In tightly contested games at the state tournaments, role players often make the difference.
Bishop Kelly and Vallivue both proved that adage Thursday to punch their tickets to the semifinals of the 4A boys basketball state tournament.
Bishop Kelly (20-4) advances to take on defending state champ Preston (21-4) at 6 p.m. Friday at Borah High in a rematch of last year’s title game. Meanwhile, Vallivue (19-7) rode a surprising sophomore into a date with Idaho Falls (13-12) at 8 p.m. at Borah.
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VALLIVUE 70, BURLEY 56
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 the semifinals for the first time since 2008.
“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.”
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 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.”
BISHOP KELLY 68, JEROME 42
Bishop Kelly saved its most dominant performance of the year for Thursday, running away with a 26-point victory to cruise into the state semifinals.
“Tomorrow, it’s going to be about who plays more as a team,” Bishop Kelly coach Ryan Kerns said of the rematch with Preston. “That’s going to be our goal together — play as a team, play fast. When we do that, we put ourselves in great positions.”
Jerome (15-11) never could match or adjust to Bishop Kelly’s breakneck speed, committing 20 turnovers against the Knights’ 1-2-2 three-quarter court trap. With the 6-3 Bronson King at the top, the Tigers hesitated to bring the ball across halfcourt, getting whistled for several 10-second backcourt violations.
“We’ve put some defensive presses in to play the game at our tempo,” Bishop Kelly senior Vince Sengelmann said. “We put some new ones in this week, and they’re working out for us.”
Sengelmann led the Knights with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting and eight rebounds after a sprained ankle sidelined starter Raoul Johnson. Kerns said Johnson is questionable for Friday.
“He just played the same role, to be honest, that he’s been doing every game for us,” Kerns said of Sengelmann. “But in this game, his minutes got maximized because he and Raoul can’t share time anymore.”
King added 12 points, Max Rice totaled nine points and six assists, and Jacob Russell added eight points and eight rebounds.
Logan Geist scored 13 to pace Jerome, which faces Moscow (8-12) in the consolation semifinals at 1:15 p.m. Friday at Borah.
IDAHO FALLS 54, MIDDLETON 44
After scouting Idaho Falls, Middleton coach Alex Maxwell decided he could live with whatever Austin Staker provided the Tigers.
Staker proved him wrong Thursday, hitting 8-of-8 shots and 6-of-6 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 23 points to lead Idaho Falls to its first state tournament victory since 1999.
“We took the gamble thinking if we stay in his lap, he’s not going to kill us,” Maxwell said. “But as you can see, scrambling around, we got away from him and he hit shots. He hit wide-open 3s, and half of them were over a hand.
“If a kid makes 6-for-6 from 3, then you’re probably in trouble. He was clutch.”
Middleton (16-9) cut the lead to one point in the third quarter and three in the fourth. But the Vikings’ couldn’t get over the hump and trailed throughout the second half.
“We kind of fell apart as far as executing and taking our time,” Maxwell said. “We panicked a little bit.”
Idaho Falls 6-6 forward Sawyer Storms controlled the game throughout, racking up 15 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and a pair of two-handed dunks. The second put the game away at 51-43 with 2:29 left in the fourth quarter.
David Kofoed scored 11 points, and Carter Arrasmith, Tyler Wilson and Reece Robinett each added seven for the Vikings, who face Burley (16-8) at 3 p.m. Friday at Borah in the consolation semifinals.
PRESTON 77 MOSCOW 46
The defending state champ cruised through the opening round, shooting 59.6 percent from the floor.
Derek Wadsworth led Preston with game highs in points (18) and assists (five), and Bodee Hymas added 12 points.