BURLEY — Trent Whiting, the first-year head coach of the Burley High School boys basketball team, stepped atop a ladder, reached up and cut down the net following Burley’s 60-50 district title win against Twin Falls.
But unlike most coaches, Whiting didn’t cut down the entire the net. Instead, he let a crew of supporting cast members — a super fan, stat keepers and more — cut down the remaining bits of nylon to show his appreciation.
And why not? He has a lot to celebrate after Thursday’s win: a Great Basin Conference title, a good state tournament seed and, after all the action, “Relief.”
“A lot of stress coming into this one,” Whiting said, “but I knew we had a really great group of guys who played hard. I’m just going to enjoy the moment.”
That group defended its conference title on Thursday night at home, and it was led by a four-year player who’s heading into the tournament with heat.
Senior Ryan Bagley capped off a great district tournament with a game-high 24 points, including three unanswered field goals in the fourth quarter as Twin Falls pulled back within five points of the lead.
“I feel like I’m playing at my peak for this season,” he said. “I’m feeling confidence.”
Bagley’s tournament play was a testament to that, as he dropped more than 20 points in all three tournament games (28 against Minico, 22 and 24 against Twin Falls). However, he said he can’t take all of the credit for the good offense on Thursday night.
“We played through our big men really well,” Bagley said. “This was the best I’ve seen them play all season.”
The tall two, Andrew Ferrin and Jackson Hill, combined for 19 points in the game, including 10 fourth-quarter points to help keep the game out of reach.
The Bobcats were also helped by inconsistent shooting from Faust Ystueta of the Bruins. After shooting 4-for-6 from the field in the first half, the junior went 0-for-8 in the second.
Winston Duggan and Mitchell Brizee led the comeback effort late, with 11 combined fourth-quarter points, but it wasn’t enough as Burley claimed its second straight Great Basin Conference title.
With the loss, Twin Falls (14-11) draws likely the toughest first-round opponent in 4A: the 23-0, top-ranked, defending state champion Preston Indians, who doubled up the Bruins 55-27 in December.
Burley earned the back-to-back tournament wins against the Bruins after losing to them at home in the last regular season matchup between the two, 56-50. Whiting didn’t reveal what adjustments the team made in particular, but did say the team was able to get stops better than in its loss to the Bruins.
“In the game we dropped here, we didn’t lock in defensively,” he said. “That made the difference tonight.”
Bagley, who makes most of his noise on the offensive side, provided defensive pressure, grabbing five steals — the only Bobcat to record a steal on the night.
Now, Burley (19-4) will wait to find out its first opponent at state, the third-place finisher in District 3. Whoever that may be, Whiting and Bagley said the team is headed into that matchup ready to seize the moment.
“I feel like we have a ton of momentum,” Bagley said. “If we keep playing the way we are, I think we can make a run at the title.”
Burley 60, Twin Falls 50
Twin Falls 14 9 10 17 — 50
Burley 11 14 17 18 — 60
TWIN FALLS (50) — Winston Duggan 13, Drew Meyerhoeffer 5, Faust Ystueta 11, Ryan Ball 6, Hudson Klundt 8, Mitchell Brizee 7.
BURLEY (60) — Brock Whitaker 6, Andrew Ferrin 13, Ryan Bagley 24, Jace Whiting 9, Cade Seely 2, Jackson Hill 6.