After starting as a freshman, Vallivue’s Amoro Lado only played two games and hadn’t scored all season as he battled his grades and worked his way back into in his coaches’ graces.
The sophomore made up for lost time Thursday, pouring in a game-high 29 points to lead Vallivue to a 70-56 win over Burley in the first round of the 4A boys basketball state tournament at Borah High.
“This was obviously, hands down, the best game of his career,” Vallivue coach Ryan Lundgren said. “He came out here with a chip on his shoulder.
“The kid has got God-given ability and athleticism, but it’s always been the mental side of the game. This year, at semester, he really turned a corner and started bringing it a ton at practice, doing the right things in the classroom, getting his grades up. He earned his spot back.”
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The win allows Vallivue (19-7) to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2008, where it will face Idaho Falls (13-12) at 8 p.m. Friday at Borah.
Lundgren said Lado took his indefinite suspension hard at the beginning of the season. But as the Falcons started winning, Lado realized the work he needed to put in to not be left behind.
He played five junior varsity games, then played a handful of garbage-time minutes at the end of the regular season and in the district tournament.
“I just learned not to take things for granted,” the Egyptian-born Lado said. “It’s not just all about you. I’ve got to focus on the team and other people.”
Lundgren opted to unleash him on the defensive end Thursday on Burley junior point guard Ryan Bagley, who scored 17 hard-earned points. Everything else — the 9-for-14 shooting, including 3-for-4 from the 3-point line — was a bonus.
“I told him before the game, you don’t have to score one point tonight for me to keep you on the floor,” Lundgren said. “You have to rebound and you have to be the best defender out there. You do that, you’re going to play.
“Obviously, he did a little bit of both.”
Lado took over the third quarter, scoring 17 points, including a fadeway 3-pointer at the buzzer that stretched Vallivue’s lead to 15 entering the fourth quarter. The Bobcats (16-8) never threatened again.
“I had adrenaline running, going fast,” Lado said. “It was a fun experience.”