The top two teams in the state media poll throughout much of the 2016-17 regular season performed as expected Thursday, collecting dominant wins in the first round of the 5A state tournament at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
No. 1 Eagle and No. 2 Centennial each advanced to Friday’s semifinals for the second year in a row with double-digit victories, preserving the possibility of an all-Treasure Valley championship.
The Mustangs tip off against northern champion Post Falls at 6:15 p.m. Friday, followed by Centennial and Madison in the 8 p.m. semifinal.
CENTENNIAL 61, LAKE CITY 38
During practice this week, Centennial assistant coach Tyler Casey’s assignment was to rough up his players in the paint. The beating paid off, as the Patriots seemed unfazed by Lake City’s size advantage.
“We told them, ‘You’re undersized, so you’re going to have to fight,’ and they did,” Centennial coach Candace Thornton said. “We had a bunch of girls get more rebounds than they typically do, and we knew that if we could pull them out a little bit, our offense would work better.”
Centennial neutralized Lake City’s height with a swarming defense.
Lauren Brocke, a Wichita State signee, caught fire from 3-point range, going 5-for-5 for a game-high 17 points with six rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot. Tori Williams, the 5A Southern Idaho Conference scoring leader, added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Alicia Curry chipped in 12 points.
“All year long, we’ve really just ridden the fact that we’re fighters, and we’re never going to give up,” Brocke said. “We just had to continue to play our game. It doesn’t matter the height. It just matters the fight within you.”
Lake City, which starts 6-foot-4 Lauren Rewers, 6-2 Nina Carlson and 6-1 Keara Simpson, was outrebounded 34-21.
Ayana Amaechi, the shortest player on the Pats’ roster, collected five rebounds — two more than Rewers and Carlson combined.
“Our assistant coach Tyler Casey, he was able to kind of get us the feel of bigger girls, muscle girls,” Brocke said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a dog fight underneath. He was really able to set us straight and get us ready for the first game. Our coaching staff is great.”
Centennial led 29-22 at halftime but poured in 32 points in the second half while holding Lake City to single digits in the third and fourth quarters.
“We are very proud of our defense. We have gone out of our way to make sure the girls are in shape,” Thornton said. “We tell them over and over again, if something’s happening on offense that’s out of your control, you go down on defense and control that.“You are always in control of what you do on defense, and the girls are proud of what they do on defense. It’s kind of become our thing.”
EAGLE 68, HIGHLAND 44
Eagle isn’t accustomed to chasing an opponent, but for the first 12 minutes of its opener against Highland, that’s exactly what the Mustangs did.
Eagle overcame a nine-point deficit in the first half.
“Our defense really sparks us, and once we get rolling, we play a lot of kids, so we’re able to really feed off that,” Eagle coach Cody Pickett said. “Cassidy (Tiegs) played great in that second quarter. She was getting steals and hitting shots. It was big for us.”
The senior guard and four-year starter knocked down a 3 with 3:28 remaining before halftime to pull the Mustangs within 26-21. That spark led to a Tiegs steal and easy layup less than a minute later.
By halftime, Eagle led 31-26.
“I think (Highland) came out pretty strong just moving the ball and really aggressive,” Tiegs said. “For us, it was just state jitters that lasted a little bit longer than we would have liked.”
Tiegs, who is Eagle’s career scoring leader with 1,305 points and counting, finished with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Junior Janie King led the Mustangs with 14 points, including a 2-for-3 performance from 3-point range.
McKenna Emerson kept up her torrid pace off the bench, contributing 12 points, four steals, four rebounds and two assists in less than 16 minutes.“We just need to stay as a team and do what we do all the time,” King said. “It should work out in the end.”
Eagle has not advanced to the state championship game since 1998. The Mustangs lost to Mountain View 72-52 in the semifinals last year, losing then-junior Abby Mangum to a torn ACL.“I hope we don’t think about (that game) at all. That was a rough night,” Pickett said. “We lost Abby to an ACL, the fire alarm went off three or four times. It was absolute chaos.”
POST FALLS 60, MOUNTAIN VIEW 48
The Mountain View defense learned on Post Falls’ opening possession exactly what it would need to do to stop the Trojans. But 6-foot junior post Melody Kempton didn’t intend to be stopped.
The Gonzaga commit dominated in the paint, scoring 29 points with 10 rebounds to upend two-time defending champion Mountain View.
Kempton finished 10-for-12 from the field and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line for the Trojans’ first state victory since they won it all in 2013.
“That’s kind of where we always start, but today she just kind of took over,” Post Falls coach Marc Allert said. “We had some mismatches inside. She did a great job of finishing.”
Mountain View’s hopes of a three-peat took a hit in the second quarter when post Adriana Vickery went down with an injury to her already torn ACL in her left knee.
The Mavericks were able to regroup, but struggled to match the Trojans’ strength inside.
“We couldn’t counter. We’re just small and short, and we got in foul trouble,” Mountain View coach Connie Skogrand said. “... Part of our strategy was to keep the ball away from (Kempton) in the first place. We just struggled with that.”
Mountain View took its only lead of the game, 42-41, with 6:22 to play in the fourth quarter on an Abby Kreiser to Taeli Carrillo 3-pointer.
The Trojans (20-2) scored seven unanswered points to retake a 48-42 lead. Another Carrillo 3 cut the deficit to 48-45 with 3:21 on the clock, but it was the closest the Mavericks (20-5) would get.
“You cry right now and turn around and rebound for tomorrow,” Skogrand said. “Show yourself that you’re still a really good team, and they will.”
Abby Kreiser led Mountain View with 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Carrillo finished with 11 points, Laila Saenz had eight and Alison Chanhthala seven.
Post Falls’ Bayley Brennan and Tyler McCliment-Call scored 11 points apiece, and MacKenzie Morris added six points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We’ve never been (to state), but all of us have been very close,” Kempton said. “ We made the play-in game the last two years. We were all just very excited and super pumped and just ready to get out there and do the best we possibly can.”
MADISON 52, KUNA 41
After trailing by one at the break, Madison scored 15 unanswered points at the start of the third quarter to run away with a win.
The Bobcats finished 28-of-45 from the free-throw line and combined with the Kavemen for 65 free-throw attempts.
Leah Dougherty paced Madison with 24 points, going 12-for-14 from the line. Hannah Wilson added 14 points and seven rebounds.
“Every time we got the ball and saw an opening, we just took it to the basket because we knew we’d probably get fouled or have a kick-out,” Dougherty said. “That’s what we just looked to do, to be aggressive.”
Madison (20-5) was playing in the state tournament for the first time since 2013, while Kuna (11-13) was making its first appearance at the 5A level.
The Kavemen led 21-20 at the half before running into foul trouble down the stretch. Late in the fourth quarter, four of Kuna’s five starters were playing with four fouls apiece.
“We talked about it in the locker room at halftime that we needed to be more aggressive and get on the rim,” Madison coach Traci Peterson said. “Kuna started fouling us pretty early too, so we kind of got lucky on that avenue.”
Madison moves into the state semifinals for the first time since 2002. The Bobcats last won a state title in 1990.
“We’ve worked so hard to get to where we are at,” Dougherty said. “Our hard work has really paid off.”