Defensive game plan lifts Thunder Ridge to 53-39 victory over No. 1 Coeur d’Alene in 5A state tournament semifinals

NAMPA – Jeremy Spencer stayed up until well past 3 a.m. Friday morning game-planning on how to stop No. 1 Coeur d’Alene (19-2), particularly its star player Madi Symons, who scored 30 plus points the last time she played his team in December.

The Thunder Ridge High School girls basketball coach’s late-night study session worked, even if the rest of his assistant coaches weren’t up to get his text messages.

The Titans (21-4) held Symons to a season-low seven points in a 53-39 Idaho 5A State Tournament semifinal win Friday at the Ford Idaho Center to punch their first-ever ticket to the state championship game.

“She (Madi) was flustered,” Spencer said. “She was a lot more physical towards the end to where we kind of felt like we got to her mentally. We set our game plan and they stuck to it. So I was proud of them.”

No. 4 Thunder Ridge had three different players score in double figures. Sierra John led the way with 12 points, which included going 3 for 3 from the field and hitting 5 of 6 free throws. Aspen Caldwell and University of Boston signee Lauren Davenport each added 11. Caldwell also added eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. And Paige Clark came within one point of a double-double with nine points and 10 boards for the Titans, who overcame a slow start.

They fell in an early 6-0 hole and didn’t register a single point until more than half the first quarter had passed. But a 13-0 run over the next six minutes gave them the lead for good.

“She (Sierra John) came out firing,” Clark said. “She brought the team up. She brought the energy up. She was diving for balls. She’s a leader and she made all of us follow her and it’s a big thing on her part to get us out of that funk.”

Thunder Ridge is in the state title game only three years after opening its doors. The inaugural season saw the Titans go just 8-16 before losing to Eagle in last year’s state play-in game. But in year three, they’ve knocked off several ranked programs, including Timberline, Century and Coeur d’Alene for a second time this season to make school history.

“It’s trust the system,” Spencer said. “The only thing you can do is you got to preach to the girls, let’s work hard, let’s have a great offseason, let’s do the little things well and things like this happen. Day one we walked in the Ford (Idaho) Center, you kind of went like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ to right now, we’re competing.”

Skylar Burke tallied a game-high 14 points and Jaelyn Brainard-Adams chipped with 10 for the Vikings.

Photo gallery by Loren Orr:

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