As Skyview tried to inbound the ball late in the third quarter Tuesday, Middleton coach Dale Karst called out to his team from the far side of the court.
“They’re running Hawk,” Karst bellowed, predicting the play Skyview was about to run.
The Vikings adjusted, denied Skyview’s first option after inbounding and eventually forced an errant pass to no one near the Skyview bench.
The stop was one of many Tuesday night as top-seeded Middleton held Skyview to 25.6 percent shooting for a 48-27 victory in the 4A District Three boys basketball semifinals. The win guarantees Middleton (10-12) a state tournament berth for the second year in a row, and gives the defending district champ a chance to defend its title when it hosts Bishop Kelly (13-5) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“I’m really proud of these kids and the way they handled adversity,” Karst said. “Our preseason is loaded with 5A teams, and we took our lumps, but they never quit on each other.”
The season got off to a rough start as Middleton loaded its schedule with 5A powers like Borah, Centennial and Coeur d’Alene. The losing stretched into league play as the Vikings dropped their first two games, leaving them 5-10 overall.
But Middleton rebounded, rallied to clinch the top seed at district and finds itself back in the district title game with five wins in its past seven games.
“We knew the mistakes we were making, and we knew how to fix them,” said Middleton junior post Reece Robinett, who scored a game-high 17 points. “It was just a matter of time. We figured it out eventually, and, right now, we’re rolling.”
Middleton never trailed Tuesday, jumping out to a 12-4 lead. Skyview (12-11) battled back twice, cutting the lead to six before another Viking run put them ahead 10 points. The Hawks rallied to cut that deficit to six by halftime.
Middleton’s 2-3 zone defense flummoxed Skyview all night, forcing the Hawks to idly pass the ball around the perimeter and drain the clock in order to find a weakness. They found few, and a 12-3 run to start the third quarter finally put Skyview away.
“Every day at practice we rep the 2-3 zone and going against it,” Robinett said. “We kill it every day in practice. Even our own players that know our plays can’t stop it. It’s just a matter of translating that into the games, which we didn’t do at the start of the season.”
Bishop Kelly 49, Kuna 48
Three Knights scored in double figures as Bishop Kelly held off Kuna to advance to state for the fourth year in a row.
Dan Sabala led all scorers with 15 points, while Max Rice scored 14 and Bronson King added 11 for BK (13-5), which shot just 26.2 percent from the field.
Kuna (10-11) will host the third-place game at 7 p.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s loser-out game between Caldwell (11-12) and Skyview.
5A: Rocky, Mtn. View qualify
Rocky Mountain defeated Timberline 56-36 and Mountain View beat Capital 45-42 at the 5A District Three Tournament on Tuesday. Rocky Mountain and Mountain View advance to next week’s state tournament in Nampa along with Centennial and Borah, who will play for the district championship Friday.