RIGBY — Kennedy Stenquist let loose a scream and pumped her fist, her face red with exhaustion and wet from sweat. Thunder Ridge’s sophomore guard had just drained a 3-pointer in the last two minutes of Tuesday's 5A District 5-6 title game. The Titans’ first of the game brought them within one with a minute to play, snapping a streak of 18 straight misses from distance.
“Just that adrenaline starts rolling,” Thunder Ridge coach Jeremy Spencer said. “That ball finally starts to drop for you.”
Stenquist had no problem ending that streak, but her team could not break the one that mattered most.
With a 53-50 win over Thunder Ridge, Rigby secured the 5A District 5-6 championship, a spot at the 5A state tournament and a 10th straight victory over the Titans. The games have been close. The results have not changed.
Rigby (19-3) took control early, taking a 37-28 lead into halftime, only for Thunder Ridge to rattle off 10 straight points and take a brief one-point lead. Then the Trojans stretched their lead back out to four. Then the chaos washed over the game.
Rigby, which shot a scintillating 7-for-11 from deep in the first half, used two free throws from Tylie Jones to take a 53-50 lead with eight seconds left. Thunder Ridge called timeout to draw up a play and advance the ball to half court.
The plan, Spencer said, was for senior guard Lauren Davenport to take the inbounds pass, fake a handoff to Sierra John and hit the 3 if it was open. If the Trojans took that away and doubled Davenport, she would find John or another open teammate.
The first option materialized. Davenport’s fake handoff fooled the Trojans, who sent two defenders after John. Davenport had an uncontested look, but she airballed the shot. The Titans had to foul to stop the clock, and Rigby’s Brooklyn Youngstrom missed the ensuing 1-and-1 free throw, but there wasn’t enough time. The Titans’ full-court heave missed at the buzzer.
Rigby captured the 5A District 5-6 crown for the third straight year.
“We’re just ecstatic,” said Rigby head coach Troy Shippen, whose team got 13 points from Kambree Barber. “It’s hard. It’s a hard feat to do. It’s hard to win it once, let alone three times in a row. I’m proud of the girls. Sometimes, being expected to win makes it tough.”
This was always personal for Thunder Ridge, at least a little bit. The Titans (18-4) entered Tuesday with an 0-9 all-time record against the Trojans. That included a loss in this same game last season. Thunder Ridge wanted to make up for a loss that Davenport said had been on her mind since the beginning of this season.
To some extent, you can understand that mark. Thunder Ridge’s school only opened in 2018. During that first season, the Titans were still establishing themselves, still searching for some identity. They had talent. They just weren’t sure how to make it work.
Over the last two years, they put it all together. Davenport, who posted 10 points, has developed into one of the best players in the area. She pairs nicely with forward Paige Clark (14 points) to form their team’s scoring punch. Sprinkle in the production from their guard corps — John (6 points), Stenquist (10 points) and Aspen Caldwell (8 points) — and you start to understand how the Titans have risen so high.
On Tuesday, the problem was that those players went dry, and the Trojans’ sizzled.
Thunder Ridge shot just 28% from the field. Rigby hit 41%. Sometimes, Spencer said, it’s that simple — especially in contests of these stakes.
“That’s part of the game,” Spencer said, “but after you’ve shot your 15th miss, you’re thinking, ‘Oh my goodness. When is the ball going to go in?’ You shoot 1-for-19 and you lose by three. If we shoot a fraction of our percentage of what we shoot from the outside, we win the game by eight. But that’s why you play the game.”
Still, Rigby didn’t luck into shots. Brooke Donnelly, who finished with nine points, canned three 3-pointers in the first half, one from a foot or two behind the arc. Those went largely uncontested. Rigby was unnaturally hot, occasionally getting jumpers from players who usually operate closer to the basket, but they were open.
You can win championships any number of ways, but when you’re unconscious from deep, it tends to help.
“We changed some things, adjusted,” Shippen said, referencing the way his team countered Thunder Ridge’s face guarding of Donnelly in the second half. “I’m proud of the girls.”
These teams will now head in opposite directions, at least for now. Rigby is off to the 5A state tournament. Thunder Ridge can do the same with a home win over Madison on Thursday. The Titans topped the Bobcats to advance to Tuesday’s game.
The winners have work to do, though. The Trojans have earned state bids each of the last two years, but both times, they left without anything to show for it.
That is one streak the Trojans would like to end.
“We’re going there playing to win,” Shippen said. “It is a little different caliber of ball there, but we can do that. The girls have confidence. Lot of seniors. They’ve been there before, some of them twice already. So I think they want to go down there and try to get some hardware.”
RIGBY 53, THUNDER RIDGE 50
Thunder Ridge 9 19 12 10 — 50
Rigby 13 24 8 8 — 53
THUNDER RIDGE — Aspen Caldwell 8, Kennedy Stenquist 10, Sierra John 6, Lauren Davenport 10, Paige Clark 14, Halli Smith 2.
RIGBY — Tylie Jones 6, Hallie Boone 1, Camryn Williams 6, Victoria Briggs 3, Hadley Good 9, Brooke Donnelly 9, Anastasia Kennedy 4, Brooklyn Youngstrom 4.