RUPERT — The first state tournament seed from the Great Basin Conference was decided in a game that came down the final seconds.
For the first time this year, the Burley High School girls basketball team beat rival Minico, winning in the 4A District 4 semifinal game 46-45, with the game-winning shot coming near the 20-second mark.
That’s when Sydney Pilling dumped the ball to Hallie Cook, who spun around the Spartan defense and laid it in. The Spartans had a shot for the win with three seconds to go, but a contested layup chance by Saydi Anderson, who led the game with 14 points, ticked off the near-side rim. The rebound bounced off a trio of players as time expired.
“I don’t really have the words to describe this game,” Burley head coach Roger Caresia said. “We just had a will to win.”
A big difference in the game was the biggest player in the game: Burley post Jemilynn Mahoney.
The senior post, listed at 6-foot-1, got in foul trouble early in the last matchup between the two teams, but her fouls were more spread out this time, allowing her valuable minutes to patrol the paint.
“(Mahoney) is a really big part of who we are,” Caresia said. “We’re an inside-out team, so we do better when she’s on the court.”
She ended with a team-high 13 points, but struggled in the fourth quarter, shooting 1-for-3 from both the field and the free-throw line when the game was on the line. But her teammates had her back, scoring 10 of the 13 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winner from Cook.
“I couldn’t do what I do without my teammates,” Mahoney said. “We finally started working as a team in this game and had faith in each other, and that just made it easier for us.”
Two of her senior teammates, Pilling and Cook, finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Through the waning minutes third quarter, Burley appeared to be in a much more comfortable position than it ended up in. The Bobcats stretched a six-point halftime lead to as high as nine.
But down 33-25 with two minutes left in the third quarter, Minico went on a 13-0 run, kickstarted by a three-pointer from Rachel Baliola, that extended into the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“We let them speed us up,” Mahoney said. “We play to our potential when we slow things down, and our guards started to get a little rushed.”
“We were playing Minico basketball for a stretch there,” Caresia said, commenting on the quicker play exemplified by the Spartans. “We had to get back to our game.”
Caresia said his team calmed down, and when things stayed tight until the end, the Bobcats demonstrated a resilience that he found inspiring.
“They showed a lot of grit,” he said. “They could’ve collapsed late in the game, but they fought and gritted it out.”
One of the best examples of that tenacity, he said, was Mahoney. She grimaced throughout the game, suffering from pain in her right knee while holding down the most physical position on the court.
“I was definitely feeling some pain out there,” she said, “but I had to fight through it for the team. We’ve worked too hard to quit.”
The Bobcats secured a seed in the state tournament with the win. Their opponent will be determined on Tuesday, when Minico plays the winner of Monday’s Jerome/Twin Falls game.
Caresia said he’ll worry about that matchup later. For now, he’s going to celebrate with his team, especially his seven seniors, a group that combined for all but four of Burley’s points on the night.
“They’ve just put in so much work,” he said. “They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to for four years, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
“It’s still feels like a dream,” Mahoney added. “It’s really touching for us to accomplish this. After four years, it’s paid off.”