TWIN FALLS • If the two regular season meetings between Buhl and Kimberly were a roller-coaster, Wednesday night’s matchup between the two in the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference Tournament was a fairly slow car ride.
Senior guard Hayden Eckert went 6-for-9 from 3-point range en route to a game-high 28 points, leading Buhl back to the district championship game with a convincing 67-54 win over the Bulldogs.
“You look at us sometimes (and say), “Why aren’t they up 30?’” Buhl coach Dan Winn said with a laugh.
The Indians won a pair of regular-season thrillers against Kimberly by a combined 13 points. While Wednesday’s game came within the Bulldogs’ grasp on a few occasions, the outcome was hardly in doubt from the opening tip-off.
Buhl was up 12 at halftime and shot the lights out of the gym all game long, going 9-for-20 from behind the arc. Every time Kimberly made things close, the Indians had an answer. That trend continued into the second half when the Bulldogs got the score to within 10 in the third quarter. Kasey Crossland and Eckert hit 3-pointers that were followed by a Michael Lively layup to increase the lead back to 18.
Buhl is admittedly a team of spurts. Just when a team thinks it can make a move on the Indians, Eckert and company score points in the blink of an eye.
“Every once in a while you’ll make a couple 3’s and it will be just a normal 3,” said Eckert. “That’s just a good shooting night for us. It just gets our momentum. Live and die by the 3.”
Crossland and Eckert combined for 40 of the team’s 67 points Wednesday night.
Eight different Buhl players scored in the win. Zach Wright and Trey Garey scored 14 and 11 for Kimberly, respectively.
Winn’s team is on the verge of making history as it enters Tuesday’s district title game against the winner of Monday’s Gooding-Kimberly matchup. Despite winning a state championship in 2014 and a return to the finals in 2015, Winn’s teams have never gone undefeated in conference games in a single season. Regular season and tournament games combined, Buhl currently stands 8-0 in the SCIC as it enters its finale. The Indians are led by seven seniors who have played a lot of games at CSI over the last few years. They’re looking forward to one more with another SCIC crown on the line.
“They’ve played so many times on this court, I told them tonight and I’ll tell them again: this is your court. Have fun,” said Winn. “If you put the effort forward, the talent comes out. They’ll be fine.”
Kimberly and Gooding play in an elimination game Monday night on the Senators’ home floor. The winner faces Buhl Tuesday night at CSI in the SCIC championship game.
Gooding Gets Hot From 3, Downs Filer 58-37
TWIN FALLS • It was a case of win-or-go home in the worst kind of way.
Gooding was on life support after being upset Monday in the first round of the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference Tournament by Kimberly. Head coach Kenley Nebeker firmly believes that his Senators are the team to bet on when the chips are down. Consequently, the team wasn’t really all that worried heading into its Wednesday night win-or-go-home contest with Filer.
Once the dust had settled against the Wildcats, it was clear that Nebeker put his money in the right place.
Behind the hot 3-point shooting of juniors Tyler Visser and Bryson Comstock, Gooding exploded for 23 points in the third to cruise past Filer, 58-37, in a district tournament elimination game Wednesday evening at CSI.
“They’re a special group of kids that play lose no matter what,” Nebeker said. “They knew how big a game it was, they understood that. We had a nice little chat about it beforehand, and they didn’t want (the season) to stop. So they came out and did what they needed to do.”
For a team built on strong senior leadership, Gooding knew not to put too much pressure on itself despite the stakes. The Senators swept Kimberly in two regular season meetings by a combined 31 points but fell by six in the tournament opener. Filer lost by 19-points against top-seeded Buhl Monday night to set up the must-win scenario. Gooding is headlined by players from its 3A state runner-up football team. In turn, the Nebeker said the Senators are accustomed to winning. The steadying presence of seniors like Clancy Cockerham couldn’t be overstated.
“We didn’t want to stress the game, but we knew it was important,” Cockerham said. “We wanted to come in here and win, which we knew we could. We just wanted to stay calm.”
The teams played to a standstill in the first quarter after Wyatt Williams’ 3-pointer with under a minute remaining in the period tied the teams at nine. Williams again took things into his own hands in the second by scoring five points, highlighted by a twisting drive to the basket that resulted in a 3-point play.
The defense did its part as well, holding the Wildcats to just four points in the second on a pair of made field goals. The Senators rode that strong defense to a 10-point halftime lead. Gooding admittedly didn’t play its best against Kimberly in its last game and came out a bit slow to start against Filer as well. But that actually might have been a good thing.
“This team has always been a ‘Jump on you fast team’ and like 28 points fast or a ‘Feeling you out’ team. And tonight they were a ‘Feel you out’ team,” Nebeker said. “They really just got in the flow of the game, and I think we’re a better team when we do that.”
Visser and Comstock caught fire from behind the 3-point line in the third by hitting four from distance and increasing the lead to 19 heading into the fourth. The Senators cruised in final period and went up by as many as 23 en route to the big win. Visser and Comstock combined to score 32 of the team’s 58 points Wednesday night while Wyatt Williams chipped in 11. Seniors Connor Tews and Kaden Koepnick each scored 13 in the loss for the Wildcats.
“We just hit some big shots. That got us rolling,” said Cockerham. “It’s awesome. I love basketball and one more game means a lot to me.”
Gooding faces Kimberly Monday night at home with a chance to advance to Tuesday’s championship game against Buhl. Filer’s season is over with its loss to Gooding.
Buhl 67, Kimberly 54
Buhl 67, Kimberly 54
Buhl 14 14 14 25 — 67
Kimberly 6 10 16 22 — 54
Eckert 28, Crossland 12, Elkin 9, Lively 7, Couch 5, Loveless 2, Cleverley 2, Rodig 2
Totals: 27 4-7 67
Wright 14, Garey 11, Gunnell 7, Richey 5, Staker-Morfin 5, Coronado 4, Randall 3, Torres 3, Holcomb 2
Totals: 20 10-17 54
3-point baskets: Buhl 9 (Eckert 6, Crossland 2, Elkin 1), Kimberly 4 (Staker-Morfin 1, Torres 1, Garey 1, Randall 1)
Team fouls: Buhl 15, Kimberly 13
Gooding 58, Filer 37
Gooding 58, Filer 37
Gooding 9 14 23 12 — 58
Filer 9 4 14 10 — 37
Visser 17, Comstock 15, Williams 11, Cockerham 7, Pierson 6, Darcy 2
Totals: 22 6-7 58
Tews 13, Koepnick 13, Jones 4, Moon 3, Miskin 2, Clifford 2
Totals: 15 5-5- 37
3-point baskets: Gooding 8 (Visser 3, Comstock 3, Cockerham 1, Williams 1), Filer 2 (Tews 1, Moon 1)
Team fouls: Gooding 6, Filer 10