Friday, February 9, 2007

Home finale a winner for Wolverine boys

Wood River defense stops Pocatello 52-43

Express Staff Writer

Wood River?s Cory Rutkowski goes high for a rebound in the Wolverine?s 52-43 victory over the Pocatello Indians in Hailey Wednesday evening. Rutkowski scored 18 points to lead the Wolverines. Photo by Willy Cook

Students and fans made plenty of noise at the Hailey gym Wednesday night, hoping for a victory to celebrate "Senior Night" for the Wood River High School boys' varsity basketball team. They got what they wanted too—a 52-43 Wolverine victory.

Wood River, determined to break a 29-29 half-time deadlock, played terrific man-to-man defense in the third quarter and outscored the Pocatello Indians 12-1 in the period. That was the difference in the Wolverine's non-conference victory.

The outcome gave Wood River a 6-4 winning record at home.

"Being Senior Night, the kids were so pumped up and had so much energy that I think we didn't execute as well as we should have on defense in the first half," said Wolverine coach John Radford. "We talked about it at halftime and the kids really responded. "It was a great team effort."

Senior Cory Rutkowski quietly led the way for the Wolverines (8-11, 1-5 league) as he's done all season. Leading scorer Rutkowski (11.2 ppg) matched his season best with 18 points and added five rebounds and three assists to the winning cause.

Rutkowski was a big scoring factor in the first quarter, drilling two 3-pointers as Wood River erased an early 11-3 deficit. He went four-for-four at the stripe in the second when the Wolverines sparked by senior Travis Beckman and junior Erik Jacobson fought back from a six-point deficit to the 29-29 tie at half.

Pocatello (6-13) was ice cold in the third quarter, in large part because of Wood River's suffocating defense. The Indians didn't score a point for over seven minutes.

On the attack, the Wolverines committed to hammering the ball down low to 6-5 post Jacobson (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals) and the strategy paid off. In the paint Jacobson converted passes from David Sibrian and Rutkowski. And Rutkowski nailed two outside shots.

That gave Wood River a 37-29 lead. After a blocked shot by senior David Pinkard, who played tough in close quarters, Beckman drilled an 18-footer for a 39-29 cushion.

"David gave us a great effort," said Radford. "He gave us energy, created space and really battled."

Other scorers for the game were Beckman (7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), Danny Sibrian (6 points), David Sibrian (6 points, 2 boards, 2 assists) and Pinkard (3 points). Leading Pocatello was Wes Mennear (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Jordan Steele (8 points, 3 boards).

Wood River traveled to Glenns Ferry Thursday for the regular-season finale against the #2-ranked Idaho 2A Pilots (14-3).

The #4-seeded Wolverines will travel to top-ranked 4A Burley (18-1, 6-0 league) for an opening-round game of the Great Basin Conference West tournament next Tuesday.

Although Wood River tied with Minico (6-14) with 1-5 league records and the two schools split head-to-head match-ups and were even in games against common opponents, the Spartans gained the third seed because they had a better winning percentage (5-11) than Wood River (2-8) in games against 4A opponents.

Third-seeded Jerome (11-7, 4-2) will host Minico next Tuesday in a rematch of last Friday's league game in Jerome won by the Tigers 78-54. The defending league champion is Burley, 61-60 overtime winners over Jerome in last year's tournament.

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