They split two home games, but the Wood River High School girls' varsity basketball team accomplished a couple of important things last week in match-ups against longtime rivals Jerome and Buhl.
Wood River played head-to-head with the best against Jerome—and did well without its best player against Buhl.
During Thursday's 41-29 home league loss to two-time defending league champion Jerome, Wood River showed it has a frontcourt that can battle the best in the Great Basin.
After a rocky first half, the Wolverines rattled Jerome after halftime and outscored the Tigers 20-16. Wood River coach Mendy Benson said, "I was really pleased with a few things and some excellent 'firsts.'"
"It's the first time in a long time that Jerome still had its starters in at the end of the game—because they needed to. It was the first time we won a half against Jerome in years. It was the first time we had less than 14 turnovers against such a high quality team. And it was the first time they really didn't press us, because it wasn't going to give them an advantage."
Saturday, the Wolverines (6-1, 0-1 league) came off their first loss of the season without the services of their top scorer, sophomore Kaitana Martinez (13.3 ppg). The versatile athlete was out-of-town for a regional Punt-Pass-Kick contest.
Nonetheless Wood River dominated Buhl on the boards 28-13, got scoring from seven players, shot a season-best 76% from the line and swept the series from the Tribe 53-45. Big guns were soph Cheyenne Swanson (15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists) and senior Monica Garceau (11 points, 9 boards).
Junior guard Allie Hesteness (7 points, 3 steals, 3 assists) also did a great job off the bench for Wood River.
Benson said, "It was really good for my girls to play without KT. I think if we are forced to be in that situation in the future due to fouls or injuries that we'll be better prepared to handle it and won't panic.
"Obviously we had some people step up—Cheyenne, Tristin (Bowers), Allie and Monica to name a few. Specifically, Monica carried us in the second quarter with 7 points and Cheyenne did so in the third with 11 points.
"We attacked the basket well and played with much more energy and confidence as the game progressed. We played well considering it was the third game of the week following a REALLY tough game on Thursday against Jerome."
There were 12 3-pointers in the Buhl game—eight by the Tribe and four by Wood River.
After a Hesteness steal, a 3-pointer by Alex Lindbloom (5 points, 2 rebounds) helped Wood River establish a 23-17 halftime lead, then Swanson drilled a banked 3-pointer from the top of the key giving Hailey a 26-20 lead early in the third.
Wood River's lead ranged from three to 11 points for the rest of the game over a hot-shooting Buhl squad, and finally settled in at eight points. The Wolverines (only 12 turnovers) out-rebounded Buhl 28-13 and shot 13-for-17 at the stripe (63% free throws season).
Other scorers were Tristin Bowers (9 points, 2 steals), Grace Lagodich (4 points, 2 assists), Haylee Thompson (2 points, 3 boards) and Brooke Bowers (3 rebounds). Buhl seniors Courtney Azevedo (19 points, 4 rebounds) and Toni Wuensch (13 points) had hot hands with three 3-pointers.
Against Jerome, Seattle Pacific-bound senior star Aubree Callen (4 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists) scored 10 of her game-high 19 points in the first half. She and junior guard Carrie Thibault (12 points, 6 assists) accounted for 76% of Jerome's points from the backcourt. Callen nailed four 3-pointers.
Martinez, held scoreless in the first half, tallied all 5 of her points in the third quarter when Wood River started clawing back into the game. The Wolverines outscored Jerome in field goals 6-3 after the half, and shot 8-for-10 at the stripe led by Thompson's 4-for-4. They whittled Jerome's 16-point halftime lead to 8 in the fourth.
Tristin Bowers (10 points, 2 assists) led Hailey's scoring against Jerome. Others were Martinez (4 rebounds, 4 steals), Thompson (6 points, 2 boards), Swanson (4 points, 6 rebounds), Lagodich (2 points), Lindbloom (2 assists) and Garceau (2 points, 2 boards, 2 steals).
Busy stretch before Xmas
Wood River has already made great strides with its 4-0 road record, having come into the 2009-10 campaign with a 6-51 mark over the past five seasons in games away from home.
Now, can the Wolverines break a streak of 39 consecutive Great Basin league losses dating back to December 2004?
The first challenge in a busy stretch of five games before Christmas break arrives tonight, Wednesday when the Twin Falls Bruins (5-2, 1-0) come to Hailey. Last week Twin Falls won 62-33 over Canyon Ridge and 58-34 over Filer.
Wood River visits Filer (2-3) Saturday, Dec. 12 for a 4 p.m. matinee, then the Wolverines return home for a Tuesday, Dec. 15 home league tussle with Burley (4-3, 0-1). The Minico Spartans (5-2, 2-0) beat visiting Burley 48-30 last Thursday.
Benson said, "We don't have any easy games this coming week. Twin Falls looks very impressive—they have a lot of weapons. Filer at their place Saturday will be a challenge."
The Wolverines entertain Canyon Ridge (0-8, 0-2) Thursday, Dec. 17 and finish at Minico Dec. 22. Canyon Ridge stayed winless Monday night with a 54-50 overtime home loss to Buhl (3-5, 1-1 Sawtooth).