KIMBERLY—With two starters unavailable until January, Kimberly relies heavily on a pair of senior leaders—Jackson Randall and Bridger Gunnell—to guide the Bulldogs on the court.
That fact was evident Friday night against Canyon Ridge.
Gunnell scored 9 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and Randall notched 23 on the night, and the two stalwarts helped Kimberly mount a fourth quarter comeback to surge past the Riverhawks 55-49 Friday in Kimberly.
“Bridger has a green light and we trust him to shoot,” said Kimberly head coach Daren Garey. “The kids believe in him. We have some kids coming back in January, but for right now we’re leaning on those two seniors.”
“Unfortunately we went cold at the wrong time,” said Canyon Ridge head coach Darren Vanhofwegen. “That was brutal to watch.
“I thought if we could get one more basket it might get us going again, but it never came.”
The Bulldogs got off to a hot start as they seemingly could not miss in the first quarter. Kimberly led 18-5 in the final seconds of that opening period, and appeared to be in control.
“It’s a great opportunity to be the catalyst for our team with two of our guys on the bench,” Gunnell said. “I take that seriously.”
But Canyon Ridge sophomore Hudson Pierce drilled a long 3 at the buzzer to give his squad some life at the end of the quarter.
Perhaps inspired by the young Riverhawk’s shot, the visiting team rallied together and began playing ferocious defense. The tables turned in the second quarter thanks in part to Canyon Ridge’s three quarter-court defense that gave the Bulldogs fits.
The Riverhawks outscored Kimberly 24-14 in the second period to even the game 32-32 at the break.
“We were dead in the water there for a while, but we switched to that defense in the second quarter and sparked some life into us,” Vanhofwegen said. “That changed things.”
It was much of the same in the third as Canyon Ridge continued to play inspired basketball. Senior Ryan Packham (14 points) and junior Derek Clark (11 points) were the main workhorses, but the Riverhawks had a balanced effort as Pierce, Austin Dey and Sadmir Alic notched 7 points apiece.
Canyon Ridge led 45-40 after the third. That lead stretched to 49-40 with 5:29 left on the clock.
The Bulldogs took it from there.
As if a flip was switched, Kimberly scored the final 15 points of the game to escape a game Riverhawk squad.
“We wanted to contest their shots, and we did that for the most part,” Garey said. “But what we hadn’t done was secure the rebounds. When we held them to one-and-done, we got out and ran a little bit and got some easy buckets. That’s how we started and ended the game.”
“We were able to finish strong,” Gunnell said. “We got some big stops and hit some big shots. We made plays when it counted.”
Canyon Ridge (1-4) travels to Buhl on Tuesday.
“We’ve played five games, and have been in four of them right up to the end,” Vanhofwegen said. “We need to learn how to close, and part of that is on me as the coach. We need to execute more on the offensive end. I think that will come around.”
Kimberly (5-0) will play Shelley in the Magic Valley Tournament in Minico.
“This gives us a bit of momentum,” Gunnell said. “Kimberly is probably the best team we will have played so far this year. We just have to stay focused.”
“It’s good for us to play these games and get some experience,” Garey said. “We’re looking forward to Shelley.”
Kimberly 55, Canyon Ridge 49
Canyon Ridge; 8; 24; 13; 4-49
Kimberly; 18; 14; 8; 15-55
Canyon Ridge (49)
Ryan Packham 14, Hudson Pierce 7, Derek Clark 11, Austin Dey 7, Sadmir Alic 7, Izak Cuellar 4. 17 13-17 49.
Gage Burnham 3, Zach Wright 2, Bridger Gunnell 21, Jackson Randall 23, Nick Christensen 2, Taylor Holcomb 4. 25 2-3 55.