NAMPA • After two years of heartbreak, Richfield finally broke through a few weeks ago.
The Tigers lost in the district tournament the last couple of seasons, eliminating their chances of going to the state tournament. Beating Castleford in the district title game to get to state was admittedly a sense of relief for coach Buck Hendren.
On Friday, Richfield broke through again by beating Mackay 41-32 in the state semifinals to set up a date with rival Dietrich in the 1A-II championship at the Idaho Center.
“Here we go again,” Hendren said with a grin.
It’s not surprising to Hendren that his team will play the Blue Devils for the fourth time this season. The two teams had close battles all year, with the last two going to the Tigers. It’s a matchup of the two top-ranked teams in the division that has been in the making for a long time.
On one end, you have Dietrich, the four-time defending champions with star Jacey Shaw leading the way. Then you have Richfield, who narrowly missed the state tournament the last two season, but has four state titles in its history as well. It’s a heavy-weight matchup, exactly as it should be.
“We definitely have a lot of respect for them. We’re not scared of them. And they know that,” Hendren said. “It’s just a rivalry with a lot of respect for each other.”
Friday’s semifinal against Mackay was hardly an offensive show, as the Tigers shot just 33-percent from the field. This was on the heels of a 24.5-percent performance the previous night. But as has been the case recently, it was defense that led the way.
“Our big focus was defense,” Hendren said. “Offense was actually kind of secondary.”
Richfield’s best shooters, Mariah Lezamiz and Taylor King, combined to score just 13 points. Stepping was April Wood, who scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds despite being at a major height disadvantage against the Miners.
“I just wanted it really bad,” Wood said. “It’s just something that us as a team wanted it for so long. I saw my sister win state when she was a senior and I’ve just always wanted that.”
If getting to state was a relief for Hendren, then making it to the championship game is icing on the cake. The Tigers only have six players available and are admittedly short-handed. But having won the last two meetings with the Blue Devils is a confidence booster.
“I think getting to state was the big one,” Hendren said. “And now it’s just a matter of doing what we need to do.”
Tomorrow’s game begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Idaho Center.
Richfield 41, Mackay 32
Richfield 41, Mackay 32
Richfield – 10; 8; 14; 9 – 41
Mackay – 7; 6; 6; 13 – 32
Wood 17, Buckner 11, Lezamiz 10, King 3. Totals: 17 6-10 41.
James 14, Moorman 6, Rosenkrance 5, Gamett 4, Betzer 3. Totals: 13 5-7 32.
3-point field goals: Richfield 1 (King) Mackay (1 (Betzer). Fouls: Richfield 10, Mackay 13. Fouled out: none.