Win No. 72 in the Middleton girls basketball team's undefeated streak was one of the most difficult yet.
The tooth-and-nail fight made the Vikings' fifth consecutive District Three championship that much sweeter. Allison Cossins and Maya Ah You each scored 14 points and D'Rae Tullock added 13 as Middleton held off upset-minded Bishop Kelly 49-44 to win the district title Friday at Bishop Kelly High.
Both teams advance to next week's 4A state tournament at Mountain View High and the Idaho Center.
"It was a tough, physical game," Ah You said. "We were tired, but our hearts weren't tired, and that's what matters. We know we have a target on our back, but we don't want to lose, ever."
Middleton (23-0) had to dig deep against a feisty BK team bolstered by its home crowd. The Vikings faced a rare fourth-quarter deficit, but a late 9-0 run saved the day. Ah You, Cossins and Tullock scored all nine of those points, making clutch play after clutch play down the stretch.
"These kids have a history of seizing the game in the fourth quarter," Middleton coach Andy Jones said. "We made a nice run with some stops, some nice execution on offense and some second-chance points.
"They did what they needed to do to get the ballgame won."
Bishop Kelly (16-7) kept it close throughout, giving the Vikings a battle for the second time this season. Junior post Mikaela Murgoitio scored 10 points while freshman guard Gabi Harrington and sophomore forward Taylor Barda added eight points apiece for the balanced Knights, who got baskets from nine players. Middleton's starting five scored all of the Vikings' points.
"We played really hard and had a great chance," BK coach Derek McCormick said. "Middleton is a dynasty, no question. But we believe we can make some noise at state, and we want to be the team that finally beats them, just like everybody else."
Ah You, a senior guard, made 10-of-12 free throws, including four in the final 2 minutes. Tullock, a junior post, had a game-high nine rebounds, including a huge put-back during the game-deciding run. Cossins scored 10 second-half points and had six rebounds, while senior guard Celeste Pantoja finished with eight boards, six assists and four points.
Cossins, a junior forward, said Friday's game was a fitting tune-up for the state tournament, where the Vikings will seek their fourth consecutive 4A championship.
"We know we're going to be in really tough games, just like tonight," Cossins said. "But we know if we keep cool, all our hard work will pay off in the end."
NOTE: In Friday's third-place game, Nampa outlasted Skyview 52-48 in double overtime to clinch District Three's third and final state berth.