RUPERT — For a large chunk of Thursday’s game against Jerome, the Minico High School girls basketball team simply could not find itself offensively. Shots weren’t falling, and passes weren’t going where the Spartans wanted them to go.
They made up for it in other, massive moments, and they came up huge when it mattered.
The top-seeded Spartans got 27 points from senior Saydi Anderson and overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat No. 4 Jerome 49-42 in a Great Basin Conference tournament game Thursday night at Minico High School.
“I’m still trying to process what happened there,” said Minico head coach Anna Bateman. “We were trying to do the same thing the whole game. In that fourth quarter it was like a switch came on.”
Madison Vorwaller got Minico started with a layup on the team’s first possession. Nicole Cook answered for Jerome on the other side, and the race was on.
Both teams exchanged blows through a defense-heavy first period, and the Spartans held an 11-8 advantage at the buzzer.
The Tigers heated up in the second period, lead by Kailey Harrison’s prowess from the outside. She hit a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter that helped Jerome build a lead. The Tigers were up 21-18 with a couple of minutes left in the half.
It appeared Jerome would head into the locker room with a 2-point advantage, but Harper had the last say. With the time winding down, she launched a deep shot from just inside the arc and banked it home, deadlocking the teams at 22 apiece.
“Our coaches tell us to stay together,” said Minico junior Taycee Harper. “We knew we had to keep our heads together, stay strong, and work as a team.”
The Tigers continued their hot streak in the third as Hill and Cook carried the offensive load. At the end of the period they were on top of Minico 32-27, and the top-seeded Spartans were on upset alert.
“Jordan brings a lot of poise and patience underneath,” said Jerome head coach Jeremy Munroe. “She’s very strong and has been a staple for us in the last month.”
With 6:45 remaining in the game and the Spartans trailing 35-27, Anderson took matters into her own hands.
She quarterbacked a Minico defensive effort that harassed the Tigers before they could even cross halfcourt. The Spartans forced turnovers, and Jerome went dry on offense when it was able to get the ball on its attacking end.
“We’re not the biggest team, but we are a team that gets after it,” Bateman said. “It’s all about our pressure. That’s kind of our base, to be a defensive team.”
Minico slowly closed the gap. Even though its shots weren’t falling, its defense kept the Spartans in the game. A free throw here and there chipped away at the lead until they were within 3 points of the Tigers.
That’s when Anderson went nuclear.
With standout junior Taylia Stimpson likely sidelined for the rest of the season with a leg injury, Minico needed others to step up. Anderson did just that. She buried a trey to tie the game at 40, then hit another one moments later to put her team up by 1. The Spartans’ defense continued to wreak havoc, and Minico iced it at the free-throw line.
“We just needed to hit an outside shot to get the momentum going, and we finally broke through,” Bateman said. “Saydi is our senior. She provides that leadership. She’s been in the program three years. She refused to lose. She has such a big heart, and she leads us and had us on here back for a few minutes tonight.”
Jerome was led by Hill’s 14 points. Cook added 10 and Harrison finished with 9.
In addition to Anderson’s 27 points, Minico got 9 from both Harper and Vorwaller.
“We weren’t hitting shots for a long time, but we never gave up,” Anderson said. “We kept going, and then finally at the end, we put the ball through the orange thing.”
Jerome will take on No. 5 Wood River on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a loser-out game.
“We have to build, build, build from this. We’re not done,” Munroe said. “Saturday we have to come back, do things the right way and move on.”
With the win, Minico will face Burley, the fifth seed, also on Saturday.
“We have to have a good practice (Friday),” Anderson said. “It’s going to be a battle. We have to be ready.”