GOODING — The Kimberly High School girls basketball team doesn’t claim to have any leaders, but it has something else: family.
The word has been the team’s motto since the beginning of the season, and a unified effort helped the Bulldogs down Gooding 53-50 on the road to earn the No. 1 seed in the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference tournament.
“Before every game, we just say, ‘Family,’” Kimberly junior post Jesse Wadsworth said. “This is my family, we love each other and no one person can lead the team. We have to stick together.”
The Bulldogs started the game with that unified effort on defense, running a full-court press that stifled a Senator offense that lacked star junior Grace Parker for the first three minutes.
“She was late to practice,” Gooding head coach Jysen Lancaster said, “so it was a team rules issue. She knew it was coming.”
But after Parker came in, things slowly began to come together for the Senators.
She used quick cuts and transition rushes to force the Bulldogs into foul trouble, accounting for six of the 10 first-half fouls. Parker scored 11 points for Gooding in the first half.
“She is so hard to stop,” Lancaster said. “If you put a post on her, she’ll take it to the rim. Stick a guard on her, she’ll post up and score or draw a foul.”
Kimberly head coach Stanley Watts said his team tried to force the ball away from her throughout the game.
“They’ve got a great leader, and you’ve really got to take that away if you want to have a chance to win,” he said. “So we had to get the ball out of her hands.”
Wadsworth’s 12 first-quarter points, all from inside the 3-point line, helped keep Kimberly even with the Senators at halftime, 25-25.
In the second half Kimberly came out with a bang, scoring six unanswered points for in the opening minutes of the half. But Gooding answered with a 9-1 run to earn back the lead, with junior Riley Comstock capping off the run on a converted and-one.
The fouls that the Senators drew in the first half were reversed in the fourth quarter, as Kimberly got to the line five times, including a late and-one conversion by sophomore post Ellery Johnson for her only points of the game.
In the end, Gooding had its best shot to keep the game tight with a 1-and-1 by Parker, but she missed the first shot and the Bulldogs rebounded the ball.
Kimberly junior Demee Rosenkrance and sophomore Annie Walker combined to shoot 3-of-4 from the line on the other end. A last-second turnover by the Senators, down by three points, sealed the game for Kimberly.
Wadsworth said the game came down to free-throw line, where the Bulldogs went 14-for-17 to Gooding’s 10-of-19.
“They’re simple, but they win games,” Wadsworth said.
Lancaster thought Kimberly’s defense, which he said was executed well, was the biggest detriment to the Senators.
“They create such good pressure defensively,” he said. “I think we handled it better last time. We know that it’s coming, but we’ve got to practice harder to withstand it.”
Gooding won the earlier matchup 50-44 on the road in November.
By regular season record, Gooding is 12-4 to Kimberly’s 11-9, but the Bulldogs got their work done in the SCIC, finishing 5-1 to take the top seed. They won the conference tournament last year en route to a third-place finish at state.
Watts said his team has had to play better late in games.
“We’ve struggled through the season with finishing in the fourth quarter, but we finished it out here,” he said. “The ball fell our way tonight.”
Parker led the game with 20 points, while Jesse Wadsworth topped Kimberly’s scoring column with 14 points.
Watts said he isn’t so concerned about who’s leading his stat columns as much as how his team continues to work together entering its final regular game against Declo on Tuesday and the conference tournament.
“If you get that one leader, it really helps,” he said. “But everybody has stepped up a lot, even with such a young team.”
Grace Parker didn't start the game, though she's consistently a high scorer for Gooding, but she comes off the bench strong, finding Riley Comstock here. 8-6 Kimberly at 2:40 mark 1st Q. #idpreps #goodingsenators #kimberlybulldogs pic.twitter.com/xKWcR5Qxv0— Jake Crouse (@jake_crouse94) January 19, 2018