BOISE – After two losses during the regular season to Twin Falls, the No. 1 4A team in the final 2018-19 state media poll, Idaho Falls head boys basketball coach Howard Hart had seen enough.
The Tigers and Bruins met up again in Thursday’s 4A state tournament opener, but a better all-around defensive effort and a wild fourth quarter provided the difference for Idaho Falls. The Tigers advanced to the state semifinals for the second time in three years, holding on for a 49-44 victory at Borah High.
“We matched the physicality of who they are,” said Hart, noting a tweak to the defense after falling behind 7-0 to open the game started to turn the game around.
The Tigers’ front line matched up with the Bruins, despite being outrebounded on the offensive end.
After Idaho Falls eventually took the lead after the slow first quarter, the game was close. Twin Falls led 32-29 heading into the fourth quarter, but things started to change as Idaho Falls opened the fourth with a 9-0 run and started to get to the free-throw line.
“We made it tougher on them than we did the previous two games,” Hart said.
That was true in the fourth quarter as the Tigers pulled away, scoring 20 points in the quarter and building the lead to six. Even so, Twin Falls closed the gap with Winston Duggan hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull the Bruins within 41-40 with 1:20 remaining.
Idaho Falls was forced to close it out at the free-throw line and the Tigers did, connecting on 16 of 21 in the second half and 22 of 28 for the game.
Up next for Idaho Falls (18-5) is Vallivue in a rematch of the state semifinals two years ago, which the the Falcons won.
“This is what it’s all about,” Hart said. “You work so hard to get here, you want to go out and give your best effort.”
Twin Falls’ Mitchell Brizee finished with 12 points and Faust Ystueta scored 17. Paul Wilson and Kenyion Clark each scored 12 points for the Tigers.