By JORDAN RODRIGUEZ
NAMPA — It wasn’t always pretty, but the Madison High School girls basketball team found a way to survive and advance Thursday at the 5A state tournament.
Senior wing Leah Dougherty scored a game-high 24 points, and the Bobcats used a big third quarter surge and a huge free throw disparity to topple Kuna 52-41 at the Ford Idaho Center.
Madison (20-5) advances to play Centennial (21-4) in an 8 p.m. semifinal game Friday.
“For our kids, this was their first experience playing on this stage,” Madison coach Traci Peterson said. “I was happy with the way we defended. I thought we did a good job of playing clean but staying aggressive.”
Both teams had a hard time generating offense early. Kuna led 21-20 at halftime, but the first half stats told the story as both teams shot 26 percent from the floor and combined for 17 turnovers. Most of the scoring was done at the free-throw line, where Madison went 12-for-16 and Kuna was 7-of-14.
Madison finally got on track in the third quarter. The Bobcats came out on fire, opening the quarter on a 15-0 run to take the lead for good. Dougherty was the catalyst, connecting on two 3-pointers and completing an old-fashioned three-point play to key the onslaught.
“Coach told us to be excited for the opportunity to play here,” Dougherty said. “It was awesome. I didn’t feel tired at all during that run, I just had so much adrenaline, and I think our whole team felt that way.”
Added Peterson: “When Leah gets in a rhythm and starts to feel it, she can go on a scoring streak.”
The Bobcats nursed their double-digit lead from there, making enough foul shots to keep the Kavemen at arm’s length. Incredibly, Madison shot more free throws (28-of-45) than field goals (11-of-30) as Kuna was whistled for 30 fouls, including 19 in the second half. Three players fouled out for the Kavemen.
“It absolutely killed us,” said Kuna coach Alex Jensen. “Being in foul trouble like that, it affects the way we want to play our game. It’s too bad.”
Junior forward Hannah Wilson had 14 points and seven rebounds for Madison, which is in the semifinals for the first time since 2002. The Bobcats are seeking their first state championship since 1990.
Senior post Ashlyn Van Campen led Kuna (11-13) with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Madi Thurston added 10 points for the Kavemen, who are making their first appearance in the 5A state tournament after moving up from 4A competition.
MADISON 52, KUNA 41
Kuna 7 14 5 15 — 41
Madison 11 9 16 16 — 52
KUNA (41) — Ivy Hommel 8, Brooke Ray 1, Natalie Rose 3, Ashlyn Van Campen 12, Madi Thurston 10, Meghan Holloman 7. FG: 14-51. FT: 10-20. 3-pointers: 3-14 (Hommel 2-5, Rose 1-3). Total fouls: 30. Fouled out: Hommel, Rose, Thurston.
MADISON (52) — Jazz Delgado 7, Leah Dougherty 24, Ryan Tyler 1, Madi Day 5, Hannah Wilson 14, Savanah Dick 1. FG: 11-30. FT: 28-45. 3-pointers: 2-7 (Dougherty 2-2). Total fouls: 15. Fouled out: None.