Kianna Wright leads Blackfoot over Skyline and into Idaho 4A girls basketball state semifinals

It’s not often teams meet six times in a season.

Unless you’re a pro and playing in a best-of-seven series. But this wasn’t that.

Blackfoot and Skyline met for the sixth and final time in the Idaho 4A Girls Basketball State Tournament at Mountain View High School Thursday night. And it was the Broncos who won the matchup that mattered most. They upended the Grizzlies 48-40 and advanced to the state semis for the first time since 2005.

Blackfoot (20-7) will play Burley in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday right back at Mountain View High.

“When you play six times, you know each other really well,” said Blackfoot coach Raimee Odum, who was a player on that 2005 team. “At that point, it was almost like both teams are just digging deep.”

The two rivals from the High Country Conference split during the regular season before meeting three times during the district tournament. The Grizzlies thought they had won the series after beating them for the district title 54-47 on Feb. 11. But as fate had it, they would go head-to-head one more time due to the predetermined state tournament seeding after the Broncos beat Nampa in the state play-in game.

“It would have been nice to see another team, but I don’t mind it,” said Isabelle Arave while laughing.

Kianna Wright racked up a game-high 20 points and Arave also reached double figures with 10 for the Broncos, who used a fast start to even the series at 3-3.

They scored the game’s first points on a layin by Wright and rode that to a 7-2 start. Blackfoot then scored nine of the quarter’s final 13 points, capped by a floater by Praire Caldwell at the buzzer for a pretty commanding 16-6 advantage.

Blackfoot kept its double-digit advantage for all but three and a half minutes of the second quarter. The lead grew as big as 14 on two separate occasions, the last was 24-10 on another layin by Wright with 1:18 remaining in the half. The Grizzlies looked like they were going to cut the deficit back down to single digits on a layup by Mattie Olson. But she was whistled for a charge and the Broncos went into the break up 24-13.

“Any team wants to start off really well right?,” Odum said. “It helps to kind of get that ball rolling. I think when our team starts off good like that, it helps us (defensively.) Defense is really the key and when we get some stops and then we get some buckets, it really helps carry out to the next quarter.”

Skyline (17-8) appeared like it was going to get itself back into the game in the third. It trimmed the deficit down to 7 at 29-22 at the 4:02 mark of the third. But Wright squashed the momentum on a putback just seconds later. It jumpstarted a 6-0 Bronco run that helped put them back up by double figures at 35-22 going into the fourth.The closest the Grizzlies got after that was eight at 48-40 on an Olson layin with nine seconds remaining.

A big reason for Skyline’s inability to get going was that its star player Olson was really held in check all game long. She only had four points on 2 of 8 shooting at the half and finished 5 of 18 (28%) for 13 points with most of that coming when the game was out of reach. Arave drew the defensive assignment.

“I just got to be mentally tough,” Arave said. “I just gotta think, ‘That’s my assignment, I gotta do my job in order for us to win.”

Sophia Anderson chipped in with 12 points for the Grizzlie, who were making their first state tournament appearance since 2007. They will Middleton at 2 p.m. Friday.

Blackfoot, on the other hand, will look to punch its first ticket to a state championship game since 2005.

“I’m so excited. It felt so good,” Wright said. “I hope we can keep it going. Keep it up. Get to the ship.”

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