NAMPA – It’s the cruelest of sounds that only the most spiteful of basketball gods would appreciate.
Players murmuring under their breath as shots roll off the rim or ricochet off the backboard and into a defender’s grasp.
Rigby players won’t easily forget Thursday’s 5A boys basketball state tournament opener at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa, when shots wouldn’t drop and the Trojans' season goal of a state championship started slipping away with each miss.
Eagle was the beneficiary, and with each Rigby miss, the Mustangs were energized. By the time it was finally over, Eagle had rallied for a 51-43 win, sending the Trojans into the consolation bracket and leaving a talented group of seniors wondering what happened.
Rigby, which entered the tournament riding an 18-game win streak and was loaded with senior experience, made just three field goals in the second half on Thursday as Eagle chipped away at what looked like a comfortable 29-20 halftime lead for Rigby.
“We were getting good looks but shots weren’t falling,” Trojan senior Britton Berrett said. “Credit Eagle for making it tough for us. They played great defense.”
Good teams find ways to win ugly games, but Rigby had no answers against a scrappy Eagle team, especially in the fourth quarter, when the Mustangs (16-8) outscored Rigby 22-9. Eagle star player Tanner Hayhurst, who averages 22 points, took over the game, with his driving layup and free throw tying the score at 36-36 and his steal and layup on the next possession giving the Mustangs the lead. Hayhurst added another basket on the next possession and the Trojans (23-2) never recovered.
Rigby was forced to foul in the closing minutes and Eagle hit its free throws down the stretch to increase its lead.
“Credit to Eagle, they played a physical defense and the refs let them play that way,” Rigby coach Justin Jones said. “We just missed some shots and lost our rhythm there. We had some good looks and just couldn’t get them to go.”
Rigby finished 3 for 22 from the field in the second half, a 14 percent clip. Hayhurst scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half.
“Losing always sucks, but we’ve been playing together forever and we’re still going to come out as a team tomorrow and play together and play for each other,” said Berrett, who finished with 15 points. Keegan Thompson added 14 points.
Eagle was unranked in the final state media poll while Rigby had moved up to No. 2 during its win streak. The Mustangs were 0-7 vs. Rocky Mountain, Borah and Meridian and improved to 16-1 vs. all other teams.
Rigby will play Lake City in a consolation game today at 3 p.m. Eagle will face Borah at 8 p.m.
EAGLE 51, RIGBY 43
Eagle 11 9 9 22 –51
Rigby 17 12 5 9 – 43
EAGLE – Tanner Hayhurst 24, Gage Jones 6, Jordan Kemp 5, Donovan Jones 6, Grant Gwin 3, Jaden Carter 7.
RIGBY – Britton Berrett 15, Kaden Miller 1, Christian Fredericksen 2, Keegan Thompson 14, Brycen Uffens 3, Tanoa Togiai 8.