For such a simple game, high school basketball can be awfully hard to swallow.
Certainly the taste was sweet for the Wood River High School boys' varsity basketball team Thursday when it opened its 2006-07 home season by rallying from a nine-point halftime deficit and beating a good Kimberly Bulldogs squad 52-49.
"Both teams played very physical and didn't give up at any point," said first-year Wood River coach John Radford. "It was a good win for us."
Hailey standouts were senior Cory Rutkowski (18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists) and junior newcomer Matt Staskiewicz (10 points, 11 boards, 5 steals, 6 assists). Rutkowski scored 16 after the half.
But the aftertaste was bitter Saturday when the host Wolverines coughed up their game-long lead over arch-rival Buhl in the final minute of the fourth quarter and eventually lost 59-53 in overtime to the unbeaten, #2-ranked Tribe (3-0).
Wood River, leading Buhl 48-43 with 53 seconds left, made only 1-of-7 free throws down the homestretch. The Tribe tied it 49-49 at the buzzer when junior Brad Twiss (18 points) made a layup on a bounce pass from junior Patrick Osterkamp.
Osterkamp had already provided the game's most thrilling moment when he sank an incredible 88-foot heave at the first half buzzer cutting Buhl's once 10-point deficit to 22-18.
“Pat Patterson, Wolverine junior, takes a Danny Sibrian pass after Sibrian’s steal and hits the layup for a 17-9 Hailey lead in Saturday’s second quarter. ”
You can bet Buhl watched that shot over and over and replayed the video backwards and forwards on Monday.
In overtime, Buhl's 6-6 senior center Tanner Leckenby scored 7 of 10 Tribe points as the visitors pulled away from the shocked and stunned Wolverines. Buhl (19-6, State 3A consolation champion in 2006) showed its experience and depth in the tough going.
One thing was very evident from Wood River's first two home games—the Wolverines in the post-Fred Trenkle era are building upon the legendary coach's work ethic and providing fans with some top-notch prep basketball action.
Home fans frustrated by Wood River's 0-9 record last winter in games settled by six points or less were delighted with the Kimberly win Friday.
Kimberly (2-1) took advantage of 10 Wood River turnovers against the Bulldogs press in the second period to build a 24-15 halftime cushion.
Hailey came out with its own press in the third and cut into Kimberly's once-big lead with an 11-7 rebounding edge plus 8 points by Rutkowski and 5 by Travis Beckman (7 points, 5 boards, 2 steals, 2 assists).
“Buhl’s veteran squad” was surprised with the inside moves and body control of Wood River junior Matt Staskiewicz (#31), shown scoring against Tanner Leckenby (left) and Brian Hosman on Saturday night.
Radford said, "By pressing we put them (Kimberly) on their heels and they lost some of their aggressiveness. We did better attacking their press."
Finding the open man effectively and forcing Bulldog turnovers on the press, Wood River embarked on a 17-8 run and opened up a 49-43 lead with 32 seconds left in regulation. Rutkowski scored another 8 points, Erik Jacobson (8 points, 8 boards) had 4 points and 4 rebounds and Staskiewicz had 5 points, 2 steals and 2 assists.
A couple of long and improbable 3-pointers by Kimberly senior Mitch Dame (a game-high 22 points) brought the 'Dogs back to a 50-49 game with five seconds left, but Rutkowski calmly made two charities for a 52-49 lead. Kimberly 6-6 senior star Jason Mumm (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) rimmed out a 3-pointer that would have tied it at the horn.
"It was fun to see the kids come back," said Radford. "There was a myriad of big plays all game. The kids dug deep and I was proud of them."
Senior guard Danny Sibrian, who quarterbacked the offense capably all weekend, had 7 points against Kimberly and Ross Parsons added 2. Wood River out-rebounded Kimberly 32-23 and made 17 steals.
"Cory and Matt created some havoc on the front part of our press," said Radford.
“Wood River senior”Cory Rutkowski, just named first-team All-State football placekicker last weekend, goes hard against Buhl’s Brad Twiss (#5) Saturday. Rutkowski scored 24 of his 28 points against Kimberly and Buhl in the second halves.
Saturday, Buhl came to town following its 51-50 home win over Jerome Friday night but ever mindful of what happens in Hailey. Buhl needed four overtimes to beat Wood River 66-63 in Hailey last Jan. 31.
Buhl led 7-2 early, but the Wolverines put together a series of steals and transition buckets on a 10-0 run for a 12-9 lead at the break. Tough Hailey man-to-man defense held the Tribe scoreless for nearly six minutes and the lead grew to 22-12 late in the second period.
Staskiewicz scored 9 points and Sibrian 5 in the first half. But Osterkamp's nearly court-length prayer was answered at the buzzer to give Buhl a spark.
Wood River's defenders continued to challenge the Tribe every time they touched the ball. That, along with four points by Jacobson (6 points, 6 boards) and a steal and fast break hoop by Staskiewicz (18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists) gave the home team a 41-32 lead with 5:34 remaining.
Radford cautioned his boys during a Tribe timeout, "Those guys are coming back. They have a lot of pride." He was right, but tentativeness at the charity stripe really hurt. The lead was 49-45 with 16 seconds left when Staskiewicz, nursing an injury, went to the line for two shots. He missed both, and two more with seven seconds.
After Buhl tied it 49-49, the Tribe took over in the four-minute OT and out-pointed Hailey 10-4. Staskiewicz was inconsolable at the developments, but for the most part he sparked Wood River to its lead.
It was a tough lesson, but one that comes in a season and makes basketball a hard game.
Other Hailey contributors were Rutkowski (10 points, 4 boards, 6 steals, 2 assists), Sibrian (10 points, 2 boards, 2 steals, 5 assists), Pat Patterson (7 points) and Beckman (2 points, 2 rebounds). Wood River committed only 18 turnovers, but 3 came in overtime. The home team made 15 steals.
Buhl's senior star Will Chivers (10 points, 8 boards), Leckenby (11 points) and Osterkamp (8) were other top scorers. Bench player Brian Hosman had 3 late boards.
Wood River's road doesn't get any easier because the 4A Wolverines (2-3, 0-0 league) play the top two Idaho 2A teams this week. "There's not an easy game on our schedule, but we've been in every game we've played," Radford said.
Top-ranked Glenns Ferry (7-0) with its high-scoring and deep offense visits the Hailey gym Thursday and Wood River travels to the #2-ranked Challis Vikings (4-0) Saturday, Dec. 16. Challis beat Mackay by 31 points last Thursday.
Wood River senior guard David Sibrian (foot stress fracture) will hopefully return after Christmas, Radford said.