Madison punched its ticket to the 5A state tournament on Tuesday night, downing Thunder Ridge 65-53 in the District 5-6 tournament.
Normally Bobcat players and coaches would be talking about the team's defense and how they slowed down the Titans and prevailed because of key stops.
But when a team hits 10 of 15 3-pointers and jumps out to a 15-point lead on the district's No. 1 seed, the postgame chatter is a little different.
"When shots are falling we're a tough team to beat," said Madison's Taden King, who finished with 14 points and was one of three players in double figures for the Bobcats (19-4).
"One of our focuses in the game was playing team basketball and making the extra pass," King said. "We knew they were going to try to take me out of it and try to take the bigs out of it down low, so we knew everybody had to be ready to shoot and knock down shots."
That strategy was evident early on as Madison jumped out to a 12-3 lead and Thunder Ridge (19-4) looked out of sync. Down 15, the Titans did chip away late in the second quarter as Tyler Godfrey hit a 3-pointer and Tao Johnson followed with a 3 from the top of the key.
Madison held a 38-30 lead entering the second half, but Thunder Ridge never could close the gap. The Bobcats' hot long-range shooting continued and they increased the advantage while holding the Titans top scorer Lloyer Driggs relatively in check.
Driggs finished with a hard-earned 22 points, most coming late in the game as the senior tried to muster a charge, but it wasn't enough. Driggs, one of the area's top threats from behind the arc, was 0 for 2 on 3-pointers.
"They had an on night," Thunder Ridge coach Lee Toldson said. "Our game plan was to stop Taden and the inside play and that's what we did tonight. Their role players they stepped up and the made 3s and big shots … their role players broke our backs tonight."
Logan Crane finished with 13 points and Tyson Lerwill added 15 for Madison. The two combined to hit 5 of 7 3-pointers. King connected on 2 of 4.
"We just told our boys in the shootaround to shoot with confidence, believe in yourself, we're due," Madison coach Travis Schwab said, noting the team has hovered around 25-30% on 3-pointers for the season.
"All the sudden tonight they just started falling," he said. "You could see once their confidence started going it just kept going."
Thunder Ridge was playing for its first district tournament title and first trip to the state tournament. The Titans will get another chance on Thursday when they play Rigby. The winner of that game earns the district's second seed to the state tournament.
"The biggest thing is to let them know our goal is to get to state," Toldson said of getting his team refocused. "Yeah, we want the district title, but the goal is to get to state because once you get to state anything can happen. Tonight wasn't our night, but you win Thursday and you get to state. That's where you want to be."
MADISON 65, THUNDER RIDGE 53
Madison 18 20 15 12 — 65
Thunder Ridge 7 23 8 15 — 53
MADISON — Logan Crane 13, Tyson Lerwill 15, Riley Sutton 3, Isaac Wilson 5, Braxton Pierce 9, Taden King 14, Eli Randall 6.
THUNDER RIDGE — Lloyer Driggs 22, Tao Johnson 14, Tyler Godfrey 2, Jordan Brizzee 3, Nick Potter 3, Bryson Hawkes 2, Jay Scoresby 3, Zach Marlowe 2, Gary Southwick 2.