The Kellogg Wildcats punched their ticket to Wednesday’s 3A District I championship game following their shocking 44-40, come from behind, win over Bonners Ferry on Monday night.
A game of runs, it seemed as though the scoring only happened in bursts for both teams, but it was Kellogg who got the last run.
Following last week’s tough, 14-point loss to the Badgers, the Wildcats were playing like they had nothing to lose and unleashed a fast and physical style of basketball that hasn’t been seen all season long.
The opening quarter played out fairly evenly with Bonners Ferry taking a slim 10-9 lead, but they were able to extend that lead in the second quarter after Wildcat senior Kaili Cates went to the bench with her second foul.
It was a 26-20 deficit at the break, but the Wildcats looked to be the aggressors for much of the half.
Beginning the third quarter, coach Jana Nearing would tighten her defense up and unleashed a nasty zone press that (both figuratively and literally) gave the Badger ball handlers fits.
Turnovers turned into points, points turned into momentum, and momentum turned a (at one time) 9-point Badger lead into a 1-point Wildcat lead as the fourth quarter began.
Led by Cates and sophomore Jaron Figueroa, Kellogg kept the game within striking distance, Figueroa carrying the scoring load with a game-high 19-points (including 10-12 from the free throw line) and Cates providing the defensive motor that continuously led to Bonners Ferry turnovers.
With less than 40 seconds remaining, and trailing 40-39, Figueroa came off a screen and knocked down a 15-foot jumper to give the Wildcats the lead.
One forced turnover, one rebound,and three made free throws later the Wildcats were on their way to a district championship showdown with the Timberlake Tigers.
“Everybody worked and played hard and we hit our free throws,” Nearing said following the game. “We really worked on playing for each other and playing with enthusiasm and we did that tonight.”
Cates also finished with nine points for the Wildcats who will take on Timberlake Wednesday night at 6:15 p.m. at North Idaho College for a shot at the District I championship and (more importantly) one of District I’s two state tournament berths.