Skyline boys basketball coach Clint Cornish said the Grizzlies and the Tigers have played against each other for “a thousand years” and every time the two teams met on the court, it’s always the same.
Close, frenetic and emotional.
Thursday night at Idaho Falls’ gymnasium was no different, as Skyline beat Idaho Falls 52-49 behind a fourth-quarter surge from Cruz Taylor to overcome a four-point deficit with three minutes to play.
“We just came out with a lot of energy in the first quarter and kept building on that,” Skyline’s Jo Bates said. “We came out and punched them in the face and just gotta keep going.”
Taylor finished with 20 points — eight coming in the final quarter — and Bates had a double-double (17 points and 10 rebounds) in Skyline’s second-straight win. The last time Skyline beat Idaho Falls was almost a full year ago.
Idaho Falls leaned on four prominent scorers — Bowen (10), Cameron Conrad (12), Paul Wilson (12) and Noah Hillam (10) — to give Skyline fits coming out of halftime break and take a four-point lead with about 3:30 left to play in regulation. 10 of Conrad’s 12 points came in the third quarter alone to help the Tigers overcome a seven-point halftime deficit.
“It definitely sucks, but it’s always fun just playing against these guys because we’re all good friends,” Bowen said. “And it’s a good rivalry.”
Down 24-17 at halftime, Idaho Falls stormed back to eventually take its first lead late in the fourth quarter. The Tigers broke the Grizzlies’ zone with Wilson, a 6-foot-10 junior who frequently found Hillam and Conrad cutting to the basket with passes from the elbow and top of the key.
But the Grizzlies responded later with some late-game heroics by Taylor.
After Kadin Pabst cut Skyline’s deficit to one with an and-one, Taylor began to attack the basket and gave the Grizzlies the lead again, 45-44, thanks to a double-pump layup stemming from a jump pass and a drive down the right side of the basket. The Grizzlies never trailed again afterwards.
“It made it easier to attack the basket because all the players on our team just kinda spread out and I could find some room,” Taylor said. “It was an overall team effort and a good win.”
Cornish complimented his team’s composure in final five minutes of the game, especially under a tough environment.
For Skyline, the win puts the Grizzlies back at .500 (6-6) as they will play Blackfoot at home Wednesday.
“They come out at home, they have a lot to prove, and I knew they were going to get after it,” Cornish said. “So, I thought we handled it well down the stretch and we got down four, and I thought we didn’t panic and I thought the kids stayed the course there.”
For Idaho Falls, the Tigers (3-10) have now loss their fifth game decided by seven points or fewer. Coach Howard Hart said he was proud of his team’s ability to come back in the third quarter, which was jumpstarted by a 5-0 run.
He said Idaho Falls will try to improve its ball security late in games in the final eight games of the regular season. Idaho Falls plays Century on Wednesday.
“It was a good basketball game,” Hart said. “It’s great for both schools. It’s great for the community for itself and both teams played hard. Both teams had their little spurts and runs and opportunities late.”
SKYLINE 52, IDAHO FALL 49
Skyline 12 12 10 18 — 52
Idaho Falls 10 7 16 16 — 49
SKYLINE (52) — Cruz Taylor 20, Jo Bates 17, Danny Webb 3, Jaden Landes 5, Kadin Pabst 4, Carson Ricks 3. FG: 19. 3-pointers: 5 (Ricks, Taylor 2, Webb 1, Bates). FT: 9-16. Fouls: 9. Fouled out: none.
IDAHO FALLS (49) — Gavin Shelley 3, Kalvin Bowen 10, Braxton Ball 2, Noah Hillam 10, Paul Wilson 10, Cameron Conrad 12. FG: 20. 3-pointers: 4 (Conrad 2, Shelley, Bowen). Fouls: 18. Fouled out: none.