Six state championship trophies will be handed out Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. Here are the Idaho Statesman’s picks for the front-runners in each classification:
CLASS 5A THE FAVORITE
EAGLE: The Mustangs’ depth poses a problem for opponents, as they substitute regularly to keep fresh legs on the court and push the pace for 32 minutes. The result is a 15-game winning streak and a classification-leading 64.2 points per game. Four starters and nine lettermen return for a team that reached the state semifinals last season. The Mustangs (23-1) have won all but three games by double figures and are one victory away from tying the program record for wins in a single season.
CENTENNIAL: With four-year starter Tori Williams on the floor, an opponent’s lead is never safe. Williams, a Utah signee, is deadly from 3-point range but also knows how to feed teammates, including Wichita State commit Lauren Brocke. After a state runner-up finish last season and the return of four starters, the Patriots are motivated and experienced. Centennial (20-4) is stingy on defense, allowing 39.7 points per game while scoring 54.8.
THE DARK HORSE
MOUNTAIN VIEW: The two-time defending champs fell from the No. 1 spot in the state media rankings this season after starters Kayla Anderson and Adriana Vickery suffered ACL injuries. But both girls are still playing, and the Mavericks (20-4) have flashed their former dominance at times this season. Mountain View handed Eagle its only loss of the season (51-50 on Dec. 13) and have the best defense in the 5A SIC at 38.3 points per game.
CLASS 4A THE FAVORITE
CENTURY: Four teams spent time at No. 1 in the state media poll this season, but the favorite label goes to the two-time defending state champ. Five of the Diamondbacks’ seven losses were against 5A programs and a sixth they avenged by beating Preston 52-38 for the District Five-Six championship.
MIDDLETON: The former 4A powerhouse that won three consecutive state titles from 2010-12 returns to state after a two-year absence. The Vikings (18-6) rocketed from No. 4 to No. 1 in the last state media poll thanks in part to a 13-game winning streak. Middleton’s bench goes 10 deep, and the Vikings will rotate shifts of five new players every four minutes.
THE DARK HORSE
MINICO: The Spartans spent four straight weeks at No. 1 in the state media poll but fell from the top spot after losing two starters, including leading scorer Jilian Gilchrist. Despite the setback, Minico (16-8) regrouped for a runner-up finish in the Great Basin Conference and its second consecutive state tournament berth.
CLASS 3A THE FAVORITE
TIMBERLAKE: The Tigers have played in the state championship game five times in the past six seasons, highlighted by the first win in program history in 2016. Eight players return from that team, headlined by reigning All-Idaho Player of the Year Allison Kirby — who has signed with Idaho — and first-teamer Keelie Lawler, who is committed to Division II Western State Colorado. Timberlake (20-2) has won 13 games in a row.
SUGAR-SALEM: Since 2007, the Diggers have won four state championships, the most recent in 2015. Three members of that 2015 title team return — Addi Gehmlich, Savanah Crane and Amanda Rudd. Sugar-Salem finished third in the final state media poll of the season, with only Teton (No. 2) and Timberlake (No. 1) ahead of it. The Diggers (20-4) beat Teton last week for their eighth district championship in 10 seasons.
THE DARK HORSE
PARMA: The Panthers return to state for the first time since 2013, when they finished third. Parma (14-6) has won nine of its past 10 games and beat its 3A Snake River Valley opponents by an average of 23.8 points per game. Two of their best players are underclassmen — freshman forward Adyson Harris and sophomore guard Madison Jackson, a Division I recruit.
CLASS 2A THE FAVORITE
SODA SPRINGS: The Cardinals, last year’s state runner-up, have not lost to a 2A team this season but finished second to Ririe in the final state media rankings of the season. Soda Springs (21-3), which beat Ririe 53-41 in the first round of last year’s state tournament, has won 10 games in a row.
RIRIE: The Bulldogs received seven of the possible 10 first-place votes in the final state media poll, and they’ll be out for redemption after losing in the state consolation final last season. Ririe (22-2) is making its fifth straight postseason appearance and enters on a 14-game winning streak.
THE DARK HORSE
MELBA: The Mustangs (20-2) rebounded in a big way from last year’s seven-win season with the addition of junior guard Kori Pentzer. Pentzer came to Melba this season from John Day, Ore., and is averaging 23 points per game. Melba, which only lost to 3A Parma and Vale, Ore., hasn’t lost since early December, running its win streak to 16 games.
CLASS 1A DIVISION I THE FAVORITE
LAPWAI: The two-time defending state champions’ only loss this season came against Timberlake, the reigning 3A state champion. Lapwai (20-1) landed four players on last year’s All-Idaho team, and three of those players are back — Iris Domebo (player of the year), Koyama Young (first team) and Shiniah Holt (second team). Aside from its two games against Timberlake, Lapwai has beaten all of its opponents by double figures.
PRAIRIE: Last year’s state runner-up has already faced Lapwai three times this season, losing by 15, 20 and 34 points. The two teams have faced each other in the state championship game the past three seasons, including the Pirates’ upset victory in 2014. Prairie (19-3) is on the opposite side of the bracket from Lapwai, so they could easily meet again.
THE DARK HORSE
OAKLEY: The Hornets (19-2) captured their first district championship since 1994, and their only loss to a 1A program this season came against fellow state-qualifier Valley on Dec. 15. With four players who stand 5-foot-10 or taller, Oakley will try to take advantage of mismatches inside. Oakley has never won a state championship.
CLASS 1A DIVISION II THE FAVORITE
BUTTE COUNTY: The Pirates are the only unbeaten team remaining in the state, rattling off 21 straight victories for their first state appearance since 2013. Butte County has three state titles, with all of them coming at the 2A level and the most recent in 2012. The Pirates have scored 70 or more points in the past five games.
NEZPERCE: The Indians (19-2) finished the season at No. 2 behind Butte County in the final state media poll, but the predetermined state pairings have the two programs on the same side of the bracket. Nezperce is making its fourth straight trip to state and is seeking its first title.
THE DARK HORSE
SALMON RIVER: Salmon River’s 15-5 record is somewhat deceiving, as two of those losses came against 1A Division I favorite Lapwai and another against 2A Grangeville. The Savages return their top two players from last year’s third-place team in All-Idaho first-teamer Maddy Tucker and second-teamer Chevelle Shepherd.
Rachel Roberts: @IDS_VarsityX
Schools with the most girls basketball state championships since the IHSAA tournament began in 1976.
Highland - Craigmont