TWIN FALLS — According to Shoshone High School girls basketball senior standouts Bailee Owens and Cierra Hennings, there’s a rule the Indians go by when returning from the halftime break.
“The first three minutes of the second half,” Hennings said. “The first three minutes, we come out and give it all we got.”
The Indians put that concept to good use in the Snake River Conference title game against Valley on Monday.
After going into halftime down four points, and on the back of a half-court heave banked in by Valley’s Railey Hodges at the buzzer, Shoshone’s heads could have dropped and the tournament’s top seed could have folded.
Instead, the Indians came out of the break with intensity and shut the Vikings down, limiting Valley to seven second-half points and earning a 35-26 victory, booking their place in the 1A Division I state tournament.
For Shoshone’s five seniors, it was a particularly special victory.
“They’ve wanted this,” Shoshone head coach Tim Chapman said. “When we break practice, we say ‘district champs.’ That was their first goal and I think they realized it was a realistic goal and went out and got it.”
Until that second half began, though, it was far from smooth sailing for the Indians (21-1).
A little back-and-forth to open the contest had both teams playing physical, but neither finding the basket.
Then, quickly, No. 2-seed Valley (12-10) found it.
Sophomore Bailey Stephens nailed a 3-pointer, then, 12 seconds later, senior Katie Johnson was fouled while making a layup, and hit her free throw to put the Vikings up, 6-0, after just under two minutes of play.
A full minute later, Owens hit a jumper to put Shoshone on the board, but that would be it for the scoring. Neither team added points for the remaining five minutes of the quarter.
The second frame was far more even, as Shoshone began to find its way into the game, even taking the lead with 40 seconds to go. But, another three-point play by Johnson, followed by Hodges’ outrageous buzzer-beater, which put the Vikings up, 19-15, at the break.
“Nobody had their head down,” Chapman said. “We were only down by four...just wanted to come out, play our defense and we’ll be alright.”
Right from the jump, though, Shoshone implemented its halftime plan. Senior Rionna Kerner scored first, then junior Katrina Marsh scored before Owens hit one free throw. Less than halfway through the third quarter, Shoshone was back in the lead.
Valley re-took the lead once more, when sophomore Makenna Kohtz hit a shot. After Kerner scored with 26 seconds left in the fourth, the Indians had an advantage they wouldn’t squander.
Hennings opened the fourth quarter with a bucket, and Owens followed with another 30 seconds later. Valley, down by five, did its best to pull back to within two, but that was the closest the Vikings got.
Free throws from Marsh and Hennings began to put the contest out of reach, then Marsh intercepted an inbound pass by Valley underneath its own hoop, effectively sealing Shoshone’s victory. When senior Patti Fitzgerald hit two free throws with eight seconds left, the Indians were up by nine and more than on their way to cutting down the nets in the College of Southern Idaho gym.
“I’m really excited and I’m really proud of our team,” Owens said. “It’s pretty awesome winning...District champs, twice!”
Owens finished with 10 points and Hennings had nine to lead the Indians. Hennings, who rolled her ankle against Oakley in the opening round of the district tournament, didn’t practice all week, Chapman said, but had her ankle taped and gutted it out.
Valley was led by Johnson and Kohtz, each of whom scored seven points.
The Vikings still have a chance to earn a berth to the state tournament, as they’ll take on Raft River in the second-place game on Thursday.
Shoshone, meanwhile, has its attention turned to the state playoffs, where Chapman, Hennings and Owens all said they’ll go by a certain philosophy: one game at a time.
“At state, anything can happen,” Chapman said. “You’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”