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Panthers not done yet: West J beats Ririe 41-38 to force if-necessary district title game

ST. ANTHONY — As the West Jefferson and Ririe High School girls basketball starters took their positions on the court Thursday for tipoff, “Get Ready for This” blared throughout the South Fremont High School gym.

The well known Space Jam tune proved fitting for Thursday’s 2A District 6 title game. That same song plays before tipoff of every Idaho high school girls and boys state championship game at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa, and Thursday’s game featured the last two 2A girls basketball state champions and the two teams tied for No. 3 in the 2A rankings of the final state media poll.

Paired with the atmosphere of a packed gym, Thursday’s contest felt like a state tournament game, and West Jefferson rode the wave of intensity to victory. The No. 2 seeded Panthers, the 2016 district and state champs, outlasted No. 1 seeded Ririe, the 2017 district and state champs, 41-38 after six lead changes to prompt the if-necessary district title game Saturday.

While the Panthers (21-4) had five players score and two in double figures, it was defensive rebounds and stops that set the tone for them in a typical run and gun Nuclear Conference game.

“I’ve said it all year, they’re unselfish and it shows,” West Jefferson coach Jalena Dixon said. “I had a lot of girls coming in and out off the bench and stepping up big.”

Stepping up and providing fire on both ends of the court for the Panthers was senior Allie Severe, who scored a game-high 18 points and ran into the arms of a jumping Jordi Holdaway after the final buzzer sounded.

“The one thing I kept telling my team was, ‘let’s play with no regrets,’” Severe said. “We’re going to state anyway, and a district title is a bonus. We can be district champs if we really put our hearts into it.”

It was evident early that Thursday’s contest would be a game of runs.

Indee Williams and Halley Guthrie sent the Bulldogs on a 6-2 run to start the contest, but Holdaway and Severe gave West Jefferson a 7-6 lead to end the first quarter capped off by a Severe 3. Aside from a 13-13 tie in the second quarter off a 3-pointer by Ririe’s Kenadee Coles, the Panthers remained ahead the rest of the first half. West Jefferson entered halftime up 19-16, getting their final field goal of the first half from a Makiah Rogers 3 with 30 seconds left.

The third quarter provided a show between Severe and Coles, as Severe gave the Panthers leads of 21-16 and 23-19 and Coles scored all 11 of Ririe’s points. Nine of those 11 points were from 3s, the second of which gave Ririe a 24-23 lead at the 3:35 mark.

“She’s a great shooter,” Ririe coach Damien Smith said. “She was carrying us for a while.”

Despite a Coles 3 with 12 seconds left, the Panthers ended the third quarter up 29-27. Two more lead changes occurred—one prompted by a Williams jumpshot and the other from a Severe 3—in the fourth quarter, and Williams cut the deficit to 38-35 and 38-40 in the final 93 seconds. Holdaway and Morgan Laird combined to go 3-for-4 from the line in the last 20 seconds, however, to end Ririe’s rally.

“They dictated every aspect of the game,” Smith said of the Panthers. “I felt like they wanted to win it more than we did.”

Laird had 10 points and Holdaway added seven for the Panthers while Coles finished with 16 points, including four 3s, and Williams added 13 for Ririe (19-4).

Thursday’s result evens the Ririe and West Jefferson series at 2-2 for the season, and both coaches said they anticipate more of the same Saturday.

“These are two great teams that both want to win it,” Dixon said.

West Jefferson 7 12 10 12 — 41
Ririe 6 10 11 11 — 38
WEST JEFFERSON (38) — Allie Severe 18, Morgan Laird 10, Jordi Holdaway 7, Makiah Rogers 3, Saige Kirkpatrick 3. FG: 13. FT: 10-21. 3-pointers: 4 (Severe 2, Rogers 1, Laird 1). Total fouls: 18. Fouled out: none.
RIRIE (41) — Kenadee Coles 16, Indee Williams 13, Maddie Johnson 7, Halley Guthrie 2. FG: 12. FT: 8-12. 3-pointers: 6 (Coles 4, Williams 2). Total fouls: 19. Fouled out: none.

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