Lady Broncos punch ticket to state tournament

Tenleigh Smith (10) of Blackfoot took things into her own hands in the fourth quarter, driving to the hoop and shooting free throws. Here she is facing off against Skyline’s Macy Olson as she looks for an opening to the basket.

IDAHO FALLS – The Blackfoot Lady Broncos are heading to the state girls’ basketball tournament for the second year in a row, thanks to a 53-41 victory over Skyline on Tuesday night.

The Lady Broncos punched their ticket to state the hard way, battling through the elimination bracket of the 4A District 6 tournament, sending three different teams home for the year in the process.

That battle sent Idaho Falls, Hillcrest, and Skyline all home to prepare for spring sports as they methodically moved through the left side of the bracket after losing their opening game of district play to Skyline just about a week ago.

The second-seeded Lady Broncos now have a chance to claim the district title as well as they will take on the top-seeded Bonneville Bees today. It won’t be an easy accomplishment as the Bees will bring in a record of 23-0 to the contest. Both teams have qualified for state, so all that they will be playing for will be state seeding and the title of district champions.

The big difference will be the pre-set opponent at the state tournament. The District 6 champion is slated to face off against the second place team from District 3. The District 6 runners-up will face the District 4-5 champion, either Century or Burley, so it would appear to be advantageous to be the champion if at all possible.

In order for the Lady Broncos to gain that status, it would entail beating Bonneville twice this week, once today and again on Saturday if that game is necessary.

On Tuesday, it was a case of the Lady Broncos playing some defense, getting to the rebounds and using their offensive weapons efficiently.

“The girls really stepped up tonight,” Bronco coach Courtnie Smith said. “When one player got into trouble, there was somebody who stepped up and filled in tonight. That and our defense and rebounding was great tonight.”

The Lady Broncos went at it offensively right from the start and when it became obvious that Skyline was double teaming post player Hadley Humpherys, the Lady Broncos’ go-to player in recent games, they went to Plan B, which involved Gracie Anderson and Kianna Wright, the Lady Broncos’ other post players and they responded with 13 and 10 points respectively to lead the Blackfoot squad.

They also stepped up their defense and rebounding and it led to a quick seven point lead at the end of the first quarter, 18-11.

The second period was more of the same and although Skyline sophomore Mattie Olson did her best to keep the Grizzlies in the game with her outside game, it wasn’t enough as the Lady Broncos were dead set on winning and they added to their lead with a 13-6 second quarter, which amounted to a 31-17 lead at halftime. From that point on, it was more about maintaining the lead than adding to it and the Lady Broncos did just that.

Each time Skyline made a run at the Lady Broncos in the second half, someone stepped up to stop the run and restore order to the lead.

At the end of the third quarter, it was a two-point basket followed by a three-pointer from the hands of Isabelle Arave that restored order to the Blackfoot lead that had shrunk down to 37-31. Arave’s five straight points pushed the lead back to 42-31 and the Lady Broncos went to what they do so well in the fourth and final stanza and that is turn the ball over to Tenleigh Smith, who drove the lane and either made a basket or got fouled and went to the free throw line.

BLACKFOOT 53, SKYLINE 41

Skyline 11 6 14 10 — 41

Blackfoot 18 13 11 9 — 53

Skyline — Sophia Anderson 10, Lizzie Bialas 2, Macy Olson 6, Mattie Olson 21, Tailer Thomas 2.

Blackfoot — Tenleigh Smith 12, Isabelle Arave 5, Praire Caldwell 3, Taylor Smith 2, Kianna Wright 10, Kristen Thomas 4, Gracie Andersen 13, Hadley Humpherys 4.