No current member of the Middleton High girls basketball team had won a district championship — until Thursday.
That’s nearly heresy for Middleton, long the preeminent power in the 4A SIC and the state. But the Vikings returned the 4A District Three Tournament championship trophy to Middleton for the first time since 2013 with a 60-45 victory over Bishop Kelly, the two-time defending champ.
Both Middleton and Bishop Kelly had already secured their berths to next week’s state tournament before Thursday. But that couldn’t dampen the Vikings’ excitement as they stormed the court at Mountain Home High with their 13th straight victory.
“Every year, we’ve come up really close and we’ve just pushed and pushed to get back to where we were because Middleton used to be a really big powerhouse,” said senior forward Sage Huggins, the only Viking to ever suit up in a state tournament.
Middleton (18-6) will face Minico (16-8) in the first round of the 4A state tournament at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 at Mountain View High. Bishop Kelly (18-7) will take on two-time defending state champ Century (15-7) at 6:15 p.m.
Middleton used its trademark man-to-man defense to suffocate Bishop Kelly from the opening tip. The Knights missed their first six shots as the Vikings built a 7-0 lead, a lead they held the rest of the night.
Blessed with depth, Middleton coach Andy Jones rotated his 10-player-deep bench with a new lineup of five players every four minutes. That allowed the Vikings to keep their defensive intensity high and kept Bishop Kelly from landing a fatal blow.
“We’ve obviously had some good teams. But I’m not sure we’ve had a team where the (first) five and the (second) five are so evenly matched. If we scrimmaged, I’m not sure who would win from one day to the next.”
Freshman guard Zoey Moore led Middleton with a game-high 16 points, while Meriah Deugan and Rilee Moser each added nine.
The Vikings head into the state tournament as the 4A classification’s No. 1-ranked team and as its hottest. But Jones knows neither of those facts matter.
Middleton’s last district title came in 2013, stretching the Vikings’ winning streak to 72 games, then the longest in the nation. But Twin Falls upset Middleton in the first round at state.
“It’s a new season. It’s basically a one-game season,” Jones said. “We’ve got to go win Thursday. And then after that, whatever. But we’ve got to win Thursday.”
SKYVIEW 50, CALDWELL 42
Nat Robison scored a game-high 16 points and added 10 rebounds to lead Skyview (12-11) to a third-place finish at the 4A District Three Tournament, which secures the Hawks their third trip to state in four years.
Madie Edwards added 12 points for Skyview, which will face Twin Falls (15-7) in the first round at 8 p.m. Feb. 16 at Mountain View High.
5A: Eagle, Centennial square off
No. 1 Eagle (22-1) and No. 2 Centennial (20-3) will play for the 5A District Three title at 7 p.m. Friday at Mountain View High.
The Mustangs have won 14 straight games, including a 62-49 victory at Centennial on Jan. 24. The Mustangs also beat the Patriots 53-40 in December. But Eagle’s lone district title came in 1998.
Centennial, which allowed a total of 58 points in tournament wins over Capital and Mountain View, seeks its second championship in three seasons.
The Patriots’ only other loss came to Borah on Jan. 20, while Eagle’s lone blemish was by one point to Mountain View on Dec. 13.