NAMPA – The Madison High School boys’ basketball team is on to the 5A state semifinals, thanks in part to … wait for it … the Bobcats’ defensive prowess.
On an afternoon where the Ford Idaho Center rims were unkind to both teams, Madison set the tone early with its defense, then had to hold off a late charge by Eagle on the way to a 55-45 win Thursday.
The Bobcats (24-3) had lost in the opening round of the state tournament the past two seasons, but were able to hold onto an early lead and put the game away in the closing minutes.
Madison will play Post Falls at 6:15 p.m. today at the Ford Idaho Center for a shot at the championship game.
“What we were saying to our boys is (defense) is what’s going to keep us in this game,” Madison coach Travis Schwab said. “Honestly, at this point I don’t even expect us to make shots.”
Despite cold shooting, the Bobcats, who shot 36 percent for the game, held a 10-point lead at the half. Eagle started chipping away in the third and eventually pulled within 40-36 in the fourth. Madison withstood the charge down the stretch, getting rebounds and making the Mustangs work for tough shots on each possession. Offensively, Kyle Jackson put the cap on the game with a dunk in the final minute that got the red-clad crowd on its feet and put the Bobcats up 51-42.
Coaches love to preach defense. None more than Schwab.
“Even though the shots weren’t falling, as long we’re playing the defense that we’re playing, we’ll always be in the game … That’s how we are,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching all year. We came in with that mentality.”
The only one seemingly unfazed by the rim rattlers was Madison guard Jaden Schwab, who scored 11 first-half points and finished with 17 points, including hitting five of six 3-pointers.
Jaden Schwab, a senior who’s been a part of the team since he was a sophomore, said the senior-heavy lineup leaned on experience after the slow start and during the second half when Eagle (11-11) pulled within 40-36.
“The main goal is to win a state championship and you can’t get there unless you win the first game,” said Jaden Schwab, who along with Spencer Hathaway, were at the state tournament as sophomores and remember the disappointment of losing in the opener.
The goal on Thursday was to keep focused and not put any unwarranted pressure on the team, he said.
“We can’t look forward, we just have to focus on Eagle right now.”
Shots weren’t falling for either team in the first quarter. Madison led 10-4 after the first quarter and 25-15 at the half. Eagle, which shot 25 percent in the first half, shot 50 percent in the second half, with leading scorer Tanner Hayhurst finishing with 16 points.
Hathaway scored 14 points and added eight rebounds for Madison. Jackson just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.