With the fans—who swarm to the gym in hoards—seemingly right on top of the court, it is a stifling and overwhelming experience for visiting teams. It can be hard to breathe.
It can be hard to score, too.
Tuesday against conference foe Twin Falls, the Spartans were at the top of their game as they rode their defense and a big offensive burst in the second half to a 71-53 win over the Bruins.
“Twin is a great program,” said Minico head coach Ty Shippen. “But our guys were resilient tonight. Twin Falls came out in the first half and did really well. We adjusted to that defensively later in the game.
“Our bench guys came in and did a really good job. The biggest difference tonight was our No. 6, 7 and 8 guys came in and played well. It was their best game of the season.”
Twin Falls got going early, breaking down Minico’s zone defense with crisp passing and smart decisions. That lead to buckets in the post and wide-open outside shots.
The Bruins held a 12-11 advantage after the first quarter.
The second period saw the teams seesaw back and forth until Shippen called a time out near the end of the quarter. When play resumed, the Spartans took control and never relinquished their grasp. They lead 30-25 at the break.
“The end of the second quarter was the difference,” said Twin Falls head coach Matt Harr. “They called a time out and we decided that we would chuck 3s up. I don’t mind 3-point shots, but we got selfish.
“We scored inside a lot early, but we settled for 3-pointers and we stopped playing defense. Teams like Minico, they sniff it out. When they saw blood they took advantage of it, and we just backed away.”
Behind Jeremy Stevenson’s game-high 17 points, Minico displayed a precise and tactical offensive strategy. They began to hit their outside shots, including a couple from sophomore Larry Vega, who missed a large chunk of the first half with foul trouble.
“This was a big win,” Stevenson said. “We came out on defense and shared the ball. When we play like that we do well. It changes the game.”
But it was the defensive end where the Spartans made their biggest mark. They were aggressive, relentless, and made the Bruins pay for their mistakes.
“That kind of defense is what we should be doing every game,” Stevenson said. “Our bench stepped up today and every played hard and aggressive.”
The Spartans had a balanced scoring attack on the evening. In addition to Stevenson’s 17, Tyson Durrant and Josh Pilling added 11 points apiece, while Vega had 10. Minico outscored Twin Falls 41-28 in the second half.
“When Jeremy, Josh and those guys start rolling, it’s awfully fun,” Shippen said. “They’ve played a lot together and they have a lot of leadership. They lock in and they want to win.”
For Twin Falls, Parker Henry lead the was with 14 points. Evan Allen had 10 while Ryan Eller finished with 9.
Minico held a 52-40 advantage heading into the final period.
At one point, the Spartans lead by 22 points before a couple of late baskets from Henry closed the gap.
Twin Falls (3-8, 2-1 Great Basin Conference) hosts Burley Thursday evening.
“We need to see all the teams once, and we need to see which kids of ours can play under pressure,” Harr said. “We’re still in the stage. We just have to find a solid six or seven players. But we’ll find them. We’ll do it.”
Minico (9-1, 3-0), in control of the conference at this point, travels to Wood River Thursday for another league game.
“It’s one game at a time for us,” Shippen said. “We write on the board, ‘Play our game.’ That’s what we need to do. And it starts with defense.”
Minico 71, Twin Falls 53
Minico 71, Twin Falls 53
Twin Falls 12 13 15 13-53
Minico 11 19 22 19-71
TWIN FALLS (53)
Parker Henry 14, Jonah Lutz 2, Dallin Harris 2, Evan Allen 10, Ryan Eller 9, Zach Malina 2, Jacob Crist 5, Drew Moffitt 4, Preston Meyerhoeffer 5. Totals 17 16-26 53.
Peyton Bailey 6, Tyson Durrant 11, Chase Chandler 6, Carson Manning 4, Josh Pilling 11, Jeremy Stevenson 17, Colton Hardy 2, Matthew Brumley 4, Larry Vega 10. Totals 27 11-11 71.