Printed on: February 19, 2014

Tigers flip the bracket

Fifth-seeded Idaho Falls knocks off top-seeded Skyline

By PAUL LAMBERT
plambert@postregister.com

Just when you thought things couldn't get any stranger on West Pancheri, the fifth-seeded Idaho Falls Tigers flipped the bracket on top-seed Skyline in a 71-70 overtime thriller Tuesday night at Skyline High School.

It was just I.F.'s fourth win of the season, and slots the Tigers in Saturday's 5A District 5-6 boys basketball tournament winner-to-state game at 4-17.

Skyline walked out of the gym 16-5 and will next play a loser-out game Thursday night at home against Madison.

The Tigers also beat Skyline 76-71 in overtime Jan. 29 after getting trucked 71-40 at Skyline in mid-December.

For Idaho Falls coach John Tucker, it was just a matter of time.

"When you take over a program in August, you know nothing about your team. Nothing," Tucker said. "Now I know these kids and we can put a real game plan together. It's one thing to put a plan together and another to execute it, and we did both here tonight."

Filling in for suspended Skyline coach Clint Cornish, an emotional Chad Larson refused comment following the loss.

Idaho Falls senior guard Bryan Romrell, on the other hand, had plenty to say, both on the court and to the sky as he raised his hands at the end of regulation and shouted to the rafters.

Before he could even get to his teammates jumping off the bench, Romrell was swarmed under by the I.F. student body that flooded the court when the final buzzer sounded.

"Our confidence was up coming in here, and our coaches had us ready," Romrell said. "Now we've got a ball game Saturday, and we're coming ready to play."

It was Romrell whose fourth-quarter and overtime heroics helped seal the deal for the Tigers. The upperclassman came off the bench to score seven of his 11 points over the game's final 12 minutes, helping the Tigers make up an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Fellow senior Brayden Andrus did the same in the first half, finishing with 13 of his game-high 19 points to help reel in the Grizzlies, who opened an early 22-9 lead.

The Tigers began feeding Andrus in the paint, and he responded with three lay-ups and a bank-shot 3-pointer for nine second-quarter points. Teammate and fellow big man Holden Jones did more of the same with Andrus on the bench in the third quarter, getting all six of his points in a relief appearance.

"We started playing our game, our inside game, and that kind of penetration really helps our offense," Andrus said. "When we played them (in December), we had key players out with injury and fouls, and we weren't the same team. Tonight we had all of our horses working for us."

Idaho Falls also got 16 points from Connor Cammack and 14 more from Zach Bowser who combined for 15 points over the fourth quarter and overtime.

Junior Jai Jai Ely led Skyline with 19 points, hitting 7 of 11 from the field. Teammate Mason Baker was right behind with 17, and Zak Bennet added 15 in an even scoring night for the Grizz.

Idaho Falls will play Saturday against the winner of Thursday's second-round game between Hillcrest and Highland. The winner of Saturday's game earns an automatic state berth.