When tryouts began this winter, Bishop Kelly coach Derek McCormick didn’t know if he’d keep Theresa Reeping.
The junior forward rewarded her coach’s gamble throughout the season, and again Thursday.
Reeping scored a season-high 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds -- her third double-double in the last four games -- to lead the Knights to a 56-49 victory over Century in the first round of the 4A high school girls basketball tournament at Mountain View High.
The win vaults Bishop Kelly (19-7) into the 4A semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Mountain View against Twin Falls (16-7).
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McCormick missed the Knights’ summer program battling leukemia in Seattle. When he returned, he found a new toughness and dedication in Reeping.
“From when I was gone in Seattle to when I got back, she has totally changed,” McCormick said. “I don’t know what it is. But when I put my hand out to give her five, she about knocks it off.”
Reeping’s contributions went beyond the box score Thursday. Century’s 6-1 sophomore forward Chinma Njoku poses a matchup problem for any team in the state with her length and athleticism. But Reeping attacked her from the opening whistle to the final buzzer, saddling Njoku with foul trouble. Njoku finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds but only played 17 minutes, 42 seconds, opening the floor for the Knights’ guards.
“I just knew that I had to do my part for my team,” Reeping said. “Whether that was boxing out or making sure to play good defense, I just knew had to take care of my part.”
Century pulled within three points with 1:49 left on an Olivia Holt 3-pointer. But back-to-back buckets from Reeping keep the game out of reach for the Diamondbacks, who beat Bishop Kelly in last year’s 4A state championship.
McCormick pointed out Bishop Kelly only returned three players from that loss at the Idaho Center, so the win didn’t provide much revenge for the Knights’ players. Beating a program capable of winning back-to-back state titles meant more.
“We’re not the best basketball players in the world, but we just have a group of gritty kids,” McCormick said. “They came to play today.”