New Plymouth’s undersized girls basketball team has out-worked, out-ran and out-hustled its way to a lot of wins this season.
But during Friday night’s 2A state semifinals, a cold-shooting second half against the defending state champs proved too much for the scrappy Pilgrims to overcome. Soda Springs freshman Reagan Yamauchi scored 17 points, and the Cardinals held New Plymouth to just 16 percent shooting in the second half as Soda earned a 49-40 victory at Kuna High.
Soda Springs (21-5) will defend its title versus West Jefferson (21-5) at 1:40 p.m. Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center. New Plymouth (19-5) faces West Side (18-9) in the 11 a.m. third-place game at Kuna High.
“I was super-happy with the grit the girls showed,” New Plymouth coach Denise Oliver said. “They’ve known all year that’s the only way we can win, as small as we are. But when you get to this point against a team as good as Soda Springs is, you’ve got to make shots. We just didn’t make enough of them.”
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New Plymouth hung tough in the early going, shooting 55 percent through two quarters. Sophomore guard Kenzie White, who led the Pilgrims with 12 points, provided a spark off the bench as New Plymouth went into halftime down just one, 26-25.
“They’re not big in size, but they’re big in heart and big in work ethic,” Soda Springs coach Wade Schvaneveldt said of the Pilgrims. “They really pushed us.”
But in the second half, New Plymouth’s long-range jumpers and open drives to the hoop began to dry up. Soda Springs scored the first six points of the second half to seize control, while New Plymouth went scoreless until White’s 3-pointer with 2:59 left in the third quarter.
“New Plymouth is a really good shooting team,” Yamauchi said. “But in the second half, we picked up our defensive intensity, and then our offense came.”
Soda Springs’ size advantage also became a factor. The Cardinals enjoyed a 32-24 rebounding advantage and closed out on shooters, limiting the Pilgrims to 5-of-30 shooting from the field after halftime.
“We’re one of the shortest teams around, and they had some good post players,” White said. “But our shots just didn’t fall in the second half, and I think that could have won us the game.”
Senior guard Callie Gronning scored 12 points for Soda Springs, with 6-foot-1 sophomore post Jessie Belnap chipping in eight points and seven rebounds.
Junior guard Brianna Killion had a strong all-around game for New Plymouth, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and four assists.