice to have a big guy who can do that.”
While still kept the game tight, and the Bobcats went into the locker room at the half on top 21-19.
The Tigers came out swinging in the third period as Geist, Jordin Myers and Brien Ploss found their shooting touches. Long-range threes started falling, which opened up the lane for drives to the hole. Jerome’s hustle—a staple of Joe Messick-coached teams—began to frustrate Burley as the 50/50 balls all went to the Tigers.
“I told the kids that we were fine,” Jack Bagley said about the deficit. “There was a lot of time left. We just had to get some stops on defense, and we were able to do that.”
Jerome led by as many as six points before Burley stormed back and took a lead in the closing seconds of the quarter.
Tyler Cook banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer and Jerome went up 38-36 lead heading into the fourth.
The Bobcats may as well refer to the fourth quarter as “Ryan Bagley time.” The junior guard took over for Burley when it needed him the most. He drove into the paint with ruthless aggression and finished a number of difficult layups. Bagley finished the night with 19 points after his offensive explosion in the final eight minutes.
“I knew they were in foul trouble, so if we kept attacking and get to the free throw line, we had a good chance to win,” Ryan Bagley said. “We hit those free throws and finished strong.”
A 2-point deficit quickly became a 10-point lead for Burley.
Bagley put an exclamation point on the district tournament as he threw down a vicious dunk in the closing seconds of the game, sending the Bobcat faithful into a frothing frenzy.
“We battled clear to the end,” said Jerome head coach Joe Messick. “We had a 2-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and Burley was able to do some things there in the end, and that was the difference.”
Geist paced Jerome with 18 points on the night, while Cook had 14 and Myers had seven.
Burley got 19 points from both Hackett and Bagley. Ace Christiansen added six.
“This means everything to us,” Hackett said. “We wanted to win one for our city, for our school, for our community. We have to keep our heads as we head to state.”
Jerome will face Bishop Kelly in the first round of the opening tournament on Thursday, with the tip coming at 3 p.m. at Borah High School. The Tigers head to Boise with a ton of confidence that stems from its magical yet precise run in the district tournament.
“It has been a fantastic run,” Messick said. “The kids have worked their tails off. I’m super proud of the effort they have given in this tournament.
“We have a chip on our shoulder. We’re going to head to Boise, step on the floor and execute on both ends. We’ll see what happens. These kids are up for the challenge.”
Burley takes on Vallivue on Thursday at 8 p.m. and hopes to continue its dominating ways.
“We won the district tournament, and all of our wins have been by double digits,” Jack Bagley said. “I think we have a really tough conference, one of the toughest in the state. To come out of here No. 1 from this conference, I like our chances.”
“We have to come out and play like we did tonight,” Ryan Bagley said. “We can’t got in there thinking we’re that good, but we do have some confidence.”
Burley 58, Jerome 47
Burley 9 12 15 22 -58
Jerome 7 12 19 9 -47
Bagley 19, Hackett 19, Whitaker 5, Ferrin 4, Hill 5, Christiansen 6, Totals 21 14-20 58.
Geist 18, Ploss 5, Cook 14, Myers 7, Nordquist 3 Totals 15 11-16 47.