BOISE — After what happened last season, Bishop Kelly deserved a few lucky bounces.
A year ago, the Knights’ girls basketball team entered the state tournament as the No. 8 seed, which pitted them against the top-seeded, undefeated, defending state champions, Blackfoot. The game went as you’d expect. The Broncos won by 18.
This season, everything went Bishop Kelly’s way during the first round of the 4A state tournament as the fifth-seeded Knights dispelled Pocatello on Thursday, 51-33.
Last year’s trip to state paved the way for Thursday’s win.
“We kind of knew that coming in, that our experience was to our advantage,” said Bishop Kelly coach Derek McCormick.
But back to those bounces.
In the third quarter, with BK clinching to a small lead, guard Keira Lizama launched a 3-pointer from the wing. Her high-arching shot clanked off the rim, shooting four feet in the air before again hitting off the iron and falling through the hoop.
Not long after, senior Logan McCarthy was trying to make something happen in the lane. She was bottled up with little space to operate and began to fall to her right. As she dropped, McCarthy scooped up a shot with incredible sidespin that hit the glass and skipped into the basket.
In no time, a one-point halftime lead had ballooned into a comfortable advantage for the Knights. They led by 11 after the third quarter. Then by 18 when the buzzer sounded.
For the first time since 2018, Bishop Kelly advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament, where it’ll face off against the winner of Shelley and Twin Falls on Friday at the Ford Idaho Center at 8 p.m.
For all the luck the Knights had Thursday, they also created much of their fortune. Bishop Kelly was relentless on defense. When the Knights stole the ball or grabbed a rebound, they were off running, on their way to scoring an easy transition bucket.
In other words, the state tournament turned into a Bishop Kelly practice.
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“It’s not all we do in practice, but we do a lot of two-on-one, three-on-two, that kind of stuff,” McCormick said. “We don’t run a very good offense in the half court, but we run a pretty good transition offense.”
Boy do they.
The Knights forced Pocatello into 20 turnovers on Thursday and turned those 20 turnovers into 19 points. That was the difference in the game.
“I think that our defense, (that) all starts in practice,” Lizama said. “When we do one-on-one (drills), it’s like, ‘Good stop. Good stop.” It’s not really ‘Good shot.’ It’s all about the defense for us.”
Caroline Knothe led the way with 9 points. Brooke Hutchinson added 8. McCarthy and Addy Laible each tailled 7 points. And Addie Hiller scored 6 points, all of which came at the free-throw line.
That was a heck of a recipe on Thursday. Think about this: Bishop Kelly didn’t have a single player score in double figures … and it still won with ease.
If the cliché is true and defense wins championships, then Bishop Kelly is a great spot.
COLUMBIA 51, BLACKFOOT 45: Columbia got its first-ever state tournament victory on Thursday, besting Blackfoot — the defending state runner-up — 51-45.
The Wildcats took a five-point lead into halftime and never relinquished it, thanks to some impressive shooting. Despite not hitting a single 3-pointer, Columbia knocked down 52% of its shots.
Mylie Mills made her case as the best player in the tournament, scoring 26 points on 13-of-18 shooting. Jada Myers added 16 points and Ellie Robertson had 9. Those were Columbia’s only three scorers.
Blackfoot now moves into the consolation bracket and will play Minico on Friday at noon at Timberline High. Columbia, meanwhile, will face off against Sandpoint at 5 p.m. at the Ford Idaho Center for a spot in the state title game.