TWIN FALLS — It took four minutes of overtime to get it done, but the Buhl High School girls basketball team secured its first state title berth since 2003.
The Indians beat Filer 47-45 in overtime Wednesday night at the College of Southern Idaho for the 3A District 4 title.
Both teams had opportunities to take or maintain leads nearing the end of regulation, but it was Kyra Azevedo’s jumper with about six seconds left that sealed the title for the Indians.
“I knew I had to make it,” she said. “I had to help my teammates and Emily (Gorrell), who was working so hard.”
Gorrell scored five of Buhl’s 10 points in overtime, including a perfect 3-for-3 from the free-throw line. She tied the game at 45 after taking the ball the distance of the court and converting an and-one opportunity with 9.2 seconds to play.
She said that changed the entire game’s energy in a split second.
“After the layup, I was just so glad it went in, but it got me and my teammates focused in,” Gorrell said. “I just wanted to play so hard on the other side of the ball.”
That intense defensive pressure led to a turnover and timeout to set up the game-winner by Azevedo seconds later.
Buhl head coach Kody Bingham said the end of the game was one of the most energetic situations he’s coached in.
“Coaching is an emotional roller coaster, and you try to ride it with them,” Bingham said. “We played with emotion, but didn’t get too caught up in it.”
The Indians had to get it done late in the fourth quarter and in overtime without a few key players, including senior guard Sage Eckert, who fouled out with a few minutes remaining in regulation. Then sophomore Kayla Morse fouled out in overtime.
So Bingham looked to his bench to play hard, and they delivered.
“We had big minutes out of those bench players,” he said. “America Jamarillo had great ball pressure on defense, and Kendra Benson gave us a few good minutes there at the end, too.”
Filer freshman Ella Fischer, who finished with a team-high 14 points, hit a layup and was fouled with about three seconds left in regulation to tie the game. However, her go-ahead free throw attempt bounced off the back of the rim and out.
Fischer fouled out halfway through overtime, but Bingham said she gave his squad problems throughout the game.
“It’s hard to keep Fischer off the boards,” he said, “but we battled down low and didn’t make it easy for her.”
Shots didn’t come easy for either side early on, as neither Filer nor Buhl scored more than 10 points in the first, second or third quarter. The fourth quarter, however, ended with 16 points for Filer and 15 for Buhl.
One of the difference-makers was free-throw shooting, especially on the part of Buhl.
The Indians shot 14-for-20 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, nearly half of their 32 points in that span. It was a far cry from their performance from the stripe in the first half, during which they converted only 5-of-15.
“I told the girls at half we can’t miss any more free throws,” Bingham said. “Might not be realistic, but they started to hit their free throws late in the game.”
Azevedo and Gorrell proved to be the most consistent late-game free-throw shooters, draining all but one of their combined 11 attempts.
Gorrell said her method to staying focused at the line was treating every shot as if the game depended on it.
“I just tell myself it has to go in,” she said. “If it doesn’t, then I treat the next one the same way, and there’s a little more pressure.”
Azevedo and Gorrell led Buhl with 16 points and 15 points, respectively.
Almost as incredible as the win for Buhl was the journey for Filer to the title game.
Filer started the year 1-8 and finished last in the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference at 1-5. Half of the Wildcats are underclassmen, and first-year head coach Mike Amaya said the progress they made through the season shows they’ve matured well.
“It was fun to play the underdog coming in,” he said. “It’s a tough loss, but for our young team, it’s all about experience. It’s pretty incredible where we are now.”
Jailyn Gartner and Kynlee Thornton backed up Fischer with 13 points apiece.
Filer will face South Fremont in a 3A state play-in game on Saturday at American Falls.
The Indians are glad that’s not their fate. Last year, Buhl lost to Teton in the state play-in game, and Bingham said it’s great to know they’ve secured a tournament seed.
“It’s been 15 years,” he said. “So long. I’m just so proud of the girls. I tell them all the time, it’s not given to them, they’ve got to earn it. This group gets that, and they showed it tonight.”
For Azevedo, the junior who stepped up in the biggest moment of the season thus far, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.
“It’s what we dreamed of all year,” Azevedo said. “It feels so good to actually do it.”