RUPERT — Burley High School senior Ryan Bagley had two reasons to celebrate on Friday night: a win over rival Minico, and his 18th birthday.
Bagley’s 23 points were icing on the cake, and they propelled the Burley boys basketball team to a 76-61 road win that completed a regular season sweep of the Spartans.
“It’s always the best feeling to win against Minico,” he said. “Got to love coming in and sticking it to them to get the sweep.”
Burley may have the tallest post players in the Magic Valley, but its 3-point shooting that gave it a stark advantage in the first half, with Bagley, Brock Whitaker and Ethan Gibbons combining for five long balls.
Meanwhile, the Spartans had trouble warming up their shooting, especially from the 3-point line, where they went 1-for-9 in the game. The Spartans relied on midrange jumpers and the free-throw line to keep in reach of the Bobcats, but they found themselves down 35-24 at the half.
“Our shots didn’t fall early, but that happens,” Minico head coach Ty Shippen said. “We just have to stick with it on both ends.”
The Spartans kept the game within reach for much of the third quarter, led by sophomores Kasen Carpenter and Tyler Munsee, who combined for eight points in the third.
But Bagley really began to heat up late, scoring 15 of his 23 points in the second half. He also quit relying on the 3-point line.
“(Coach Trent Whiting) told me to attack the rim and play downhill, to try to get my looks inside first, then settle for outside shots,” Bagley said. “I like taking guys off the dribble so I can find my open teammates or, if I can, finish it or earn free throws.”
Minico finished the game with much better offense, scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter. The only problem: Burley scored 26, which helped them cruise to the victory.
“Our on-the-ball defense wasn’t very good,” Shippen said. “They did a good job of attacking and making decisions off of that.”
Experience came into play on both sides once again. Whiting said Bagley was a critical part of the Bobcats’ ability to execute under the pressure of a rivalry game.
“He’s been in this situation several times,” Whiting said. “Any time you have a guy who’s been there, it really helps to keep guys under control.”
The Spartans had four sophomores in their starting five and are lacking a four-year starter in senior Larry Vega, who was out for reasons not disclosed by the team.
Shippen said the younger bunch had “a better mindset” than last time against Burley, when the Spartans fell 57-43, but there’s still much work to be done, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“For the younger guys, it’s about figuring out how to maintain and get stops,” he said. “I don’t know how many times we didn’t get two stops in a row. That was a big difference in the game.”
However, Shippen has a sophomore he can rely on for years to come in Carpenter.
“He’s a very good threat for us,” Shippen said. “He’s got a great upside to his game. Every time he catches it, he’s squaring up and taking peeks at the rim. He got a quiet 20 points tonight.”
Carpenter’s 20 points led the Spartans, followed by sophomore Rylan Chandler with 10.
The loss moved Minico to 10-6 overall and 3-3 in conference, but Shippen said his young team still has a lot of time left to prepare for the postseason, including four more conference games starting on Wedensday at Jerome.
“We have to continue to learn,” he said. “It’s important to be peaking by next month, so another lesson learned tonight.”
Burley, the No. 3-ranked team in the 4A state media poll, jumped 11-3 overall while staying undefeated in conference at 6-0. That zero has been the goal for Burley all season, and Whiting said the Bobcats have a long way to go to complete the task.
“Our region is full of tough teams,” he said. “Saying we’re going to go undefeated in conference isn’t boastful, it’s just us trying to hold ourselves to a high standard. It hasn’t been easy and it isn’t going to be easy, but that’s our goal.”