TWIN FALLS — The Shoshone High School girls basketball team had trouble with the undefeated Oakley Hornets all season long. That is, until it mattered.
The Indians used slow tempo and good defense to win the Snake River Conference championship game 33-30 Tuesday night, ending Oakley’s undefeated streak this season at 22 games and earning the top District 4 seed in the 1A Division I state tournament.
The Indians had fallen to the Hornets twice during the regular season, 34-17 and 41-31, but won a low-scoring affair against the Hornets on Tuesday at the College of Southern Idaho.
Shoshone head coach Tim Chapman said he knew the game had to be won that way.
“I actually told the girls we needed to play a game near 32 to 30 points,” he said. “If you let Oakley get into the 40s, that’s when they start to take control.”
The Indians often held the ball for 30 or more seconds per possession, but also complemented that effort with good passing and decent shooting. Cierra Hennings, a junior, led the game with 17 points, including a 5-of-7 shooting performance in the second half.
“We were a bit more patient as a team,” she said of the second half. “We had good passing, which helped get the ball to me and my teammates.”
Passing helped fuel a 12-6 third quarter for Shoshone, which gave them a 28-24 advantage heading into the fourth. However, Oakley opened on a 5-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, with a 3-pointer by Blakely Payton followed up by a layup by Rachel Mitton.
But that’s when Shoshone’s defense stepped up, forcing turnovers and contesting shots as it had for much of the night.
“We talked really well,” Hennings said. “We knew where we were on the court, and we stayed aggressive.”
After a foul shot and two field goals, the Indians were ahead 33-30 with about 13 seconds left in regulation. The Hornets looked to Makinlee Cranney, who drained a couple 3-pointers in the second half, for a game-tying long ball.
The first one was contested and off the mark, and the second, from nearly a yard outside the line, hit high off the backboard to seal Shoshone’s district title.
Brittany Hardy scored 11 points to lead Oakley, which will head to the second-place game against Hagerman on Thursday for a chance to grab the SRC’s second state seed. Oakley has beaten Hagerman twice this season by margins of 20 points or more.
This is the third time Shoshone has reached the state tournament in the past 10 years, including 2016, when it fell to Valley in the consolation championship. The Indians will take on the winner of the Notus/Ambrose game in the District 3 tournament to begin their quest for the state title.
However, as much as the state tournament has been a goal, Hennings and Chapman said the conference title was just as important.
“Since the beginning, we’ve said we want to be the district champions,” Hennings said. “It feels incredible to win it.”
“From practice number one, every time we ended practice, we’d say ‘District,’” Chapman said.
Chapman hopes the win will carry momentum into the state tournament, which begins on Feb. 15 at Columbia High School.
“These girls believe in themselves,” he said. “They know they can play with Oakley, and they followed the game plan perfectly tonight. I think this will give us confidence headed into the tournament.”