TWIN FALLS — After a few early-season stumbles, the Kimberly High School boys basketball team reached its ultimate goal on Tuesday by winning the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference title.
The Bulldogs had little trouble defeating Filer 59-37 in the district championship game, held at the College of Southern Idaho, and they faced few stumbles along the way, with a double-digit margin in all three district tournament wins.
In the title game, Kimberly (18-5) and Filer (10-14) played a 4-4 draw through the first four minutes. Then the Bulldogs ran away with it, scoring 15 straight points into the second quarter en route to a 30-13 halftime lead.
Sophomore Dawson Cummins was at the forefront of that run, scoring eight points first half, including two 3-pointers. Not often does a sophomore get the green light to shoot at will in higher classifications, but Cummins has the trust of his coaches, according to Kimberly head coach Daren Garey.
“When his competitive juices get flowing, he’s not a kid who’s scared by the moment,” Garey said. “He steps up, and we kind of expect it because we rely on him.”
Cummins went on to score a game-high 19 points, and said his shot felt good, but his team was also executing its offense well to give him looks.
“If I could get a shot, I’d take it, but really, we were working the ball around well,” he said.
Cummins certainly wasn’t the only scoring option for Kimberly, with seniors Trey Garey and Connor Golay dropping 10 points each in the title game victory.
Daren Garey said the key to the offensive production was patience.
“You get to this time of year, and teams know each other so well that you can’t rush things, because they’re going to defend your first and second options a lot of times,” he said. “You’ve got to be patient with it and make them play defense for a longer period of time, then try to exploit it.”
The Wildcats scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, but it was the only time Filer earned a double-digit quarter of scoring against the Kimberly defense. Daren Garey said the defensive pressure was a big improvement from his squad’s last game, a 74-57 win against Buhl in the district semifinals.
“We didn’t do a great job of attacking the ball when they dribbled at us or off of ball screens,” he said. “So we showed it to them on film, and took our day to work on that. The kids executed that a lot better tonight.”
The leading scorer for Filer was Ashton Karel with eight points. Filer will travel to American Falls on Saturday to play a 3A state play-in game against the loser of the District 3 title game between Sugar-Salem and Shelley, both top-five ranked teams in the final 3A media poll of the season.
The win snapped a seven-year playoff drought for the Bulldogs, and while they are in a position to make a run at the state title, that wasn’t the team’s goal to begin the season.
“We came into the season with a very specific goal, and that was to win this district championship,” Trey Garey told the crowd at CSI after the win. “I don’t think I could’ve done it with a better group of players.”
Kimberly will carry its 10-game win streak into the 3A state tournament, where they will face the District 1 champion in the first round. That may not be an easy ask if No. 4-ranked Kellogg defeats Timberlake for that title, but Cummins said his team will carry itself the same way against either team.
“We’ll keep the same mindset,” he said. “Just keep playing hard and doing the stuff we need to do.”
Daren Garey is expecting his team to keep up the high level of play it’s shown since it returned from Christmas break and began to make a statement, including the recent streak.
“That’s how you want to go into a tournament, on that win streak,” he said. “We’re playing our best, and that’s all we can ask as coaches.”
Kimberly 59, Filer 37
Filer 4 9 8 16 — 37
Kimberly 14 16 9 20 — 59
FILER (37) — Nick Hale 5, Garret Miskin 5, Nick Meyerhoeffer 6, Josh Hughes 4, Miguel Perez 5, Ashton Karel 8, Cade Ackerman 4.
KIMBERLY (59) — Connor Golay 10, Gage Burnham 7, Noah Mooney 7, Dawson Cummins 19, Trey Garey 10, Braxton Hammond 2, Andrew Phillips 2, Taylor Holcomb 2.