Fresh off air balling a 3-pointer in the second quarter, Bishop Kelly senior Gabi Harrington plopped down on the bench, let out a long, frustrated sigh and peered up at the Ford Idaho Center ceiling.
The Montana-bound guard picked up two fouls in the opening 2 minutes, 25 seconds of the 4A girls basketball championship Saturday, part of early foul trouble and frustration throughout the lineup that forced Bishop Kelly to rotate subs for offense and defense in the first half.
The Knights’ bench carried them through the first quarter, but Century wore down the reserves, closing the half on a 14-2 run and never surrendering the lead on its way to a 55-45 victory to clinch its second straight title.
“The first half, we got out of our mix,” Bishop Kelly (20-6) coach Derek McCormick said. “We had three of our four best players with two fouls. We were having to go in and out, in and out.
“That was tough. That ruined our rhythm. If our rhythm wasn’t ruined at the beginning, maybe it would have been a different outcome at the end, or a lot closer at the end.”
Harrington earned both of her early fouls trying to guard 5-foot-11 post Sarah Grinnell in the paint as she scored her team’s first six points on her way to a game-high 18. Grinnell teamed with 6-1 Chinma Njoku, 6-foot Kaitlyn Christensen and 5-10 Naomi Behrend to overwhelm the Knights in the paint with a 42-27 rebounding advantage.
“We just lost our composure,” Harrington said. “I am the senior leader, and by getting those fouls, it kind of messed us up the whole game.”
Century (21-4) stretched its lead to 14 in the third quarter, but BK rallied to cut the deficit to three with 5:10 left in the fourth when Harrington drove the lane and dished off to Sophia Adams for a wide-open layup. The Diamondbacks’ size and clutch free-throw shooting — 11 for their last 14 — allowed Century to pull away.
“We just could not get a loose ball or a steal when we needed it, or maybe even a call when we needed it,” McCormick said. “Those types of things just weren’t going our way.”
Harrington finished with 17 points on 4-of-17 shooting, making up for an off night with an 8-for-12 performance at the free-throw line. She finished the trip to state three points shy of the 4A tournament scoring record (67) while adding seven rebounds and five steals.
“Having her leave is sad, not because of how many points she scores or how many rebounds that she gets, but just because I love being around that kid every single day,” said McCormick, a family friend who’s known Harrington since she was born.
“She’s a good player. She’s hard to coach, in a good way. She brings out the best in me, and hopefully I bring out the best in her.”
Century’s title defense marks the first back-to-back championship at the 4A level since Middleton won three straight between 2010-12. After graduating the 4A All-Idaho Player of the Year — Montana freshman Henny Hearn — Century entered the tournament with few expectations.
“Last year, there was a lot of pressure on us,” coach Chris Shuler said. “This year, these girls said, ‘You know what? There’s no pressure on us. We’re just going to play Century basketball.’ ”