The numbers game wasn't in Wood River's favor Friday night when last year's State 4A tournament runner-up Wolverines hosted the resurgent Burley Bobcats on the Hailey floor.
Burley, averaging 50.3 points per game, shot the lights out in a 17-point first quarter with 5-8 sophomore wing Chelsee Baker burying three 3-pointers. The Wolverines were sloppy with 12 turnovers in the early going and soon faced a 17-point hole.
Tough task? Indeed, especially for a Wood River offense averaging just 37.8 ppg to date.
It was a steep hill to climb. Wood River's current squad is averaging nearly 20 points fewer than last year's squad at the same six-game juncture. But the well-coached Wolverines had three things in their favor—plenty of time left, patience on offense, and defense.
All those things, plus a timely 3-pointer by freshman point guard Ciceley Peavey that tied the game 39-39 with 68 seconds left, helped Wood River to a 48-44 overtime victory over Burley. The Wolverines outscored the Bobcats 9-4 in OT.
Four Wolverines scored in double figures—Peavey and leading scorer Haylee Thompson (15.8 ppg) with 13 points apiece, and seniors Cheyenne Swanson and Haillie Taylor with 11 each. Taylor made five-of-six free throws after Burley cut Wood River's lead to 43-41 in the four-minute overtime.
Burley's rising star Baker finished with a game-high 24, but only 8 came in the second half and extra period. Indeed, Wood River's 35.3 ppg defense stiffened and allowed only 18 points in the final 20 minutes.
Wood River (3-3, 2-1 league) posted its third straight triumph after an 0-3 start—and the Wolverines won at home for the first time this season. Tough-luck Burley (2-6, 1-2) absorbed another close loss after losing by a single point to both Pocatello and Jerome, and by just three points to Filer.
Coach Kevin Stilling said, "We got Burley's lead down to two points, then they got it back up to 11 in the third quarter, and we started the fourth quarter down nine points. It's a testament to how hard the kids worked that we were able to come back and win."
In the halftime locker room, trailing 26-15, Stilling said Wood River talked mainly about three things—turnovers, offensive rebounding and defensive transition.
"We did okay with the offensive rebounding and defense after half," he said. "I believe we have the best post combination in the league with Haylee and Cheyenne. They'll get points, but there are nights when other kids will have to knock down shots. They did."
He referred to Peavey, who tallied 9 of her 13 points after half, and defensive stalwart Taylor, who had 9 of her 11 in the fourth period and overtime.
But the path to victory still looked difficult when Burley carried a 39-36 lead into the final minute-and-a-half.
After several anxious seconds of patient passing around the perimeter, Peavey found Thompson on a roll to the basket. But Thompson uncharacteristically missed the easy layup. Fortunately Wood River scrambled and maintained possession for an inbounds pass.
Peavey got the ball and found herself wide open behind the arc with 68 seconds left. It was a nearly impossible angle to bank home a 3-pointer, but Peavey did just that for the 39-39 tie—only the fifth 3-pointer of the season for Wood River. Burley turned the ball over on its final try and it went to OT.
The next time Peavey passed inside to Thompson was more successful, Haylee softly putting the ball home for a 41-39 lead at the 2:40 mark. Then, Peavey went around to the left baseline, inside the arc, where Taylor fed her a pass and Peavey nailed a huge one from 17 feet and a 43-39 Wolverine lead.
Wood River's man-to-man defense was ferocious, but Burley's Baker still worked her way inside for two offensive boards and drilled two free throws for a 43-41 game. The fouls were piling up and Burley had 10 when junior guard Aubrie Vale pushed Taylor with 1:42 left. It gave Taylor two charities. She made the second.
Taylor never missed again, sinking four-for-four from the line in the final 21 seconds. It put the determined 5-9 senior cowgirl in double figures and gave Wood River four in that prized territory. Only once last season did the 21-3 Wolverines put four in double figures.
Other stats: Thompson (6 rebounds, 4 steals); Peavey (3 assists); Swanson (7 boards, 2 blocks); and Taylor (5 boards).
It's a busy pre-holiday week.
Wood River hosted the Kimberly Bulldogs (3-4) on Tuesday. Kimberly took the early Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference lead with a 54-47 home win over the Filer Wildcats last week. The 'Dogs posted a 29-27 victory over Wood River in the season opening game Nov. 14.
On Thursday, Wood River goes for its third GBC win against Minico (5-4, 0-2) at Rupert. It's off to eastern Idaho on Saturday, Dec. 17 for a 2 p.m. matinee clash against one of Idaho's top 4A squads, Rigby.
Ranked fifth among 4A teams and led by 5-8 senior Ali Furniss, Rigby's Trojans (6-1) traveled to No. 2 Bonneville of Idaho Falls (7-1) on Tuesday night for the early-season league lead there. Most recently Rigby defeated Hillcrest of Idaho Falls 59-53 last Friday.
Last winter, Rigby captured its first 6th District championship in 30 years 42-33 over Madison of Rexburg and took an undefeated 22-0 record into the State 4A tourney. There, Rigby lost 37-27 to defending champion Middleton in the first round, beat Preston by nine and fell by a single point to Moscow in the consolation final. Rigby graduated six from that 23-2 team, but returned six.