TWIN FALLS – With time melting off the clock late in the fourth quarter, Gooding guard Bryson Comstock had yet to score a single point against Buhl in the Sawtooth Central conference tournament Wednesday night.
Down by two and with his team facing elimination, Comstock got a steal and raced to the basket with a defender hot on his heels. The savvy senior extended his arm and used his body as a shield, banking the ball off the backboard and in to tie the game.
He finished the night with four points. Quality over quantity.
Comstock’s late-game heroics, combined with the hot shooting of fellow senior Tyler Visser helped Gooding defeat Buhl 51-48 in overtime Wednesday night on the campus of the College of Southern Idaho.
“Our kids want it,” said Gooding head coach Chris Comstock. “They’re a bunch of dudes who want to win every time they step on the court. It’s nice to have kids who compete like that.”
“We just grinded as a team,” Visser said. “I told Bryson that he was going to make a play down the stretch, and he got that steal and basket that were huge for us.”
Gooding’s victory forces a winner-take-all rubber match today in Buhl. The winner advances to the state tournament.
In the early going it was a scoring dual between Gooding’s Cayden Loveland and Buhl’s Greg Loveless. They exchanged baskets and jumpstarted the offenses.
“We play best when we’re pushing the ball,” Loveless said. “We can’t get the rebound and just stand there. We have to go.”
The Senators remained the hotter team in the first quarter and scored on seven of their first eight possessions.
Gooding held a 14-12 advantage after the opening period.
Visser foreshadowed his fourth quarter offensive prowess in the second as he banged home a deep 3-ball that extended the Senator lead.
Buhl answered right back with 4 straight points. Loveless added a trey and the Indians stormed ahead to go up 25-23 at the half.
Buhl continued to push the pace and run up and down the floor in the third. Gooding matched the Indians’ speed step for step. As the game remained tight throughout the second half, instinct and athleticism took over, triggering basketball-centric muscle memory.
The Indians extended its lead to as many as 4 points, but the Senators refused to go away. Considering Buhl defeated Gooding by 26 points just nine night earlier, Wednesday’s game showed the heart and desire of the resilient Senators.
“We talked about keeping Visser and Comstock under 25 [points] combined, and we were able to do that,” said Buhl senior Jim Elkin. “It was the rest of us that gave up on our defense. We have to fix that for tomorrow’s game.”
“Defensively, we let some of their guys get hot,” said Buhl senior Zyon Cleverly. “They made some great shots. We’re going to go out there ready to go (today.)”
A Visser three-pointer just before the buzzer closed the gap and Buhl led 33-32 heading into the fourth.
Early in the final period the Indians were able to go up by five, but Gooding amplified its defensive effort down the stretch. The Senators utilized a double-team ball pressure tactic that flustered Buhl at times.
“We need to relax,” Loveless said. “We coughed up the ball a few times late that cost us the game.”
The Senators were able to force a few turnovers that often led to baskets on the other end—none bigger than Comstock’s thievery late in the contest.
“It wasn’t his best offensive game, but he does those other things really well,” Chris Comstock said. “He plays defense, rebounds, and gets some steals. He got that steal and made the shot when we needed it.”
“You always have to play defense,” Bryson Comstock said. “That’s one thing you can rely on. I wasn’t shooting well, but I needed to go out there and play for the team.”
Both teams exchanged turnovers in the closing seconds and Cleverly’s shot at the buzzer fell short.
Gooding had seized momentum in regulation, and Visser took full advantage of what it had to offer. The senior drilled consecutive 3-pointers and a pair of free throws to give the Senators a lead they refused to give up.
“I have confidence to make the shots down the stretch,” Visser said. “So I just stepped back and let it fly.|
Visser finished the night with 22 points. Loveland pitched in 11 and Shawn Pamplona had six.
“The other nine kids on the team, we’ve preached that it’s not the Bryson show or the Visser show,” Chris Comstock said. “We need other guys to step up, and they’ve gained confidence over the past 10 games. We got production from those other guys tonight.”
“It was a great game,” said Buhl senior Hunter Allred. “It was back and forth throughout. Give them credit, they came out on top.”
Buhl got 18 points from Loveless, 13 from Cleverly and nine from Elkin.
After starting the year 5-10, Gooding has won eight of its past nine, and is one game away from going to the state tournament for the first time in 31 years.
Thursday’s game tips off at Buhl High School at 7 p.m. The winner moves on to the 3A state tournament while the loser faces a play-in game on Saturday.
“It’s a new day and a new game,” Elkin said. “We’ll come out ready to go.”
“We really want to beat these guys twice in a row,” Bryson Comstock said. “They’ve won the district championship since I’ve been at Gooding High School. I would love to take that from them and take Gooding boys basketball to state for the first time in 31 years.”
Gooding 51, Buhl 48 (OT)
Gooding; 14; 9; 9; 9; 10;-51
Buhl; 12; 13; 8; 8; 7;-48
Bryson Comstock 4, Cayden Loveland 11, Shawn Pamplona 6, Jack Darcy 5, Sam Funkhouser 3, Tyler Visser 22. Totals 20 5-10 51.
Adam Lauda 4, Hunter Allred 4, Jim Elkin 9, Greg Loveless 18, Zyon Cleverly 13. Totals 19 6-13 48.