BOISE--Friday’s first 2A girls basketball state semifinal game had an eastern Idaho feel to it, but the winner was from the Treasure Valley.
The West Jefferson High School girls basketball team forced a couple of lead changes in the first quarter, but attempted to climb out of a deficit the rest of the game in a 46-36 loss to Melba at Bishop Kelly High School. The result sent No. 2 state media poll ranked Melba (24-1) into today’s 2A state championship game at the Ford Idaho Center versus defending champion and No. 1 ranked Soda Springs (26-0) while West Jefferson (18-10) will play Cole Valley (21-5) in the third place game at 11 a.m. at Bishop Kelly.
District 3 teams have not reached the 2A girls basketball state title game since 2003, falling to a north Idaho or eastern Idaho teams in the semifinals practically every time. Friday, however, Melba exhibited a run and gun offense and stifling defense comparable to that of east Idaho teams to end District 3’s 16-year 2A state title game drought and snap District 6’s seven-year streak of title game appearances.
“They’re fast,” West Jefferson head coach Jalena Dixon said. “Early on, our shots just weren’t falling. Against a team like that, you can’t get down early.”
The Panthers had watched the Mustangs play Malad on Thursday, a 45-43 Melba win. Seeing their speed from the stands didn’t quite provide the full picture, however.
“When you watch them, you know that they’re fast, but when you’re on the court, it’s like ‘oh my gosh,’” said West Jefferson senior Jordi Holdaway, who had a game-high 19 points and 15 rebounds. “When you’re on the court, it kinda slaps you in the face.”
The Mustangs took a 10-6 lead after two lead changes in the first quarter before racing out to a 24-12 lead by 2:25 left in the second quarter and a 28-17 lead at halftime. The Panthers gained momentum early in the second half, cutting the deficit to 32-26 and 34-28 in the third quarter before ending it down 36-28. Eight points was as close as the Panthers came in the fourth quarter, as Melba answered every West Jefferson rally.
Holdaway scored 12 of her points in the second half, prompting praise from one of Melba’s coaches as he left their locker room, stopped to shake Dixon’s hand and tell her, “I can’t say enough about Jordi.”
Holdaway briefly subbed out after receiving her fourth foul with 5:27 left in regulation, but checked back in at 4:45.
“She brings a level of calmness,” Dixon said of checking Holdaway back in to finish the game. “That’s something a lot of players don’t have.”
Today will be the third and last girls basketball state trophy game of Holdaway’s high school career. Dixon said the Panthers will regroup for the third place game, something Holdaway is already taking to heart.
“I would say stay positive because we’re not out,” Holdaway said. “We kind of like going the hard way. We always grit it out. That’s something our team does.”