TWIN FALLS — It doesn’t feel right to call Wednesday’s victory easy, mainly because Kimberly fought its way through a physical, emotional contest and earned every point it scored, but the Bulldogs never faltered along the way.
And the final result was never in doubt.
Kimberly led wire-to-wire and beat Buhl for the fourth time this season, clinching the SCIC tournament championship and sending the team to next week’s state tournament in Boise. When the final buzzer sounded on the Bulldogs’ 43-27 win, the celebrations and net cutting began.
“We achieved another goal tonight,” said Kimberly head coach Stanley Watts. “We can’t wait to get back to work and try to achieve another one.”
“It means everything. It’s always our goal to get back to state,” said Kimberly senior Ashlie Watts. “But we don’t want to be satisfied with what we’ve achieved now. We want to go and win.”
Watts came out on fire. She scored the first six points for Kimberly, all of them coming from beyond the arc. The Indians left her open and she made them pay. The offensive burst was aided by offensive rebounds, which the Bulldogs collected time after time to extend possessions and get Buhl’s defense on its heels before it could ever get settled in.
“We worked really well as a team tonight,” said Kimberly senior guard Jessi Schmitz.
Kimberly led 11-2 after the first quarter and never looked back.
Watts hit another trey to start the second, and the rout was on. Caroline Vera was the only Indian to score through the midway point of the second period, but a smattering of teammates finally connected on buckets to help steady the ship before halftime.
As good as its offense was early, Kimberly made a lasting mark on the other side of the court as well. The Bulldogs’ quick hands, fast feet and aggressiveness held Buhl in check. The shots the Indians did get up were low-percentage looks, and Kimberly was able to grab the rebounds and get down the floor quickly.
“We slowed down when we needed to, but we attacked when we had the chance,” Ashlie Watts said. “We all did our jobs tonight.”
The Bulldogs went into the locker room holding a 26-10 advantage.
The game found a sense of normalcy in the third quarter as Buhl was able to find its shooting. The Indians outscored Kimberly 8-5 in the period as Vera and Sage Eckert led the charge.
In the fourth, and nursing a 31-18 lead, Kimberly’s Emily Wadsworth became the go-to offensive threat. She notched 14 points on the night to pace all scorers.
“We knew they were going to come out hard and be aggressive,” Wadsworth said. “We had to respond, and we did.”
“Buhl came out after us and played hard,” Stanley Watts said. “That’s great because it’s going to prepare us for games at state. We kept patient, dug in and got the ball to the post.”
Even when the game entered a hectic, less-than-smooth pace in the final period, the Bulldogs maintained their composure and manufactured their own energy.
“I’m an emotional guy, and yelling encouragement from the bench works for me,” Stanley Watts said.
“We take it one possession at a time,” Ashlie Watts said. “That’s what our coach tells us and that’s what our mindset has been.”
For the second year in a row, Kimberly travels to the Treasure Valley for the 3A state tournament.
Buhl was led by Vera’s eight points. Madison Somers added five while McKenna Lively had four.
Kimberly got 14 points from Emily Wadsworth, 11 from Ashlie Watts and seven from Jesse Wadsworth.
Buhl has a chance to qualify for the tournament as well, but will need to earn its way in. The Indians travel to American Falls High School on Saturday to face the Teton Redskins. Tipoff is slate for 1 p.m.
Barring weather issues, Kimberly is slated to play at Middleton High School on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. against either Fruitland or Weiser.
“We have some experience coming back, so we’re excited to get up there and play,” Stanley Watts said. “We need to maintain our discipline and hope for the best.”
“Last year we had some issues with girls getting injured,” Schmitz said. “We’re ready to go again. We can’t wait.”
Kimberly 43, Buhl 27
Buhl 2 8 8 9-27
Kimberly 11 15 5 12-43
America Jaramillo 2, Sage Eckert 2, McKenna Lively 4, Emily Gorrell 2, Madison Somers 5, Caroline Vera 8, Kyra Azevedo 2, Alyssa Gorrell 2. Totals 12 34 27.
Josie Schmitz 7, Ashlie Watts 11, Jessi Schmitz 1, Brinley Humphreys 1, Emily Wadsworth 14, Jill Russell 2, Jesse Wadsworth 7. Totals 15 6-19 43.