A Treasure Valley team will take home the 5A state championship trophy for the third year in a row after Eagle and Centennial earned semifinal victories Friday at the Ford Idaho Center.
Eagle has won all three meetings against Centennial this season by double digits, but Saturday’s game carries significantly more weight.
“Each time that we’ve played them, we’ve gotten better at something,” Centennial coach Candace Thornton said. “I think that the key for tomorrow is going to be to put all of those things together.”
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Centennial has five championships in program history — the most recent in 2006 — while Eagle is playing in the title game for the second time and has yet to win.
EAGLE 57, POST FALLS 54
It was Eagle’s closest margin of victory this season, so when head coach Cody Pickett turned to assistant Ron Fortner for a handshake, Fortner instead pulled Pickett in for a hug and rowdy pat on the back.
Nearly two decades earlier, Fortner and Pickett teamed up as coach and player at Caldwell High. Pickett’s senior season ended with an overtime loss to Idaho Falls in the 1999 state championship game.
But after Friday’s victory over Post Falls, Pickett and Fortner will get another try together at a state championship.
“This is just a special year, and hopefully we can get one more,” Pickett said.
Eagle’s 16-game winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy midway through the fourth quarter. Starters Katelyn Murray and Cassidy Tiegs were each on the floor with four fouls, and the Trojans remained on the attack.
“In my mind, I was like, ‘This is my senior year. This is my last chance to accomplish something that has never been done at Eagle High,’ ” senior Abby Mangum said. “We’re down right now, and the only way to come back is if the seniors put in some leadership and just go to the hole.”
Mangum followed through on her instincts, slashing her way to the basket for a layup off the glass and a 52-51 lead with 4:05 on the clock.
A Bayley Brennan 3-pointer put Post Falls back in front 54-52 with less than 2 minutes to play, and Mangum took the same path to the hoop from the left elbow, this time sinking the basket and drawing a foul.
She swished the free throw for a one-point Eagle lead.
“I had nothing to lose, honestly, so I just went for it,” Mangum said.
The Mustangs kept the Trojans from scoring on the other end and then looked to dribble out the remaining time. Unable to force a turnover, Post Falls fouled sophomore Meghan Boyd to stop the clock.
Boyd expertly sank both free throws, giving Eagle a three-point cushion.
“We just never give up,” Mangum said. “This is crucial for us. This is something that we really want and have wanted since Day One.”
Post Falls’ 3-point attempt came up short after calling a timeout with 5.3 seconds left, and Eagle’s Jaimee McKinnie corralled the rebound to preserve the victory.
Mangum finished with a team-best 12 points, and fellow senior Cassidy Tiegs added 11 points and five rebounds. Junior McKenna Emerson picked off Post Falls for nine steals to go with nine points.
Gonzaga commit Melody Kempton paced Post Falls with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
CENTENNIAL 50, MADISON 35
After losing just one starter from last year’s state runner-up team, the Patriots felt confident they could compete for a return trip to the state championship game in 2017.
Senior guard Tori Williams fueled that confidence with a game-high 22 points, and the Patriots’ defense did the rest in a comfortable victory over Madison.
The Bobcats — who were playing in the state semifinals for the first time since 2002 — led 11-7 after the first quarter before Williams deflated their confidence by knocking down four 3s in the second quarter for a 25-18 lead at halftime.
“We knew they were going to be tight on (Tori), and she hit her teammates,” Centennial coach Candace Thornton said. “She pulled the defense in and created opportunities that probably wouldn’t have been there.”
Williams, the 99th-ranked player nationally by ESPNW, added four assists, as the Patriots committed just six turnovers while forcing 20 from the Bobcats.
Junior Alicia Curry chipped in 13 points, and Lauren Brocke, who has signed with Wichita State, added 10 points and six rebounds to lead Centennial, which last won a state title in 2006.
“They’re fighters. They set this goal back in October,” Thornton said. “We’ve had to fight through a lot of injuries and sickness. They’re determined, I think more than anything, they’re strong-willed, and they’ll do whatever they have to.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW 61, HIGHLAND 36
Mountain View recovered from its first state tournament loss since 2014 with a rout of Highland.
The Mavericks (21-5) take on Lake City (20-6) for the consolation title at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ridgevue High in Nampa with the opportunity to bring home hardware for the fourth consecutive season.
Mountain View won back-to-back state titles in 2015 and 2016 and finished third in 2014.
Mavericks senior Taeli Carrillo knocked down four 3s for a game-leading 16 points, and Abby Kreiser and Laila Saenz dropped in 13 points each.
LAKE CITY 56, KUNA 39
Lake City advanced to the consolation championship for the second year in a row behind the double-double of sophomore forward Bridget Rieken.
Rieken scored a game-high 15 points with 10 rebounds as the Timberwolves (20-6) led from start to finish, holding the Kavemen (11-14) to 28.8 percent from the floor.
Kuna, which was making its first state appearance in the 5A classification, fell behind 16-7 after the first quarter and never bounced back.