TWIN FALLS — More than nine months on, the taste in the mouths of the players on the Twin Falls High School basketball team was still sour.
The demons were exorcised on Friday night at Twin Falls High School, when Preston, the team that knocked the Bruins out of the 4A state tournament last March on its way to winning its third straight title, came to town.
Behind 13 points from senior Faust Ystueta and 12 from senior Mitchell Brizee, the No. 4 Bruins not only beat the top-ranked Indians, but crushed them, 50-37.
“This one was circled on our calendars, for sure,” Ystueta said. “They took us out of state last year and left a bitter taste in our mouths. We just wanted to get sweet revenge.”
The win not only signaled the intent of the Bruins, who staked their claim as one of the top teams in the 4A classification, but brought at least a brief end to a run of dominance by Preston. The Indians had won their last 33 games before Friday night.
As comfortable as Twin Falls (5-0, 1-0) was by the end, the start of the contest offered no such relaxation. Neither team led by more than four for much of the opening half.
The Bruins, whose two post players, Brizee and senior Ryan Ball, stand at 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9, respectively, actually struggled down low in the opening stages. They resorted to the deep ball, where seniors Winston Duggan and Wyatt Haszier knocked down some big 3-pointers early.
“It was good to see as a team,” Twin Falls head coach Matt Harr said. “It was a very balanced effort.”
However, when the Bruins led Preston (3-1, 1-1) by just one point in the dying moments of the second quarter, senior Winston Duggan knocked down a 3-pointer. Then, Ystueta lofted up a triple as time expired, got a favorable roll off the rim, and gave the Bruins a 27-20 lead heading into the break.
Ystueta, who said that shot, which accounted for his first points of the night, was huge for his confidence, as he struggled in the early stages. As it turned out, it was huge for the Bruins in general.
“That’s it,” Harr said. “Your big-time players play big in big times. They stepped it up tonight.”
From there, it was rather straightforward for the Bruins. Their lead jumped into double digits, was cut back briefly, but, once they went up 42-32 with about five minutes left in the game, the lead was never smaller than 10 points.
Brizee came alive down the stretch, scoring eight of his 12 in the fourth quarter. Ten of Ystueta’s 13 came in the second half as well, highlighting the importance of the two players as the game wound down.
Twin Falls went on a 12-5 run to close out the contest, never even giving the Indians a sniff at a comeback.
“We played more as a team in the fourth quarter,” Harr said. “We haven’t been doing that. We’ve been letting other teams in the game. This is probably one of the first games we pulled away in the fourth quarter, which was good to see.”
Along with Brizee and Ystueta, another duo of Bruins players added big buckets. Duggan finished with 10 points and Haszier added seven points, thanks in large part to two 3-pointers at important junctures of the game.
Ystueta said the win, while important, won’t change the approach of the Bruins as they navigate the rest of their campaign. They knew Preston had lost the core from its state championship teams, but didn’t underestimate them because they know the Indians are “well-coached” with “great players coming up in the system.”
He added that the team will go into every game humble, knowing they can’t afford to take a team for granted. However, knocking off the top-ranked team in the state will give them a bit of swagger moving forward.
“We’re trying to ride this momentum the rest of the season,” Ystueta said. “We’re getting big wins, we’re playing better each game. It’s just going really well for us.”