After watching Sandpoint High senior Grace Kirscher rack up 13 points, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals by halftime against his Middleton High girls basketball team, Vikings coach Andy Jones had a question.
“Are you going to take a break?” Jones asked Kirscher as she prepared to take the court for the start of the second half.
Kirscher did not take a break — playing all 32 minutes while collecting a game-high 22 points — but the Eastern Washington commit’s output couldn’t match Middleton’s well-rounded effort in the first round of the 4A state tournament Thursday at Mountain View High.
The defending state champions held Kirscher to a single basket in the fourth quarter on their way to a 46-35 win, earning a semifinal showdown with Century (18-6) at 6:15 p.m. Friday.
“The Kirscher girl was as advertised. We knew we had our hands full,” Jones said. “... Switching Meriah (Deugan) on her — she’s a smaller, quicker kid — was a huge difference.”
Deugan, a senior guard, missed all three of the Vikings’ district tournament games with a concussion, and Thursday’s state opener was her first game action in two weeks. Deugan sustained the concussion when she took a charge against Emmett on Jan. 30, hitting her head on the hardwood.
She had to take a week off from school to recover, and Middleton (19-6) lost 58-43 to Bishop Kelly in the district championship game without her.
“(Deugan) is our best perimeter defender, and I think her sister (Daycee Deugan), they play better when they’re together,” Jones said. “It’s just kind of ‘Wonder Twin’ power with those two.”
While Meriah was locked in on defending Kirscher, the trio of Lexi Mitchell, Zoey Moore and Haley Robinett led the Vikings’ offensive charge. Mitchell and Moore each scored 13 points, and Robinett added 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Vikings outrebounded the Bulldogs 33-18, including 16 second-chance points, and outscored the District One-Two champions 12-5 in the fourth quarter to pull away.
“Rebounding is just a huge emphasis with us. We talk about it every timeout. We talk about it every day in practice,” Jones said.
With five state titles at the 4A level, Middleton is the winningest program in the classification. The Vikings claimed four of five championships from 2008 to 2012 and beat Bishop Kelly for the state title last season.
“There’s a lot of history at Middleton, and winning one is great,” Jones said. “But you look up in the rafters and you see there’s one row, two rows, three rows (of banners). You want to be special.”
Bishop Kelly 59, Preston 44
Reigning 4A All-Idaho Player of the Year Lydia Nieto spent most of the second half on Bishop Kelly’s bench.
That wasn’t a bad thing.
The Knights (20-5) emptied their bench in a dominant first-round victory over the Indians (13-13) as 11 players logged playing time and three reached double figures.
“Everyone made a contribution,” said Bishop Kelly senior Theresa Reeping, who led all scorers with 18 points and eight rebounds. “There was energy on the bench and energy on the floor. ... When anyone got put in, they did their part.”
Juniors Monica Behrend (12 points) and Gabby Keefe (11 points) combined with Reeping for 28 of BK’s 33 points in the second half. Reeping and Keefe also grabbed 10 of the Knights’ 17 offensive rebounds.
“We don’t get 17 offensive rebounds in three games,” Bishop Kelly coach Derek McCormick said. “So that was big.”
Bishop Kelly moves into the semifinals for the third year in a row where it will face Burley (18-7). The Knights have finished as the state runners-up the past two seasons and won their only state title in 2013.
“I think we are experienced. We’re not just one person or two people,” McCormick said. “I think sometimes people look at us like that, but we have multiple players who are tough, and they may not look pretty on some of the things that they do, but they get it done.
“At the end of the day, that’s all you want is for them to get it done.”
Burley 40, Caldwell 25
Without a starter taller than 5-foot-8, the Cougars found themselves looking up against the Bobcats — literally.
Burley used a significant size advantage to control the boards and disrupt Caldwell’s shooting rhythm to advance to Friday’s 8 p.m. semifinal against Bishop Kelly.
Jemilynn Mahoney, a 6-1 senior post, contributed a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Hallie Cook notched a game-leading 15 points for the Bobcats.
“I said keep your head up because we controlled everything that we can control,” said Caldwell coach William Rodgers, whose team was charged for 14 fouls to Burley’s seven. “We can’t control the officials and how they come out. I think that (Burley) was able to do whatever they wanted, and we couldn’t, which kind of restricts us, and I’m sad that it comes to that. I don’t usually say that. I don’t like saying that.”
The smaller, faster Cougars (18-6), who were outrebounded 40-20, were led by Katrina Vallejo with nine points.
3A: Parma falls
South Fremont dominated the third quarter with a 17-4 scoring edge, and that was the difference as the Cougars upended the Panthers 42-29. Olivia LeCheminant scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Cougars. Darcie Condie scored nine points for the Panthers, who shot 21.8 percent. South Fremont plays Snake River in the semifinals.
Macie Knapp scored 24 points earlier in the day for Sugar-Salem, which will face Timberlake in the semifinals.
2A: Melba in showdown
The first 2A semifinal should be one of the top matchups of the entire girls basketball tournament. Melba (23-0) and Soda Springs (24-1) have combined for just one loss this season.
Melba walloped New Plymouth 48-19 in the quarterfinals. Kate Clark scored 17 points, including three 3-pointers, and grabbed four steals. The Mustangs held the Pilgrims to 31 percent shooting and forced 34 turnovers. Reagan Yamauchi went 8-for-10 from the field for 21 points as Soda Springs put three players in double figures while beating West Jefferson 59-34.
Ririe (21-4) and Cole Valley Christian (18-4) will meet on the other side of the bracket. Holly Golenor (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Madeline Cooke (15 points, 12 rebounds) recorded double-doubles for Cole Valley in a 54-49 win against St. Maries.
1A Division I: Local wipeout
Ambrose didn’t score in the second half of a 47-9 loss to Shoshone and Lapwai beat Liberty Charter 57-40, so District Three is out of the title hunt. Shoshone will meet Prairie, which got 18 points from India Peery, in the semifinals. Oakley and Lapwai will play on the other side of the bracket. The four semifinalists have a combined nine losses this season.
1A Division II: Tri-Valley loses
Tri-Valley, the only District Three team in the field, lost 60-47 to Genesis Prep. The semifinals feature Genesis Prep vs. Sho-Ban and Nezperce vs. Butte County. Bella Murekateta scored 33 points and snagged 10 rebounds for Genesis Prep.