Wednesday, February 21, 2007

WRHS boys finish strong in Great Basin meet

Beat Minico 61-56 for first 4A tourney win

Express Staff Writer

From the beginning of the 2006-07 boys' basketball season, Wood River High School head coach John Radford said that his varsity was a work in progress, its ultimate success hinging on how it evolved.

The season now done, Radford and his staff of Craig Eastop, Bruce Tuxhorn and R.J. McLaughlin were pleased with how the Wolverines met their challenges and finished with a 10-13 record and four wins in their last seven games.

"We played pretty well the last three-and-a-half to four weeks," said Radford on Friday, less than 24 hours after Wood River's first-ever victory in the 4A Great Basin Conference West tournament.

Drilling a season-best 10 3-pointers, the #4-seeded Wolverines upset the #3-seeded Minico Spartans 61-56 Thursday night at Rupert to capture their first 4A tournament victory in three years of playing at the tougher level of competition.

Senior guards David Sibrian (16 points, three 3-pointers) and Danny Sibrian (15 points, three 3-pointers) led eight Wolverines in the scoring and the visitors made 15-of-26 free throws in the fourth quarter (18-of-31 overall) to nail down the win.

"It was a great team effort and another little milestone for our program to win its first tournament game in 4A," Radford said.

He added, "The kids found some lightning and clicked on offense. Other teams had been focusing on taking Erik (6-5 post player Jacobson) out of the game, which gave our guys the opportunity to step up from the perimeter. And they did. We shot well from there, had a lot of nice penetration pitches and had stretches when we were really in sync."

Radford said Wood River was "in deep foul trouble," the final three minutes but "found a way to win."

He said, "We were up by 10 points and it felt like a three-point game. We were up by three baskets, by two baskets and then by just one basket. But we got a stop with 25 seconds left to go up by four points. The kids off the bench did well and really helped us."

Other contributors at Minico were junior Pat Patterson (6 points fourth), senior Cory Rutkowski (8 points), Jacobson (6 points), junior Ross Parsons (5 points), senior Travis Beckman (3 points) and senior David Pinkard (2).

The favorable outcome put Wood River into Saturday night's loser-out road game against #2-seeded Jerome, a team that had beaten the Wolverines by 24 and 23 points during regular-season league action. Jerome certainly posed match-up problems.

And it didn't look very good for cold-shooting Wood River in the early going—Jerome using its depth and athleticism to surge out to a 14-4 first-quarter lead that became 24-13 at half and 45-24 after three periods.

Then it seemed like a light bulb switched on for Wood River. Picking up its intensity three-fold sparked by Rutkowski on the floor and David Pinkard with a rousing firebrand talk on the bench, Hailey made a furious charge and really took it to the Tigers.

Using a fierce press and going to the boards with abandon, Wood River forced the Tigers into nine turnovers in the final eight minutes. Beckman (a game-high 10 rebounds, 5 in the fourth) was everywhere for the Hailey boys and went to the free throw line frequently (8-for-10).

Rutkowski and Danny Sibrian each made three steals off the press. Jacobson and Rutkowski pulled down three rebounds apiece. Danny Sibrian was five-for-five from the line. The team effort rattled Jerome quite a bit.

Ratcheting up the decibel level way past the quieter Jerome home fans, Wood River fans went wild with three minutes left when Danny Sibrian found Rutkowski with a great back-door pass that cut the once-formidable 21-point lead down to nine points, at 55-46—a 22-10 run.

That's as close as Wood River got, although Wolverine players continued to battle to the end. Jerome senior guard David Prescott (10-of-10 from the line in the fourth, 13-for-14 game) couldn't miss down the stretch and finished with a game-high 19 points plus three steals.

Jacobson (9 rebounds), who scored 10 of his team's 13 points in the first half with strong post play, matched his season high with 18 points. Rutkowski (5 rebounds, 4 steals) added 12 points, seven in the fourth. After the half Beckman (2 steals, 2 assists) tallied 11 of his 12 points, also matching his season best.

Other contributors included Danny Sibrian (8 points, 2 boards, 4 steals, 3 assists) and David Sibrian (3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists). Sophomore Greg Wakefield came off the bench and showed promise for the future with two big boards.

For Jerome, junior Jason Stokes (13 points, 5 boards, 2 steals) and sophomore Logan Parker (12 points) were major factors, as was 6-5 sophomore Kevin Williams (9 points, 5 boards, 3 steals) who made a pair of clutch field goals in the fourth period.

Overall, Wood River shot 22-for-31 at the line, its season best, and out-rebounded Jerome 35-28. During their three tournament games the Wolverines (59% from the line season) shot 43-for-66 (65%) at the stripe and made 17 3-pointers, about two a game more than their average.

They finished 6-6 in games decided by 10 points or less, and 3-2 in games of six points or less. Before Saturday's Jerome contest, Radford said, "Our goal is to be vying for the game in the last three or four minutes." And they achieved that goal.

Jerome, a 51-38 loser to top-ranked and #1-seeded Burley in Thursday's winner bracket final, settled for second place in the league behind Burley once again in Monday's Great Basin Conference West finale won by host Burley 63-44.

It was the 15th straight win and third straight Great Basin title for Burley (22-1), which qualified for the State 4A tournament March 1 in Caldwell.

Statistically, Rutkowski (247 points, 10.7 ppg) finished as the Hailey team's leading scorer for a second straight year and ended his three-year varsity career with 466 points and 45 3-pointers. Second-leading scorer was Jacobson (202 points, 8.8 ppg, 347 points two seasons).

Other scorers: Danny Sibrian 143 points (6.5 ppg), David Sibrian 100 (6.7 ppg), Matt Staskiewicz 148 (7.8 ppg), Beckman 92 (4.0 ppg), Parsons 45, Patterson 39, Pinkard 23, Joel Perron 11, Michale Brunker 9 and Clay Johnson 3. Wood River was 216-for-367 (59%) at the line compared to 260-for-401 (65%) for foes.

The number of team 3-pointers (82) was nearly identical to last season, led by Danny Sibrian 21, Rutkowski 18 and Dave Sibrian 17. Also nearly identical were offensive (46.2 ppg) and defensive averages (47.6 ppg). Biggest difference compared to last season: Wood River was 6-4 on its homecourt instead of 4-6, and the Wolverines won a tournament game.

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