The balance of power in 4A girls basketball has see-sawed back and forth between Middleton and Bishop Kelly the past two seasons.
Middleton claimed supremacy last season as the district and state champions, and the Vikings ended this season as the state’s No. 1-ranked team. But No. 2 Bishop Kelly tipped the scales in its favor Saturday — for now — running past the Vikings for a 58-43 victory in the 4A District Three Tournament championship game at Ridgevue High.
“It’s really big for us,” Bishop Kelly senior guard Lydia Nieto said of knocking off Middleton. “It’s definitely more of a confidence boost than anything. It really showed the potential that we have and showed that if we play as a team, we can really be unstoppable.”
Both teams already had secured state tournament berths before Saturday. The victory earns Bishop Kelly (19-5) the top seed at state, where it will face Preston (13-12) in the first round at 8 p.m. Thursday at Mountain View High.
Middleton (18-6) takes on Sandpoint (14-8) at 3 p.m. Thursday at Mountain View.
Nieto led the charge for Bishop Kelly on Saturday, pouring in a game-high 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including 5-for-10 behind the 3-point line.
The reigning 4A All-Idaho Player of the Year took over the game in the first half, erupting for 17 points. She boosted her total to 22 after three quarters as the Knights built a 20-point lead entering the fourth quarter on their way to their third district title in four years.
“She didn’t carry us. She ignited us,” Bishop Kelly coach Derek McCormick said. “I think that’s the best word. She ignited us.
“I’m glad for her because at the beginning of the season, she had a rough start from her shooting percentage. The second half of the season, she really picked it up.”
Nieto wasn’t alone as Bishop Kelly finished the game shooting 48.5 percent (17-for-35) from the floor and 50 percent (9-for-18) behind the arc. Senior forward Theresa Reeping added 10 points and six rebounds for the Knights, Andrea Wilson scored six points off the bench and Hannah Heaton chipped in five points.
Middleton had owned Bishop Kelly the past two years, using its superior size to dominate the rebounding category and edge the Knights in the district and state championship games last season, as well as a December matchup this year.
But Bishop Kelly held its own on the glass Saturday, outrebounding the Vikings 27-25 and pushing the seventh meeting in two years to a faster pace the Knights favor.
“Playing them so many times, we finally figured out, not their weaknesses, but how to use our strengths against them,” Nieto said.
Middleton coach Andy Jones said his team rebounded and defended well, but it caught Bishop Kelly on a night it couldn’t miss. The rivals remain on opposite sides of the state tournament bracket, making a rematch in the final possible.
“Sometimes you’ve got to shake the other team’s hand and tell them, ‘Good game,’ ” Jones said. “Hopefully they’ll cool off a bit by the end of next week.”
CALDWELL PUNCHES TICKET TO STATE
Caldwell rallied from an eight-point, halftime deficit to beat Emmett 60-50 in the 4A District Three Tournament third-place game.
The win clinches the Cougars their second state tournament berth in three years. Caldwell (18-5) will face Burley (17-7) at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at Mountain View High.
Jade Martinez led Caldwell with 18 points and eight rebounds, Katrina Vallejo added 15 points and Jalen Callender finished with 10 points as the Cougars shot 12-for-24 from the floor in the second half.
HEADED TO STATE
Seventeen teams from the Treasure Valley qualified for the high schools girls basketball state tournaments, which start Thursday at locations around the Valley.
- Eagle (24-0)
- Borah (18-5)
- Mountain View (17-7)
- Capital (18-5)
- Boise (16-10)
- Bishop Kelly (19-5)
- Middleton (18-6)
- Caldwell (18-5)
- Parma (20-3)
- Homedale (11-12)
- Melba (22-0)
- Cole Valley Christian (17-4)
- New Plymouth (20-5)
Class 1A Division I
- Rimrock (18-5)
- Liberty Charter (17-7)
- Ambrose (17-7)
Class 1A Division II
- Tri-Valley (13-7)