It's been a blue moon or two, 35 games dating way back to 1979, since the Wood River High School girls' varsity basketball team has won a game at Jerome's Tiger den.
Now that's just another asterisk that has been wiped off the record books by a group of remarkable Wolverine seniors and their supporting cast.
Tuesday night, coach Kevin Stilling's Wolverines erased 25 seasons of futility that included a steady march of nightmarish 20-point and 30-point losses at Jerome. They won convincingly 54-35 over the Tigers.
Senior point guard Kaitana Martinez (18 points, 7 assists, 2 steals) directed the attack that featured posts Haylee Thompson (14 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks), Cheyenne Swanson (6 points, 2 blocks) and Rory Cole (season-high 9 points, 7 boards).
Other contributors were Haillie Taylor (3 points, 2 deflections), Ciceley Peavey (2 points) and Hannah Belloli (2).
Coach Stilling said, "We played very well and executed well—two things that we haven't been putting together. On offense we moved the ball a lot and were very patient."
Sidelined by rehabilitation from knee surgery for Wood River's first 13 games this season, Martinez was the floor general in her fourth game back. Wood River has won three of those four games, all in league play, and Martinez (15.5 ppg) has been a big factor in Hailey averaging 54.0 ppg in those four games. The season average before that was 36.2.
"We have a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm," said Stilling.
A big factor in the Wolverines' building their 17-9 first-quarter lead at Jerome was Martinez putting the pedal to the metal on offense.
"A lot of it was KT attacking in the first quarter. She attacked Jerome's man-to-man defense and created things," Stilling said. "The girls moved to the right spots."
Holding Minico to 42 points and Jerome to 35 in the last two games was mainly a function of the invigorated Hailey defense. That defense is rooted in a 3-2 zone. Stilling said Wood River has been using more man-to-man since Martinez returned.
Jerome's College of Idaho-bound senior guard Haylee Burnham led the Tigers with 15 points. Wood River tried 3-pointers, but made none. Burnham nailed two of Jerome's three 3-pointers.
Wood River assistant coach J.C. Nemecek suffered through many trouncings on the Jerome floor while he was the Wolverine head coach for 10 seasons from 1991-2000.
Nemecek said, "As a team, the girls showed their most precise offense of the season. Defensively, the play of the girls denied Jerome's perimeter shooters the areas they wanted, and changed the shots of the Tiger post players."
By beating Jerome, defending Great Basin Conference tournament champion Wood River (8-9, 5-5 league) earned the fourth seed in next week's GBC tournament. It means the Wolverines will have one more home game after Thursday's "Senior Night" against Buhl.
Wood River will entertain No. 5-seeded Burley (9-10, 4-6) on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. on the Hailey hardwoods. The Hailey win at Jerome and Minico's 53-43 home victory over Burley Tuesday night made it possible for the core of last year's State 4A tournament runner-up team from Hailey to make one more appearance before home fans.
Stilling said, "Our win at Jerome helps us along the path to what we want to be doing—playing our best basketball at the end of the season."
The other first-round match-up Tuesday is No. 3 Jerome (13-5, 6-4) hosting No. 6 Canyon Ridge (4-16, 0-10). The winner of Wood River-Burley will advance to a second round game Thursday, Feb. 2 at top-seeded Twin Falls (13-6, 8-2). Winner of Jerome-Canyon Ridge next Tuesday visits No. 2 Minico (13-6, 7-3) next Thursday night.
In contrast to last winter when the league had two automatic state tournament berths, only the GBC tournament winner this year will automatically qualify for the State 4A tournament Feb. 16 at Timberline High School in Boise. The second-place team will have to win a play-in game at Mountain Home Feb. 11 to earn state.
Jerome boys prevail 57-23
They played extremely hard and never gave up despite being shorthanded, but Wood River High School boys' varsity basketball players lost a 57-23 Great Basin Conference home game to Jerome Wednesday.
Jerome (13-2, 5-1 league) jumped out to a 16-5 first-quarter lead but the Wolverines, with senior point guard Austin Hafer playing through sickness, held their own in the evenly played second quarter and trailed 31-18 at halftime.
Yet the Wolverines (2-12, 0-6) didn't have enough scoring power in the second half when they failed to make a single field goal and dropped their seventh consecutive game. Jerome senior Shaquille Kennedy (16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Spencer Geist (13 points, 4 steals) led the Tigers.
Junior Ben Williams (6 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals) had a big night on the boards and senior Jake Vegwert (5 points, 2 board) helped out. Others were Hafer (4 points, 4 steals), Dylan Carey (4 points, 2 rebounds) and Braxton Parish (4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist).
Wood River visits league-leading Twin Falls (14-1, 6-0) today, Friday and hosts Canyon Ridge (4-11, 2-4) on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Visiting Twin Falls handled Canyon Ridge 58-23 Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Burley (9-4, 4-2) was a 56-25 winner at Minico (3-12, 1-5).