There were some anxious moments toward the end, but Wood River High School's 28-8 halftime lead was enough to finally get the Wolverine boys' varsity basketball team over the hump with a win Thursday.
Wood River (1-3) put three players in double figures and snapped a three-season, 25-game losing streak with a 55-46 non-conference victory over the Buhl Tribe on the Hailey hardwoods. Wood River had been 0-22 at home since 2009.
Buhl, throttled by Wood River's tough man-to-man defense and aggressive transition offense, trailed by as many as 26 points in the third quarter before going on a 29-9 run to cut the Wolverine lead to six, 47-41.
At that point, with three minutes left, first-year Wood River coach Rick Bradshaw called time. Senior scoring leader Stone Sutton (15.3 ppg) followed with a timely baseline drive and senior point guard Austin Hafer made a 3-point play on a drive to restore order.
Hafer, who scored a total 17 points in the first three games, finished with a game-high 17 points plus 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists. Sutton (16 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) was a workhorse, and junior Ben Williams (10 points, 6 rebounds) proved an inside force.
Bradshaw said, "The kids were real excited to get the win but also realized they had an opportunity to put a team away and didn't do it. We've got to focus for four full quarters. But we did start to jell as a team."
Rebounding was a big factor in the victory, the Hailey team with a 42-25 edge. Hafer pushed the ball up the floor as the Wolverines ran the floor well. In the first quarter alone, Williams crashed the boards for 6 points and 3 rebounds and did a good job getting himself open.
The Wolverines shot 15-of-29 (52%) from the free throw line but Buhl was only 6-of-15 there, making 4 of 12 before half.
"We played really good defense the first couple of quarters. We had position with hands in their faces. In the Rigby game (a 73-31 loss last Tuesday), we weren't blocking out well or attacking or going after rebounds. The kids were way more active against Buhl."
And it was a total team effort. "We had good interior passing," Bradshaw said.
Other Wolverine contributors were Pedro Contreras (7 rebounds, 2 blocks), Braxton Parish (2 points, 3 boards), Quentin Dowdle (4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists), Jake Vegwert (3 points, 3 rebounds) and Dylan Carey (2 points, 3 boards, 2 assists).
Four things fueled Buhl's rally—the Tribe's full-court defensive pressure at the beginning of the fourth quarter; the Wolverine bench players coming into the game with a 22-point lead; 10 of Wood River's 20 turnovers in the fourth period; and the hot hand of Buhl's 6-3 sophomore guard Kade Crossland, who buried three 3-pointers in the final stanza.
Crossland (8 rebounds, 2 blocks) scored all 13 of his points after half. Other Tribe standouts were senior guard Camden Gillins (16 points, 3 assists), junior Taylor Oppedyk (6 points, 10 boards, 3 steals) and sophomore Kellen Gillins (6 points, 2 boards, 4 steals).
"Our weak point is dealing with pressure," said Bradshaw. "I was actually surprised Buhl didn't press us in the first half, but they came fullcourt in the fourth and it got to us. Maybe Buhl took us for granted at the beginning. They won't do that again when we play next."
Buhl (1-3) hosted Wood River Tuesday night and the Twin Falls Bruins (3-1) visit Hailey Friday, Dec. 16 for the Great Basin Conference opener. Led by guard Eric Harr, the Bruins nipped host Filer 54-48 Saturday. Twin Falls placed third in last winter's State 4A tourney.
In other action Thursday:
The WRHS freshmen (3-1) downed Buhl 46-29 led by Parker Bingham (14 points, 3 steals, 2 blocks), Zac Swanson (5 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocks), Cody Carter (6 steals), Hayden Thayer (8 points) and Santiago Gomez (8 points); and the Hailey JV fell 59-56 to Buhl despite 24 points by Jose and Kevin Hernandez, and a season-high 11 points by Finn Isaacson.