Boys High School Basketball

They were 5-6. Now they’re district champs — and riding a 12-game win streak to state.

Bishop Kelly guard Henry Hunter scores while being fouled by Skyview’s Jayson Hibbard during the 4A District Three championship game Saturday.
Bishop Kelly guard Henry Hunter scores while being fouled by Skyview’s Jayson Hibbard during the 4A District Three championship game Saturday.

The previous time the Bishop Kelly High boys basketball team played at Skyview, the Knights allowed 86 points.

On Saturday night, they allowed 56 – an improvement symbolic of how the Knights transformed themselves from 5-6 early in the season to 4A District Three champions.

Second-seeded Bishop Kelly beat top-seeded Skyview 60-56 in the district final. The Knights won their 12th straight game and took the district title for the third consecutive year and fourth time in five years.

“Winning 12 straight going into state is a big deal,” said senior point guard Rex Irby, who contributed five points, six assists and four steals. “We have all the momentum in the world.”

BK (17-6) will open the state tournament at 8 p.m. Thursday at Borah against Century (15-11). Skyview (18-6) plays at 3 p.m. against Moscow (10-13) but likely will have to deal with undefeated Preston in the semifinals.

This is the 14th time in the past 15 seasons that either Bishop Kelly or Skyview has won the district title. BK leads Skyview 8-6 in titles during that span.

But as strong as the Knights have been in recent years, they have struggled mightily at Skyview. Boise State-bound senior Max Rice, who scored 26 points, never had beaten the Hawks on their home floor.

“We knew we were going to have to come out and answer all the runs they make at their home court,” Rice said.

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Bishop Kelly senior Max Rice scores on a drive to the basket defended by Skyview’s Cayden Wright and Jayson Hibbard in the 4A District Three championship game Saturday. Darin Oswald

Skyview led 30-29 at halftime thanks in large part to 17 points from point guard Chris Kielman, who was red hot. Rice was 4-for-15 at the half.

But their fortunes switched in the second half, with Rice scoring eight quick points in the third quarter to spark the Knights to a 12-point lead. Kielman only scored two points in the second half.

“Rex really put the clamps on him,” Rice said.

Skyview’s Brady Taylor took advantage of the Knights’ focus on Kielman with two 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to bring the Hawks back within two. They drew even at 56-56 with about 2 minutes to go.

Bishop Kelly’s Henry Hunter, who was 3-for-3 from the field, delivered two key plays to give the Knights the win. He made a floater in the lane seconds after Skyview tied it and grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed free throw when BK only led by two.

Hunter passed to Rice, who was fouled and made two free throws for the 60-56 lead.

“(Hunter) is our glue guy,” Rice said. “He does stuff like that for us every game. That definitely won us the game right there, that rebound.”

The Knights finished with 13 assists to nine turnovers (Skyview was minus-3) and shot 56.5 percent from the field in the second half. They have averaged five more assists per game during the second half of the season.

That passing has combined with the major defensive improvement to put Bishop Kelly in contention for the state title.

“We’ve really grown as a team as far as hunting for assists, and when we do that we’re tough because our guys are real strong attacking the rim,” coach Ryan Kerns said. “When they’re looking to pass out of that spot, it seems like we’re putting the defense in a tough spot and our guys are making shots in big moments.”

Vallivue 46, Emmett 33

Amaro Lado scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Falcons to the state tournament with a win in the third-place game. Mike Fitts added 11 points in a game the Falcons controlled throughout.

Brett Kern contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (12-12).

Vallivue (16-9) will play Burley (19-4) at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the state tournament.

Chadd Cripe: 208-377-6398, @chaddcripe