They held the lead for only 42 seconds during Thursday's thrilling Great Basin Conference home game against the Jerome Tigers in Hailey.
But the Wood River High School girls' basketball team held the lead when it mattered most—at the end of the game.
Coach Mendy Benson's Wolverines (14-2, 7-2 league) remained unbeaten in nine games at home with a 37-36 victory over three-time defending GBC champ Jerome (11-7, 5-4).
The victory snapped a 15-game losing streak to Jerome teams and was only the second Wood River win over the Tigers in 60 games dating to 1983.
It also assured Wood River one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye in the six-team GBC state-qualifying tournament starting Tuesday, Feb. 1.
Benson said about Wood River's biggest home crowd of the season on "Senior Night," "Crowd was phenomenal. Our girls felt the energy and supportive atmosphere that were a major advantage for us."
Wood River junior post Haylee Thompson gave her team only its third lead of the 32-minute game by nailing two free throws on a one-on-one situation with 14 seconds left.
The Wolverines survived a last-second, unguarded in-and-out 16-foot shot by Jerome's college-bound senior guard Carrie Thibault for the one-point triumph—coming on the heels of Wood River's 46-44 road loss to Minico Tuesday.
Juniors Kaitana Martinez (12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists) and Thompson (12 points, 4 boards) were the scoring leaders, but all eight Wolverines played major roles in the come-from-behind effort.
Once again, the Wood River defense was phenomenal on a poor shooting night for both teams (34% WRHS from the field, 31% Jerome).
The Tigers had no field goals in the final period and only three in the second half after leading 22-15 at intermission. It was only the third time all season that Wood River had trailed at the half.
Wood River is 20-1 at home over two seasons. But that glittering record seemed in jeopardy with a cold shooting first half that put the Wolverines in the hole by as many as seven points. Shots weren't falling
After half, junior Cheyenne Swanson (6 rebounds) picked the Wolverines up with two putback baskets. She scored all of her six points in the third period. Junior Haillie Taylor (3 points, 3 boards, 2 assists) made it a two-point game at the break by nailing a huge 3-pointer.
Benson said, "Cheyenne came out big for us in the third and Haillie's 3-pointer in the final second turned the momentum our way. In the fourth, our emphasis was defense."
Jerome, ahead 28-27 early in the fourth, could have gone ahead by four points but Thibault's 3-pointer was nullified by an offensive foul. That gave Wood River a chance for its first lead of the game—and Haylee Thompson provided it with a left-handed drive on a pretty pass from Taylor Hayes.
Still, Jerome inched ahead 33-29 on free throws (8-for-10 fourth quarter). To its credit, Wood River didn't panic on offense and remained patient—moving the ball well in an attempt to find the open player.
An offensive rebound in the lane by 5-3 senior guard Hayes preserved possession, and Hayes fed the ball to Martinez, who drove and scored for a 33-31 game. Senior guard Allie Hesteness (6 rebounds, 3 assists) scored her only two points by hitting two clutch free throws on a one-on-one.
With the score tied 33-33, Hayes played in-your-face defense on Thibault (7 points, 7 boards), who didn't score after half. Jerome guard Haylee Burnham (14 points, 10 first half) threw up an airball. At the other end, Taylor passed to Martinez for a driving hoop, 35-33 Wood River with 2:50 left.
The pressure was withering, but Jerome crept ahead 36-35 with 45 seconds left on Kolbie Stauffer's second of two free throws. Wood River worked the ball around and lobbed the ball inside to Thompson, who was fouled. She rattled in the first, waited for a Tiger time out and swished home the second.
Jerome came up with a terrific pick to free up Thibault for a potential game-winning shot, but her foul-line jumper went off mark. Martinez rebounded and Wood River celebrated.
Benson said, "We forgot to switch which was why Thibault was wide open. But I think the defensive pressure by our guards in the second half maybe contributed in some way to her missing the shot."
The result sent Wood River to Twin Falls (15-3, 8-1) Tuesday night with a chance to gain the tournament top seed with a win over the Bruins on their "Senior Night." If the Wolverines lost to Twin Falls, they'll be the second seed and Twin first.
First tournament game for Wood River will be at home, on Thursday, Feb. 3. The conference gets two berths this year to the State 4A tournament Feb. 17-19 at Timberline High, Boise.
See more photos from the Jerome game in the Feb. 2 Local Life edition.
Hailey boys host Riverhawks Friday
A busy seven days for coach John Radford's Wood River High School boys' basketball team continues today, Wednesday when the Wolverines travel to Jerome (9-5, 3-2) for a Great Basin Conference game.
Wood River (0-13, 0-5 league) came into the Jerome tussle off two league losses—a close 47-41 home setback to Burley (2-11, 1-4) last Friday and a 69-36 blowout loss to Canyon Ridge (6-8, 2-3) at Twin Falls Monday.
The Wolverines will host Canyon Ridge Friday, Jan. 28 on the Hailey hardwoods. Next Monday's rescheduled WRHS game at Buhl has been canceled because of the District 3A girls' basketball tournament there.
Hosting Burley Friday, the Wolverines trailed by as many as 14 points in the second quarter but made it a game with a tenacious 1-3-1 zone defense after half. The Bobcats, leading 27-16 at half, scored only one field goal in the third period. Wood River also trailed by nine points in the fourth before making it a two-point game riding Stone Sutton's play.
Sutton (18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 3 blocked shots) tallied 12 points in the second half and teammate Alex Padilla (7 points, 5 boards, 2 steals) had all of his points after intermission. Burley's sophomore guard Kody Coltrin nailed six 3-pointers.
Other Wolverines were Ben Williams (6 points, 3 boards), Luis Chavez (4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists), Quentin Dowdle (4 points, 6 rebounds), Mica Merritt (3 boards) and Kevin Jensen (2 points, 3 assists). Wood River out-rebounded Burley 25-18.
Sutton tallied 17 points, Padilla had 10 and Merritt 7 in Monday's loss at Canyon Ridge.