If the Caldwell Cougars were going to buck a drought older than most of their players, the way it went down Thursday could not have been a better way to do it.
The Cougars hammered the Lakeland Hawks 44-21 in the opening round of the 4A girls basketball state tournament at Timberline High, resting their starters the entire fourth quarter.
It was Caldwell’s first state tournament win since 2001. In its third state appearance in the last four years, the Cougars got that elusive win to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
[Related: 5A SIC dominates on Day 1 at state]
“I just came in the locker room and was like, ‘That’s a monkey off our backs, girls,’ ” Caldwell coach Ashley Green said. “It’s been 0-2, 0-2 each trip.”
Caldwell (20-5) didn’t just remove that monkey from its back, it sent it flying. The Cougars trailed 4-0 early, then after Green called a timeout to calm her team, they went off on a 23-0 run.
“That was a huge thing for us and for our confidence, it had been hard coming here, not coming away with a win,” Green said. “I told them last year we’d be back and that wasn’t going to happen again.”
Though Lakeland (10-12) was not exactly the 4A favorite, the Hawks offered a challenge in 6-foot-4 sophomore post Katy Ryan. To counter Ryan’s presence, the Cougars went to their strength — the transition game — used a zone to often double Ryan and used their posts to draw her from the basket.
Ryan led Lakeland with seven points, six rebounds and three blocks, but never consistently got into a rhythm. The Hawks were 9-of-40 from the field.
“We do a really good job of pushing the ball, and our post, Aaliyah Kennedy, did a good job pulling her out and letting me attack,” Caldwell senior forward Jalen Callender said. “We move well without the ball, and we definitely did that today.”
During the Cougars’ huge run, Callender scored 10 straight points. She outscored Lakeland by herself, 16-15, in the first three quarters, shooting 7-of-10 from the field, and was able to take a seat for the entire fourth quarter.
“Jalen puts herself in exactly the right position, that was a beautiful matchup, and she’s one of the smartest basketball players I’ve coached,” Green said of the College of Southern Idaho commit.
Green was an assistant coach on that 2000-01 squad that won a state championship. Callender was not yet two months old.
With a long-awaited tournament win, and its starters rested for Friday’s semifinal, the Cougars couldn’t help but make their relief obvious.
“We know our mission, and now we know we’re capable of doing it, so we can feel good that we are able do it again and get to the championship,” Callender said.
Middleton 44, Mountain Home 36
Experience was on the Middleton Vikings’ side, and it showed.
The Vikings, who won the 4A state championship in 2017 and took third last year, jumped out to a 10-0 lead Thursday in their first-round game against the Mountain Home Tigers.
A dominant start was all Middleton needed, holding off a strong comeback in the final quarter for a trip to the semifinals.
“That start was something I was afraid of, because none of our girls had been to state,” Mountain Home coach Brent Keener said.
Middleton (23-2) senior forward Lexi Mitchell had seven of the Vikings’ first 10 points and finished with a game-high 13. Having the veteran step up was big, but Mountain Home didn’t have the only newbie.
Freshman guard Payton Hymas came off the bench with 12 points for the Vikings, including back-to-back 3-pointers in 50 seconds to start the second quarter, as Middleton led 23-6 with 2:30 left in the first half.
“It was huge. Basketball is a lot of a mind game, we were able to set the tone early, and our bench does a great job of keeping it hyped for us,” Mitchell said.
Middleton coach Nichole Williamson said of Hymas: “She came up big for us … it’s what you hope for. What a way to have a breakout freshman season, to show up in the state tournament.”
The Vikings’ calling card this season has been their defense, which came into the tournament allowing the fewest points per game in 4A (32.6). It was on display early, as Mountain Home (19-6) scored just 12 first-half points and shot 22.7 percent (5-of-22) from the field.
But the Tigers were not going away easily, outscoring the Vikings 24-17 in the second half. Mountain Home got within five points at 39-34 when Emalee Pippin hit 1-of-2 free throws with 3 minutes remaining, but couldn’t cut further into the lead. Pippin’s 12 points paced the Tigers.
Mountain Home was 8-of-21 from the free-throw line, Middleton was 17-of-26.
“We had some good looks, had tired legs and Middleton made their free throws,” Keener said. “We were awful from the line and they were good.”
Middleton had allowed just one field goal in the fourth quarter in each of its last two wins in the district tournament. The Vikings allowed six total fourth-quarter points in those games, but Mountain Home had 14 on Thursday.
However, when it got close, that experience, and the confidence that comes with it, paid off.
“We knew what we were capable of doing — in a timeout, (Williamson) said, ‘This is it, this is our game’ when they got it to five, and we put our foot down,” Mitchell said.
▪ Century 45, Blackfoot 42: Ashton Adamson’s layup with 30 seconds to play gave Century some breathing room after a late Blackfoot push to get as close as 42-40. Century (25-0) led 41-33 with 2 minutes to go and held on to set up a semifinal showdown with Middleton. All five Century players who scored had eight, nine or 10 points, while Olivia Arave had 14 points to lead Blackfoot (21-5). Century had beaten 4A opponents by an average of 21.4 points per game coming in.
▪ Minico 57, Hillcrest 47: Taylia Stimpson scored 23 points to put Minico in a semifinal against Caldwell. Maycee Stenquist scored 19 for Hillcrest, which led by three after the first quarter but fell behind by halftime.
Here’s what happened from 3A to 1A:
▪ Sugar-Salem 57, Bonners Ferry 31: Sugar-Salem rolled and improved its record to 22-2 behind 18 points from Macie Knapp. Holly Ansley scored 13 for Bonners Ferry.
▪ Homedale 48, Buhl 35: Alex Grant scored 21 points and Amaya Carter added 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Trojans led from start to finish. Emily Gorrell scored 23 for Buhl.
▪ Timberlake 49, Teton 26: Timberlake used a dominant third quarter to pull away. Brooke Jessen led the charge with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
▪ Parma 38, Snake River 24: The Panthers prevailed in a battle between a pair of two-loss teams. Parma held Snake River to 19 percent shooting and Madison Jackson scored 18 points. Adyson Harris added nine points and 12 rebounds. Josee Steadman topped Snake River with 10 points.
▪ West Jefferson 51, Declo 40: The Panthers erased a five-point halftime deficit with a dominant third quarter, outscoring the Hornets 14-3. Jordi Holdaway scored 19 points, dished five assists and grabbed six steals for West Jefferson. Mattie Ramsey scored 24 for Declo.
▪ Melba 45, Malad 43: Melba got a winning defensive stop to improve to 23-1. Kate Clark scored 15 points for the Mustangs and Mary Ellen Cossel added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Shawnee Simpson led Malad with 16 points and 10 boards.
▪ Soda Springs 50, Grangeville 29: The Cardinals improved to 25-0 and won their 51st straight game with 12 points from Sadie Gronning and a double-double from Reagan Yamauchi (10 points, 11 rebounds). Paige Lindsley scored 12 points for Grangeville.
▪ Cole Valley Christian 41, Ririe 35: Cole Valley overcame a 10-point, second-half deficit to move into the semifinals. Anna Veeck (13 points) and Lyndsie Krogh (12) led the Chargers. Indee Williams scored 17 for Ririe.
1A Division I
▪ Shoshone 32, Liberty Charter 19: The Indians’ stifling defense limited the Patriots to 25 percent shooting and just eight field goals in the contest. Bailee Owens led Shoshone (22-1) with nine points and 10 rebounds. Madison Hodnett scored seven points and grabbed 10 boards for Liberty Charter.
▪ Prairie 78, Notus 31: Prairie made 54 percent of its shots in the first half and rolled into the semifinals. Four Prairie players scored either 13 or 14 points, with Theresa Wemhoff going 6-for-9 from the field. Destiny Quebrado posted 16 points for Notus.
▪ Genesee 40, Grace 33: Genesee broke open a tie game with a dominant fourth quarter. Bailey Leseman led the way with 12 points. Breanna Hill scored 12 for Grace.
▪ Lapwai 78, Rimrock 30: Lapwai scored 24 points in the second quarter of a lopsided win. Three Wildcats scored in double figures and all 13 players on the roster scored at least two points. Laura Gasper contributed 10 points for the Raiders.
1A Division II
▪ Sho-Ban 54, Kendrick 50: Harley Jackson (20 points) and Reesha Pokibro (16) combined to score two-thirds of Sho-Ban’s points. Erin Morgan contributed 16 points and a stunning 22 rebounds for Kendrick.
▪ Salmon River 59, Dietrich 43: Salmon River improved to 20-2, setting up a battle of 20-win teams in the semifinal against Sho-Ban. Chevelle Shepherd scored a game-high 22 points for Salmon River. Matigan Bingham scored 15 for Dietrich.
▪ Nezperce 46, Genesis Prep 42: Sydney Boyer (19 points) and Hannah Stapleton (16) did just enough damage to hold off Genesis Prep. Bella Murekatete racked up 20 points, 17 rebounds, six blocks and four steals for the Jaguars.
▪ Carey 41, Rockland 30: Carey broke open a tie game with a 15-5 third quarter. Kylie Wood scored 21 of the team’s 41 points. Madalyn Permann scored 10 for Rockland.