The anticipated matchup between No. 3 Bishop Kelly and No. 1 Minico came to fruition Thursday as three of the top four ranked teams advanced through the first day of the 4A high school girls state basketball tournament at Timberline High.
The only minor upset came in the day’s first game when No. 4 Century topped No. 2 Kuna 55-41.
The chalk bracket sets up a battle between Minico (22-3) and its deadly shooters and Bishop Kelly (19-5) and its athletic squad in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday at Timberline.
“People keep saying that’s supposed to be the state championship,” Bishop Kelly senior Gabi Harrington said. “It’s not. It’s the state semifinals, and we’ve just got to push to get through.”
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Defending state champ Century (19-4) and Sandpoint (14-9) square off in the other semifinal for the second straight year at 6:15 p.m. Friday.
BISHOP KELLY 48, RIGBY 37
Trying to return to the semis for the first time since 2013, Bishop Kelly turned to the only remaining player left from that squad.
Harrington, a freshman starter on the Knights’ only state champion team, dominated both ends of the floor Thursday, racking up 19 points, eight rebounds and five steals to lead Bishop Kelly to a first-round victory.
“She means a lot for us because the kids feed off of her,” Bishop Kelly coach Derek McCormick said. “She’s been here, done that. She’s capable of playing better. And I think she knows that too.”
The Montana signee took over the second quarter, starting it by gathering her own miss for an and-one putback. On the next possession, she caught an inbound pass at the top of the key and swished a 21-foot 3-pointer for a quick six points.
The 3 put Bishop Kelly ahead 20-11, and Rigby never drew any closer than five points the rest of the way.
The underdog Trojans (11-14) posed a matchup problem with their length, especially 6-3 center Kaitlyn Bell. But Bishop Kelly more than held its own inside the paint, out rebounding Rigby 42-37 and leading from the opening tip to the final whistle. The 5-10 Sophia Adams racked up eight rebounds to tie Harrington (5-9) for the team lead, and 5-7 Aubree Chatterton added six.
“We wanted it more,” Harrington said. “They’re slower, and we’re faster, which helped us. They’re stronger and bulkier, but we have more energy.”
MINICO 51, CALDWELL 34
Upstart Caldwell put a scare into the state’s top-ranked team and its array of shooters. But Minico found its shot in the fourth quarter to muzzle the Cougars.
Minico sank four straight 3-pointers over a three-minute stretch to extend a three-point lead into a 16-point one. Junior point guard Tayla Sayer started the streak with a pair of 3s early in the quarter after the Spartans struggled to find their shot.
“We needed the shots, and I thought I might as well,” Sayer said. “When we all start hitting shots, it pumps us up, and we get going and we play a lot harder and better.”
Minico shot 2-for-15 (13.3 percent) behind the arc in the first half before sinking 6-of-14 (42.9 percent) in the second half.
The 3s sparked a 14-1 run that finally put away Caldwell, which threatened from the start and held a lead as late as the 3:57 mark in the third quarter.
Making its first state appearance since 2001, Caldwell (17-9), drops into the consolation bracket, where it faces Rigby at 3 p.m. Friday.
CENTURY 55, KUNA 41
The defending state champs took a while to get going. But Century woke up in the second quarter and slowly pulled away to knock off Kuna.
Senior point guard Rian Rawlings and junior guard Katie Hiller each led the Diamondbacks with 13 points, with Rawlings sinking 10-of-12 free throws and Hiller 8-of-9. Century finished 29-of-36 (80.6 percent) from the line — including 16-of-19 in the fourth quarter — as it attacked the basket to jump start a stagnant offense and ward off a comeback.
Kuna made 9-of-25 (36 percent) of its free throws. But Kuna coach Alex Jensen wouldn’t narrow the loss to its performance at the line, pointing instead to a sluggish first half that saw the Kavemen earn just 24 possessions.
“That’s not us,” Jensen said. “We tried to pick up the pace in the second half, and we did. But we didn’t do anything with those possessions.”
Kuna (16-6) faces Burley (15-11) at 1:15 p.m. Friday in the consolation round searching for its first state tournament victory since 1995.
SANDPOINT 47, BURLEY 30
Fresh off pouring in a season-high 27 points to carry her team into the semifinals, Sandpoint’s Grace Kirscher sprinted up the stairs at Timberline High and made a beeline for one thing — a well-deserved hug from mom and dad.
With her team mired in an ugly first half, the 6-1 sophomore rescued Sandpoint in the third quarter. She drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to kick off an 8-minute stretch that saw her score 15 of her team’s 16 points with a mix of 3-pointers, steals that started fastbreak layups and even a 15-foot pull-up jumper.
“They were completely pressuring (Montana signee Madison Schoening), fouling her,” Kirscher said of her team’s No. 1-scoring option. “She had no way to get out, so I had to step up.”
Sandpoint sank 16-of-17 free throws in the final five minutes to ice the game, including a 7-for-7 performance from Kirscher.