The Sugar-Salem Diggers definitely learned from their experience playing on the road at 3A arch-rival Snake River last Saturday and came out of the locker room with ferocious defense Tuesday in Hailey.
As for the host Wood River High School boys’ varsity basketball team, the Wolverines are still trying to avoid that bad quarter—the eight minutes of sub-par play that has determined the outcome of many of their games during the hoops season.
“We’re trying hard not to give up the big quarter and play four quarters of good basketball,” said second-year Wood River coach Andy Miles.
Sugar-Salem’s relentless man-to-man, trapping defense orchestrated by first-year head coach Shawn Freeman resulted in 11 Hailey turnovers during the fast-paced first-quarter Tuesday. The Diggers jumped ahead 16-3 en route to a 52-38 road victory.
Wood River (1-8, 0-2 Great Basin Conference) had lost 60-36 to the Diggers Dec. 20 at Sugar City in its final game before the holiday. So they knew the strengths of Sugar-Salem, a scrappy squad led by 6-8 forward/post Tim Fuller.
Last year’s State 3A tournament consolation champion, Sugar-Salem (8-4) had lost only in recent games to reigning State 3A champ Snake River of Moreland (9-1) by margins of one and nine points. When the Diggers fell 55-45 at Snake River last weekend, they dropped behind 16-2 in the first quarter and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.
Not so Tuesday.
Fuller (10 points, 5 rebounds) scored six points and Cyrus Kidd (7 points) drilled two 3-pointers over the Wood River zone defense in Sugar-Salem’s 14-0 first-quarter run that was fueled by seven of the 18 Digger steals for the game.
Two 3-pointers by senior Kevin Hernandez were Wood River’s only field goals of an 18-turnover first half that dug Hailey a 24-8 hole. The home team was held scoreless for 14 minutes before sophomore guard Alec Nordsieck canned two charities.
Wolverine assistant coach J.C. Nemecek said, “The boys came out playing at too fast a pace which led to many early turnovers. Trailing 24-8 at halftime, they slowed the pace, became more intent on defense and changed the pace of the game.
“The fourth quarter was probably the best quarter the boys have played this season. We outscored Sugar-Salem in the second half 30-28. Unlike the first meeting of the teams, Sugar-Salem had to play its starting rotation to the end of the game.”
Wood River went to a man-to-man defense after halftime, slowing Sugar’s attack. The Wolverines became more aggressive on the offensive and defensive boards, did some damage with their press and attacked the basket on offense. Contributions by juniors Jon Scott and Santiago Gomez off the bench helped greatly.
The 23-point Wolverine fourth quarter, the team’s best output of the season in a single period, came from 12-for-15 success at the free throw line, eight rebounds and five steals. Six different Wolverines scored points and they cut a 22-point Digger lead down to 14.
Wood River’s 14-for-22 at the stripe was its second-best effort of the season on free throws. Sugar-Salem made 14-of-19 at the line and its 18-10 edge in total field goals was mainly due to its 7-1 edge in field goals made during the first period.
Rebounds were even, 26 for the Diggers and 25 for Wood River. In a hectic contest with 55 turnovers, 28 by Wood River, Sugar-Salem was better in its shooting percentage, 45% to 27% for the Wolverines.
Wood River contributors included Nordsieck (7 points, 4 rebounds, 5 steals), Arthur Brugger (7 points, 2 assists), Hernandez (6 points, 3 steals), Cody Carter (5 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 blocked shots) and Eron Bates (3 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals).
Others for the Wolverines Jon Scott (4-for-5 free throws, 2 rebounds, 1 blocked shot), Connor Hayes (3-pointer) and Parker Bingham (3 points, 3 boards, 2 steals).
For Sugar, scorers included Gunner Anderson (11 points, 7-for-8 free throws, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 assists), Drake Cordon (4 points, 5 boards, 3 steals) and Jason Ricks (6 points, 4 rebounds).
The Hailey boys will host the Filer Wildcats for a matinee non-conference game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18.
Filer (5-5) lost 57-41 at home to Twin Falls last Saturday and beat Declo 54-30 at home Wednesday. The Wildcats had a huge 29-11 scoring edge at the free throw line when they beat Wood River 66-49 at home Dec. 6—a game when the Wolverines trailed 37-18 at half.