RUPERT — For nearly the entire game, the Minico High School boys basketball team was playing catch-up.
With Twin Falls visiting Rupert for a huge conference tilt, and a battle of teams with just one loss each, plenty rested on the line, and, for the most part, it appeared to belong to the Bruins.
However, the Spartans never rolled over, despite trailing by double digits at multiple junctions of the game, pulled ahead late and held on to beat the Bruins, 60-59, on Tuesday night.
“They weathered the storm and they never gave up,” Minico head coach Ty Shippen said of his players. “They just kept fighting and grinding.”
Whether or not the teams knew in the hours leading up to the game is unknown, but just before tip-off, the new state media poll was released, and the Bruins—previously ranked No. 1 in the 4A classification—had fallen to No. 3, while Minico (11-1, 5-0) had risen to the top spot.
Regardless of if the Bruins (10-2, 4-2) were aware, they came out to start the game like they had a point to prove.
After Minico took a 2-0 lead, Twin Falls senior Faust Ystueta began building a Bruins lead by knocking down back-to-back triples, and getting fouled while attempting a third straight.
Minico had to work its way back into the game, trailing, 18-5, at one point, but the Bruins held firm with a nine-point lead after one.
“They came out blazing in the first quarter and just hit a bunch of shots right in a row,” Shippen said.
All Minico needed was a run, though, and that’s what the Spartans got in the second quarter.
Minico outscored Twin Falls, 16-9, in the second quarter to pull the game to within two points. As the first half came to a close and the Minico players prepared to exit the court, Shippen was ecstatic on the sidelines, clearly thrilled with the fight his team had put up.
“I was just excited by the way they responded after getting blitzed in the beginning,” Shippen said.
But Twin Falls began to flex its muscles again in the third quarter, as Shippen said the third quarter was when the Bruins showed just how good they were. He said Twin Falls has solid shooters, bigs and physicality, making it even more difficult for his team to fight back.
The Bruins outscored the Spartans, 20-16, in the third quarter to maintain a lead.
However, the Spartans showed their never-say-die attitude and continued to battle, keeping the game close until they were able to pull ahead. Big shots were the key, as senior guard Abe Guzman knocked down three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, accounting for all nine of his points on the evening.
The Bruins had a chance on a last-second heave up the court, but it missed, and the Spartans celebrated with both excitement and perhaps relief, having held off one of the toughest opponents they’ll play.
Junior Rylan Chandler led Minico with 13 points, while junior Kasen Carpenter and senior Jacob Durrant had 12 each, to go along with Guzman’s nine and eight from senior Kobe Matsen.
Senior Mitchell Brizee led Twin Falls with 19 points, Ystueta added 17 and senior Winston Duggan had 10.
Shippen made it a point to accept the good that came with Tuesday’s win, but also wanted to acknowledge the Spartans’ season is far from over. A clash with No. 4 Century awaits on Thursday.
Still, he couldn’t help but relish in the excitement that came with a big conference win, one that will no doubt help his team down the road.
“To come back and show that fight and intensity, these kids are learning to be coached, make adjustments, listen and never give up,” Shippen said. “It’s fun to coach young men like that. I’m really blessed to be around them.”