Girls High School Basketball

Battle of No. 1 vs. No. 1 4A girls basketball teams decided by rebounding, defense

Middleton guard Emmerson Sauer pushes the ball upcourt against by Bishop Kelly’s Olivia Kent in a rematch of last year’s 4A state championship game on Friday at Bishop Kelly High.
Middleton guard Emmerson Sauer pushes the ball upcourt against by Bishop Kelly’s Olivia Kent in a rematch of last year’s 4A state championship game on Friday at Bishop Kelly High. doswald@idahostatesman.com

The calendar switched to another season. But the script, and the result, remained the same.

The Middleton High girls basketball team used its suffocating man-to-man defense, deep rotation and a dominating rebounding performance to beat Bishop Kelly 47-39 on Friday night at Bishop Kelly High.

The victory triggered a sense of deja vu as Middleton (6-1, 4-0 4A SIC) has won four straight over Bishop Kelly (6-2, 4-1), including last year’s district and state title games.

Both teams remain loaded and entered Friday tied atop the latest state media poll. But Middleton coach Andy Jones cautioned against reading too much into Round 1 of what’s sure to be a multiple-round battle between the perennial powerhouses.

“I told the kids right after the game that I’m proud we found a way to come in here and win,” Jones said. “And I’m proud of our defense and our rebounding, but I’m not sure either team would say they played their best basketball.”

Middleton took control of the game early when it mounted a 12-0 run to build a 10-point lead early in the second quarter. Bishop Kelly could never pull any closer than six points the rest of the way as the Vikings held a 39-21 rebounding advantage and limited the Knights to a season-low 39 points.

Junior Haley Robinett led the rebounding assualt with a game-high 11 boards.

“Our coach always tells us rebounding wins games,” Middleton senior guard Meriah Deugan said. “When we work in practice, we work on a lot of rebounding drills, and it helps we have a lot of taller girls on our team.”

Deugan led Middleton on both ends of the court, locking up reigning 4A All-Idaho Player of the Year Lydia Nieto in man-to-man defense all night. Her club teammate finished with 16 points, but Deugan kept her from erupting and taking over the game.

Deugan also finished with 16 points, shooting 9 for 12 from the free-throw line.

“She played big tonight,” Jones said. “She picked up the slack because we have other kids who can put the ball in the basket, and they were a little off tonight.”

Bishop Kelly coach Derek McCormick said his team’s sluggish performance mirrored the way it has practiced all season. With 10 returning players from last year’s state runner-up, the Knights have the talent to make another run at a title. But McCormick said they won’t get past Middleton if their intensity doesn’t pick up.

“Until we take that next step up, it’s going to be the same result every time we play them,” McCormick said.

BK BOYS ROLL

The No. 3-ranked Bishop Kelly boys team cruised past Emmett 58-39 in the nightcap Friday of the school’s Silent Knight tradition, where the crowd remains silent until BK scores its sixth point.

Fans didn’t have to wait long as the Knights shot 51.4 percent from the floor, built a 17-11 lead in the first quarter and never trailed.

Max Rice and Danny Oliver-Connelly led Bishop Kelly (3-4, 2-1) with 12 points and six rebounds each. Cole Elliott paced Emmett (4-3, 1-2) with eight points and eight rebounds.

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

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