The Treasure Valley has established itself as the epicenter of Idaho high school girls basketball in recent years.
Teams from the Southern Idaho Conference squared off in the 5A and 4A state championships last year, turning state title games into rematches of the district finals. The trophies extended the 5A SIC’s state title streak to three straight years, and made it six in the past eight years for the 4A SIC.
So who’s going to hoist a banner at the Ford Idaho Center in February? And who are the players that will help get them there?
Find out below.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Janie King, G, Eagle
The 6-foot senior and Idaho signee was the second-leading scorer (11 ppg) for the Mustangs last year, and she’ll shoulder more of the scoring load this winter with Cassidy Tiegs graduated.
King’s accuracy from long range makes her a nightmare on the perimeter, but she also has the length to slide inside and expose holes in the interior.
“Janie has always been a shooter but she’s worked on other parts of her game, which has made her more difficult to guard,” Meridian coach Matthew Creech said.
Katelyn Murray, F, Eagle
The only returning first-team all-conference player signed with Army last week. The 6-foot senior had a hand in everything last season, averaging 10.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Mustangs.
“She’s a dominant post who can shoot from behind the arc. I’m not sure there is any post who can match her skill set in the 5A SIC,” Kuna coach Alex Jensen said.
Meghan Boyd, G, Eagle
The Division I pipeline at Eagle will continue for at least one more year with Boyd, a 5-9 junior with offers from Idaho and Utah Valley. Expect her to lead the break and set the Mustangs’ racetrack pace.
“Her size for her position creates matchup problems,” Jensen said. “Her ability to push the tempo is what makes Eagle go.”
Darian White, G, Mountain View
White burst onto the scene as a freshman, earning second-team all-conference honors with Capital. But she transferred to Mountain View last year, forcing her to sit out a season. She returns to the court to lead a potent Mavericks backcourt.
“She can really make plays,” Timberline coach Todd Simpson said. “She can score off the dribble, shoot and can really play solid defense when she gets motivated to.”
Peyton McFarland, C, Boise
Standing at 6-3, the sophomore changes the game offensively and defensively with her presence in the middle. She averaged 8.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks to earn honorable mention all-conference honors as a freshman. More awards are surely on the way.
“Her size and talent makes her a force to be reckoned with,” Borah coach Jason Willer said. “She is a player that should develop as one of the best players in the league.”
Lydia Nieto, G, Bishop Kelly
The reigning 4A All-Idaho Player of the Year returns after averaging 12.1 points, 3.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds to lead the Knights to the state final. Her ability to run a full-court offense, penetrate the lane and score from a variety of angles and locations helped her sign with Division II Azusa Pacific last week.
“(She) completely controls the game with the ball in her hands and makes everyone around her better,” Mountain Home coach Brent Keener said.
Zoey Moore, G, Middleton
Moore came off the bench as a freshman last season, hit a game-winning shot in the state semifinals and led the defending state champs with 8.7 points per game. She’ll only see an increased role this year, possibly playing all five positions on a given night.
“She has a nice, pure shot, and when she gets fouled, she makes you pay from the free-throw line,” Emmett coach Laraine Harrison said.
Lexi Mitchell, F, Middleton
The power forward did it all for the Vikings last year, earning second-team All-Idaho honors as a junior. She scored 7.5 points a game and led the state champs in rebounds, steals, assists, free-throw percentage and blocked shots.
“(She’s) physically overpowering and plays really hard,” Keener said. “(She has an) incredible motor.”
5A SIC BREAKDOWN
The Mustangs lost a pair of All-Idaho selections to graduation. But they still return eight players from a team that finished last year 25-2, including three Division I prospects in Janie King (Idaho), Kate Murray (Army) and Meghan Boyd (offers from Idaho and Utah Valley). A fourth, McKenna Emerson, has signed with Division II Northwest Nazarene.
Conference coaches predicted defending state champ Centennial to fall back into the pack with the graduation of the state’s player of the year, Tori Williams. The Patriots finished eighth in a preseason coaches’ poll.
But Eagle will have plenty of challenges in the always deep SIC. Mountain View brings back another guard-heavy lineup that can score with anybody. Darian White, a Capital transfer, leads the group. And the Mavericks return two more starters in the backcourt in senior Alison Chanhthala (7.8 ppg) and sophomore Laila Saenz (5 ppg).
Borah returns four starters from a team that reached the state play-in game last year. The inside-out duo of Maddie Geritz and Alyssa Bolt will pose matchup problems throughout the conference.
And Boise and Timberline feature a young center in Peyton McFarland and Emma Ellinghouse, respectively, that will force coaches to cook up schemes to keep them off the glass.
4A SIC BREAKDOWN
Perennial power Middleton finds itself with the target on its back to start the year.
The Vikings return three starters after sweeping Bishop Kelly in the district and state championship games. The return of Lexi Mitchell and Meriah and Daycee Deguan will continue to make Middleton a formidable rebounding team. And Zoey Moore steps into a more prominent role after leading the team in scoring as a freshman.
Bishop Kelly returns a loaded lineup for another shot at Middleton. Conference and 4A state player of the year Lydia Nieto serves as the primary playmaker. But the Knights also return 10 players and four starters from a state runner-up squad, including first-team all-conference forward Theresa Reeping and second-team all-conference forward Gabby Keefe.
The Vikings and Knights have earned top billing in the league. But Caldwell looms with a young and quick lineup. Mountain Home remains a potent team on the break with four returning starters and second-team All-Idaho forward Kylie Meadows. And Lillie Smith’s return from a knee injury turns Emmett into a darkhorse contender.