Printed on: February 08, 2013

A Sugar rush

Sugar-Salem holds off Teton to earn berth to state

By Paul Lambert

REXBURG -- By the end of the first half the Sugar-Salem High School girls basketball team was shooting 8.6 percent from the field.

By the end of the game, however, the Diggers were shooting group pictures and cutting down the nets after beating Teton 38-31 in the 3A District 6 championship game Thursday at Madison Junior High School.

It was the fifth time the two teams have met this season, and Thursday night's win gave the Diggers a 3-2 series win.

The third-seeded Redskins knocked Sugar into the elimination side of the bracket in the tournament opener Jan. 29.

In claiming the district title the Diggers won elimination games over South Fremont, Shelley, Teton and Teton again -- completing a Mountain Rivers Conference sweep along the way.

"It was satisfying to do it this way because we beat every single team in our conference, and that proved a point," Sugar-Salem senior Aubrey Huntsman said. "We knew it would take everything we had to win the championship, and we did it."

They did it without contributions from starting point guard Emily McDonald, who was lost to injury just before the start of the district tournament.

"This whole season we've had a lot of things go against us," Sugar-Salem coach Crystal Carpenter said. "They could have given up when they lost to Teton last week, and the fact they came back to win those four games says a lot about the kind of kids they are."

Neither team had much scoring success in the first half as the teams combined to shoot 7 of 48 from the field (14.5 percent).

Sugar-Salem started the game 1 for 18, but blanked Teton in the second quarter to enter halftime leading 10-9.

By the midway point of the third quarter Sugar was on a 14-2 run dating back to the end of the first quarter, pulling ahead 18-11.

The Diggers stretched their lead to as many as 12 in the fourth quarter, but Teton got it to within two at 33-31 with 50 seconds to play.

Down two, Teton had the ball under the basket, but the Diggers stole the inbounds pass and the final minute was marked by Sugar-Salem free throws.

Huntsman scored all eight of her points in the second half, including both of the Diggers' 3-pointers. Teammate Allie Hawkes scored nine of her team-best 13 in the second half.

Teton's Sadie Cooke scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the second half, making seven of eight from the free-throw line to help keep things close.

The Redskins still have a chance to join Sugar-Salem (12-13) at the state tournament, qualifying for a Saturday state play-in game. Teton (6-16) will take on Marsh Valley at 1 p.m. at Century High School.

"Marsh is an awesome team and we're the darkhorse," Teton coach Steve Craw said. "We're an unknown, and when we started winning, we were always the underdog. I think we play better with that pressure off us."

After a notable absence from the state bracket one season ago, the Diggers return to state as the most decorated 3A team over the past half decade.

Beginning with the 2006-07 season, Sugar made five straight trips to Boise with three state championships and one consolation title.

Huntsman was a sophomore on the team that brought home the gold trophy in 2011. As the team's lone senior, she hopes to be a calming influence when the Diggers open the state tournament against Homedale (12-11) at 8 p.m. Thursday at Skyview High School.