Swarm of success for Bonneville girls basketball

Bonneville sophomore Sadie Lott moves the ball down the court in a Dec. 8 home game against Hillcrest. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Bees' Cortney McDonald and Head Coach Amy Wood talk between plays as Bonneville High School takes on Hillcrest High on Friday December, 8, 2017. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Bonneville High School head girls basketball coach Amy Wood runs a drill that brings the past into the present for the players who now wear the team colors she once wore.

It is an inbounds passing drill designed to imitate a high pressure situation. During the drill, Wood tells her players, “There’s nine seconds left and you’re down one in the state championship game.”

Her words are not random, but rather a reference to a moment from the past.

In the 2005 4A girls basketball state championship game at the Idaho Center in Nampa, Bonneville’s Jody Butikofer made an inbounds pass to Lacey Smith with 9.3 seconds left and the Bees trailing 40-39 to Blackfoot. Standing in front of the halfcourt line by the sidelines, Smith passed to Wood, then a high school senior known by her maiden name of Passey, who drove to the basket and made a layup with three seconds left to put the Bees up 41-40. Bonneville clinched its first girls basketball state title in the waning seconds when she knocked the ball loose from Blackfoot’s Alexis Tucker.

Having once represented Bonneville during a historic run, Wood has made mental toughness a priority for the Bees in her third year as head coach of her alma mater.

“I feel like my years playing here have helped me be able to coach these kids,” Wood said. “It’s been fun for me to teach these kids how to handle the pressure and how to be tough in those games.”

At 16-1 overall — 5-0 in 5A District 5-6 play and a No. 4 ranking in 5A in the latest Idaho state media poll — the Bees are off to their best start since the 2009-10 team which finished 25-1 and had 39 consecutive wins entering the 4A state championship game. It is their latest step forward since Wood’s hire.

In 2015-16, the Bees went 15-10 for their first winning season in four years. Last year, Bonneville finished 19-5. Falling to Madison in the district championship and getting eliminated two days later by Highland, however, provided an abrupt ending.

Wood was an assistant coach for Madison head coach Traci Peterson — whom she played for at Bonneville — for eight years prior to her hire with the Bees, and she played for Salt Lake Community College before that. Wood said she is continuing to learn about being a head coach, and last year’s district finish provided much insight.

“The best thing that happened to me as a new coach was losing out in the district tournament last year,” Wood said. “You never make it till you make it. It was a good experience not only for me, but for the players.”

Four experienced players and contributors to Bonneville’s progress as a program — Scha’leigh Davenport, Cadee Berrett, Sami Trane and Madi Hendricks — graduated from last season. Several players returned, however, and 2017 districts provided motivation.

“We have a lot of great players on this team,” said senior captain Cortney McDonald. “I knew I could be a leader on this team. I knew we could do big things if we worked hard this season.”

One of Wood’s first orders of business was for Bonneville to join Madison and Highland in Boise for the annual TimberLion Tournament, a three-day tournament the week before Christmas that draws teams from Boise, Twin Falls and eastern Idaho. The Bees went 2-1, defeating Timberline 66-32 and Mountain View 60-50 and falling 50-30 to No. 1 state media poll ranked Eagle. The Mustangs and Bees entered their game undefeated.

“I was excited but also super nervous,” said sophomore Sadie Lott. “They could not miss a shot. They were fast. We couldn’t get in our offense. It really put things in perspective. We went to Boise to get better.”

Wood said she was curious how the Bees would respond from a loss to Eagle, whom she called the most defensively disciplined team they’ve faced, in the next day’s game versus Mountain View. Despite trailing by double digits at halftime, Bonneville rallied to defeat the Mavericks.

Wood said the Bees treated TimberLion like a pre-state tournament and have applied what they learned there to their games since then.

“To come back from a loss and come back to win our final game, my kids played with so much fight,” Wood said. “We’re learning every game how to handle the pressure. I’ve got 10 kids and I’ve got 10 kids who want to be in with 10 seconds left on the clock.”

Like the 2005 team and the class of 2010 girls who went 49-3 and won a state championship and state runner-up trophy their last two seasons, Wood said the 2017-18 Bees possess strong work ethic and feature several multi-sport athletes. She was impressed with how quickly the team chemistry formed, adding that the Bees are both competitive and united.

“The most fun thing about this team is the friendships,” McDonald said. “We have great friendships off the court.”

“I’ve been teammates with most of these girls since second grade,” senior captain Kalli Harris added. “The younger kids motivate the older kids. The older kids motivate the younger kids.”

Mental toughness remains a priority for the remainder of the season. Wood said Bonneville’s immediate focus is the second half of conference play, which is always competitive as teams are more familiar with each other and are battling for district tournament seeds.

While helping Bonneville reach state for the first time since 2010 is a goal, Wood pointed out that coaching at her alma mater is not restricted to basketball.

“It’s all about helping them become better people and ball players,” Wood said. “That’s the main thing.”

Those words have already been taken to heart by the Bees, evident by the smile on Lott’s face as she described what it is like to play for someone who once played for Bonneville.

“She definitely knows what she’s doing,” Lott said. “I know she gets us. She’s kinda like a role model to me.”