MERIDIAN — It was hard to tell who was supposed to be David and who was playing the role of Goliath.
Twin Falls dictated the game start to finish and the underdog Bruins pulled off the biggest upset of Thursday’s opening round at the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament at Mountain View High School.
Twin Falls knocked off three-time defending state champ Middleton 42-36, also ending the Vikings’ 72-game winning streak, which according to MaxPreps.com was the longest active streak in the nation.
“Probably one of the best feelings in the world. Everyone is screaming and excited. Everyone on the team can’t stop smiling. It’s the best moment,” said Twin Falls junior guard Maddie Watkins. “We knew we could do it, but we had a lot of people doubting us. We knew if we played at our full potential we could do it. We got focused, everybody came together and we all wanted it.”
In the hours leading up to the game, the Twin Falls players said they felt something special was about to happen.
“In the locker room before the game, a lot of us said, ‘I have a good feeling about this game,’” said Bruin senior Haley Hutchinson.
Having played Middleton during the regular season — a 56-46 loss Dec. 28 at Middleton – helped Twin Falls’ confidence. The Bruins weren’t intimidated by the 72-game win streak, the consecutive state titles and perceived invincibility of the Vikings.
“My girls believed they could do it. That was the difference. They didn’t feel like it was an impossibility,” said Twin Falls coach Nancy Jones.
Like an underdog in a prize fight, the Bruins knew they had to land the first punch. Hannah Meyerhoeffer, Regan Harr and Hutchinson scored buckets in the early minutes to give Twin Falls a 7-0 lead.
“Instead of being afraid, we came out and scored seven points right off the bat and kind of scared them a little bit,” said Watkins.
Three times in the first half Middleton made a momentum-shifting play. But each time, the Bruins quickly answered on the other end, getting key baskets from Kaitlyn Merritt, Jasmine Robertson and Hut-chinson.
Twin Falls led for all but the final 15 seconds of the first half, as a driving layup by Middleton’s Madison Brown gave her team a 17-16 edge at halftime.
But the Bruins opened the third quarter with a 5-0 spurt and never trailed after that.
“We don’t have a lot of stars on our team that college coaches are in the stands recruiting, but they played like a team,” said Jones. “All five on the floor played in unity.”
Watkins led Twin Falls in scoring with nine points, including a pressure-packed 7-of-10 performance from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
“I was getting nervous, then Kaitlyn came up to me and said, ‘Maddie, no matter what, we still love you, make or miss your free throws.’ So it kind of reassured me,” said Watkins.
Besides a few minor hiccups, the Bruins executed masterfully, especially while managing the clock and protecting their lead late in the game.
Bruins senior Mikayla Harris had eight points and 10 rebounds while playing strong defense — with help from her teammates — on Middleton’s post D’Rae Tullock, a Division-I college prospect.
Middleton senior guard Maya Ah You, who dropped 20 points in the teams’ previous matchup, suffered an injury in the first half and spent the rest of the game on the bench with an icepack on her knee.
Twin Falls (17-8) advances to the semifinals and will face Century at 6:15 p.m. Friday.
For the first time in six years, Middleton will not be at the Idaho Center on Saturday for the 4A state title game. The Vikings (23-1) will play Nampa in a consolation game at 1:15 p.m. Friday.
“We have to stay grounded,” Watkins said. “That’s what got us through this game. We weren’t on a ped-estal, so we have to come back with same mentality and fight for another win.”
Twin Falls 42, Middleton 36
Twin Falls 9 7 12 14 —42
Middleton 5 12 6 13 —36
TWIN FALLS (42)
Meyerhoeffer 1-2 0-2 2, Merritt 2-7 1-2 6, Robertson 1-1 0-0 3, Hutchinson 3-13 1-2 7, Harr 1-4 4-6 7, Harris 3-5 2-6 8, Watkins 1-5 7-10 9. Totals 12-38 15-28 42.
Ah You 0-1 1-2 1, Cossins 2-5 1-3 5, Brown 1-2 0-4 2, Gull 2-3 0-0 5, Pantoja 4-6 0-1 10, Tullock 4-12 5-8 13. Totals 13-29 7-18 36.
3-point goals: Twin Falls 3-8 (Harr 1-2, Merritt 1-2, Robertson 1-1, Hutchinson 0-2, Watkins 0-1); Middleton 3-4 (Pantoja 2-3, Gull 1-1). Rebounds: Twin Falls 28 (Harris 10); Middleton 26 (Tullock 8). Assists: Twin Falls 7 (Merritt 4); Middleton 6 (Brown 5). Turnovers: Twin Falls 12, Middleton 18. Team fouls: Twin Falls 17, Middleton 21. Fouled out: Pantoja, Tullock.