No doubt about it, Wood River High School girls' basketball players were frustrated last week after losing two home games to two of Idaho's best 4A girls' teams this season—Jerome (12-1) and Rigby (12-2).
Both were physical games during which both Jerome and Rigby threw withering full-court defensive pressure at a young-in-the-backcourt Wood River squad (5-7, 2-4 home) that struggled to move the ball up the floor on offense.
In Thursday's 40-31 loss to Jerome, Wood River had 28 turnovers and scored 31 points. Against Rigby, the home team committed 36 turnovers and scored just 29 points. Despite the defensive pressure that figured to yield more fouls for the visiting teams, Wood River was outscored 27-15 and out-shot 47-26 at the free throw line.
There was only one quarter out of the eight when Wood River showed some of the poise and offensive firepower that led the Wolverines to the Great Basin Conference championship and second place in the State 4A tourney last February.
Saturday afternoon, the Wolverines got scoring from five different players and busted out to a 14-7 lead over the Rigby Trojans—a state tournament team that had walloped Wood River 51-30 Dec. 17.
But, in the final three quarters, Wood River managed just four field goals. Trailing 24-21 after three, the stubborn Wolverine defense that has kept Hailey in its games with a 38.5 ppg average finally let its guard down in the fourth quarter—allowing 23 points that led to Rigby's 47-29 runaway victory.
There should be some help on the horizon as Wood River (2-3 league) looks ahead to its remaining five GBC games that should determine if the Wolverines finish in the top four of the six-team league and thus earn a home game in the league tournament starting Jan. 31.
Senior point guard Kaitana Martinez is due to return to the lineup Friday, Jan. 13 for Wood River's home league game against the Canyon Ridge Riverhawks from Twin Falls (4-10, 0-5). Martinez, a first-team All-State guard last season and the GBC "Player of the Year" in 2011, had knee surgery in July and has been rehabilitating.
Her ball-handling skills, ability to penetrate on offense and outside shooting touch will be welcomed by interim head coach Kevin Stilling along with assistant coaches Mendy Benson and Fred Trenkle. Wood River boasts only seven 3-pointers in 12 games, compared to 58 in 24 games last season, 32 of those made by Martinez.
Also welcoming Martinez back will be 6-1 senior post Haylee Thompson. The Utah State-bound player has shouldered much of the scoring load (15.8 ppg out her team's 36.7 ppg average) in Martinez's absence and has been called upon for many other responsibilities to keep her team in its games.
Saturday, Thompson (10 points, 2 boards, 3 steals, 2 assists, 2 blocks) led Wood River's first-quarter charge against Rigby with 6 points. She didn't get many opportunities the rest of the way and finally fouled out of her first game—after 60 career starts—with two-and-a-half minutes left to play.
Other contributors were Haillie Taylor (5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals), Ciceley Peavey (4 points, 2 boards, 2 assists), Emmalie Dion (4 points), Hannah Belloli (2 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists), Rory Cole (2 points, 8 rebounds) and Cheyenne Swanson (2 points, 2 boards, 2 steals, 1 block).
Rigby's 5-8 senior Alli Furniss (14 points, 4 steals) led the Trojans, who made 16 steals.
Thursday, Wood River committed 12 turnovers in the first quarter and Jerome built an 18-11 halftime lead with a 7-0 run at the end of the second quarter. Tiger senior Haylee Burnham scored 12 of her game-high 16 points after half to keep Hailey at arm's length.
For Wood River, Swanson (9 points, 9 rebounds) had one of her best games and Thompson (13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) did her part.
Indeed, Thompson's second blocked shot with her team trailing 33-31 seemed to give the Wolverines a chance with a minute left in the fourth. But Jerome senior Frankie Carey alertly grabbed the loose ball and passed outside to junior Kaitlyn Kelly, who drained a 3-pointer for a 36-31 Tiger lead.
Other Wolverines were Belloli (4 points, 2 steals), Taylor (3 points, 2 boards, 3 assists), Peavey (4 rebounds, 2 assists), Cole (3 boards) and Cookie Benson (2 points). League-leading Jerome made 19 steals but the Wolverines out-rebounded Jerome by a 26-15 margin.
Having dropped four of its last five games, Wood River visits Twin Falls (9-5, 4-1) today, Wednesday, then hosts Canyon Ridge Friday and goes to Burley (5-8, 1-4) Tuesday, Jan. 17. Jerome (5-0 league) visited Minico (9-5, 3-2) Tuesday.