MERIDIAN — As the Burley High School boys basketball team walked off the court after its semifinal game against Century, its players all pointed up to the Burley student section in appreciation, clapping and shouting to their classmates.
The Bobcat faithful had a lot of reason to cheer for their team, as Burley rolled to a 72-59 4A semifinal win over Century on Friday night at Borah High School. Plus, they got to scream a little louder with the show that junior Andrew Ferrin put on.
Ferrin started off the first half with 15 points, a product of good positioning and finishes, as well as four first-half blocks and a dunk for good measure.
Ferrin said the pickup in blocks and dunks in the tournament thus far has been in part because of his style of play, but also because he wants to fire up that Burley fan base, which traveled well to the state tournament.
“We have the best fan base in Idaho,” he said. “A lot of people show up to the game and cheer really loud.”
Ferrin had an early match in Century post Max Rogers, who opened the game with 14 points in the first quarter, primarily by stretching the ball out and driving rather than posting up.
“We just didn’t expect for him to shoot the ball as well as he did,” Ferrin said. “That really surprised us, but he was very good for his part, so we had to step out and change our gameplan up a little bit.”
Burley head coach Trent Whiting had to ask other players to step up to contain Rogers beyond his posts.
“Once we started closing to him, we had to work really hard with our guards to stop those rim cuts,” Whiting said. “It put a little bit of pressure on our guards … but we had to adjust.”
The adjustments worked, as Rogers added only seven points in the next three quarters, but that didn’t mean Whiting had time off from shifting his schemes around in-game.
“We threw a thousand things out there to try and see what would work, and at times this would work, at times something else would work,” he said. “The reason being that they kept adjusting. They’re a well-coached team. So anytime they’re adjusting a lot, you have to find something that works.”
Up 53-41, Burley’s zone defense kept Century moving around for long periods of time in the fourth quarter, slowing down the Diamondbacks’ pace while preventing good looks for Century shooters.
Century moved into a quick foul strategy with two minutes to go and Burley in the one-and-one bonus, but the Bobcats made all three first attempts and played the defense to get the win.
The focus on Ferrin also opened up looks for other players, from post Jackson Hill to guard Ethan Gibbons off the bench.
Some of the typical scorebook leaders had solid games again. Burley sophomore guard Jace Whiting hit 5-of-6 3-pointers en route to 17 points, while senior guard Ryan Bagley scored 15 points.
The Bobcats survived a scare when Ferrin came up limping with 3:00 to play in the third quarter, but he stayed in for the next possession and waved off a trainer on the bench — just a simple case of bumped knees.
Now Burley (21-4) gets another shot at the two-time defending champion Preston Indians (25-0), who beat Skyview 62-37 in the semifinals. The Bobcats are also seeking revenge, since Preston downed Burley 64-56 in the season opener and beat the Bobcats again 56-45 on Dec. 22.
“We’ve been watching a lot more film of them, so we just need to be mentally prepared to go into the game and remember what it felt like when we lost,” Ferrin said.
Trent Whiting, who’s seeking a title in his first year as head coach, doesn’t appear to have any jitters at hand and knows the road to the title isn’t paved for Burley.
“They’re not back-to-back state champions without a reason, so we’re going to have to play our A game,” he said. “We feel like our guys are ready. They’ve gotten better all season, and hopefully we can go get them tomorrow.”
The 4A state title game tips off at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. It's Burley's first state title game appearance since 2008, when it beat Bonneville for the 4A crown.