MIDDLETON — It only took a few possessions into Thursday’s 3A state tournament for any skepticism about Filer’s dominant defense traveling north from the SCIC to be squelched.
Somehow, Filer still needed a last-second shot from senior Jenna Jarolimek to make it matter.
Sugar-Salem, the top seed and a much improved club (albeit with the same players) from the one Filer smashed in the first round last year, had gotten bigger, stronger and more skilled.
But for 16 minutes in the Wildcats’ thrilling 30-28 first round victory, it looked like another red storm.
Steals and swats on myriad early possessions from an engulfing zone defense featuring Sarah Sharp in the middle and Jarolimek roaming the baseline resulted in Diggers’ skittishness around the basket, and a seemingly-bigger-than-the-score indicated 18-6 halftime hole.
“(Our defense) was like, ‘Try to get around us, I dare you,’” Jarolimek said.
And then it “slowly just crept up on us,” Jarolimek said of Sugar-Salem’s comeback.
A lead that was whittled under double digits then vanished in the blink of an eye. After giving up six points at halftime, Sugar-Salem scored six in less than 10 seconds midway through the fourth quarter after stealing two inbounds, briefly taking a how-did-it-happen two-point lead with 1:37 left.
“Filer is a very, very good basketball team,” Sugar-Salem coach Crystal Carpenter said. “We played a tough schedule. We played teams we thought could prepare us for this, but not for size like that. Down 10 in the fourth quarter, not many people thought we could come back.”
The Diggers had been a fourth quarter team all season, and a second-half let-down, according to coach Kody Ketterling, was exactly what the Diggers had been waiting for.
But Sydney Koyle quickly answered the Diggers go-ahead scores, and after stops by each side, set up Filer with the ball and 12 seconds left.
Coach Carpenter said she was shocked at what happened next.
“We expected (Katie Hughes) to get it,” Carpenter. “We had it defended that way.”
Instead, it was the paint-oriented forward Jarolimek at the top of the key.
“The ball came to me and my first instinct was to give it to Katie, but I saw that no one was on me so I took the first dribble jump shot,” Jarolimek said.” I was totally calm.”
The play was for Jarolimek the whole time.
“She has a tendency to not do things when they are called for her,” Ketterling said. “So we didn’t say it was called for her.”
Jarolimek’s running jumper inside the free-throw line went in with 5.3 seconds left.
“Coach told me it was a form of reverse psychology,” Jarolimek said of not knowing her number had been called.
Sugar-Salem’s potential game-tier went above the reach of Sharp and rolled out of the basket.
“My first thought was to swat the ball, but I was like, wait a minute, I don’t want a foul there with five seconds left.”
“We got exactly the kind of shot what we wanted,” Carpenter said. “I feel it should have been the state championship game. And that’s what was a heartbreaker. Somebody had to lose. We should be playing (each other) in the Idaho Center.”
It turned out to be the matchup everyone wanted, albeit earlier than both sides hoped.
“We got a state championship-like game in the first round,” Ketterling. “Despite those miscues, we were up when the buzzer sounded.”
Filer plays Priest River in Friday evening's semifinals.
Filer 30, Sugar-Salem 28
Filer 8 10 6 6 -30
Sugar-Salem 4 2 8 14 -28
Lekkerkerk 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-3 0-0 0, K. Hughes 3-15 4-7 11, S. Sharp 2-2 0-0 4, J. Jarolimek 4-7 1-1 9, Reynolds 0-0 0-2 0, Koyle 1-2 0-0 2, Ackerman 0-4 4-4 4, M. Hughes 0-2 0-1 0. Totals 10-35 9-15 30.
Allen 0-1 0-0 0, Hawkes 1-2 0-0 2, Crane 3-5 0-1 6, Rose 2-2 1-2 5, Brewer 0-4 0-0 0, Roberts 0-1 0-0 0, Spratling 1-2 3-5 5, Siddoway 1-5 1-2 4, Harris 1-4 2-2 5, Stoddard 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 9-27 8-14 28.
3-point goals: Filer 1-10 (Williams 0-3, K. Hughes 1-5, Koyle 0-1, Ackerman 0-1); Sugar-Salem 2-5 (Allen 0-1, Siddoway 1-2, Harris 1-2). Rebounds: Filer 21 (K. Hughes 7); Sugar-Salem 24 (Rose 6). Assists: Filer 2 (Williams, M. Hughes 1); Sugar-Salem 2 (Spratling, Siddoway 1). Turnovers: Filer 21, Sugar-Salem 27. Total fouls: Filer 15, Sugar-Salem 16. Fouled out: Rose.