The Idaho high school girls basketball state tournaments tip off Thursday with championship Saturday following at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
With that in mind, I dug into all 48 teams that qualified for state to come up with predictions for who’s bringing home hardware Saturday night.
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THE FAVORITE: Mountain View (23-0) has spent the entire season as Idaho’s top-ranked team. The Mavericks have crushed opponents with 5A’s top offense (60.7 ppg) and top defense (35.7 ppg). Twenty of its 23 wins have come by 10 points or more, and it owns a 27-point win over No. 2 Lake City and three victories over No. 3 Eagle.
Montana State signee Darian White takes top billing. But Mountain View also fields one of the largest teams in the state with three regulars standing 6-foot or taller. It won titles in 2015 and ‘16 with five-guard lineups. Now it owns the paint regularly.
No 5A girls basketball team has finished undefeated since Coeur d’Alene in 2009, and no 5A Treasure Valley team has finished perfect since Meridian in 1983.
THE CONTENDER: Lake City (20-3) got crushed by Mountain View 51-24 on the final day of three games in three days in November. But that was the Timberwolves’ only loss to an Idaho team this season.
Lake City relies on lots of college talent with four signed to play at the next level, although only one for basketball (reserve post Sara Muehlhausen, Lewis-Clark State). But it can overpower teams with five players over 6-foot, including Brooklyn Rewers and Muehlhausen, who both stand 6-3.
THE DARK HORSE: Eagle (19-5) has finished as the state runner-up each of the past two seasons. Senior guards Meghan Boyd (16.1 ppg) and Jaimee McKinnie (13.7 ppg, 6.8 rebounds) played major roles on both of those teams and have practically lived at the Ford Idaho Center.
If the Mustangs’ up-tempo style can knock off Lake City in the first round, expect to see them back in the finals again.
THE FAVORITE: Century (24-0) has rolled through Idaho’s 4A classification, winning games against its peers by an average of 21.4 points. And it has yet to meet its match anywhere in Idaho or even in Las Vegas, where it won the ruby bracket at the Tarkanian Classic in December.
The defending state runner-up fields 4A’s top offense at 53.6 points per game, led by 6-3 senior post Chinma Njoku and senior guard Olivia Holt, who was named the MVP of her bracket in Las Vegas.
THE CONTENDER: Perennial power Middleton (22-2) may have a new coach, but it’s still a threat to hang another banner. The Vikings enter state on a 13-game winning streak relying on the same formula that made them a state powerhouse years ago.
Middleton fields 4A’s stingiest defense at 32.6 points per game, and it can turn to a deep roster to grind down opponents. Three players average seven or more points per game, including junior Zoey Moore, who scores a team-high 9.4 points per game off the bench while shooting 43 percent behind the 3-point line.
THE DARK HORSE: Blackfoot (21-4) is making its first state appearance since 2005. But it can shoot any team out of the gym on the right night, including undefeated Century in the first round. The Broncos lead the 4A classification at 55.7 points per game and are 19-0 when topping 50 points.
THE FAVORITE: Timberlake (20-2) has proven itself against Idaho’s largest classifications, going 5-0 vs. the 5A Inland Empire League and 6-0 vs. the 4A IEL. Its only losses came to two Washington schools who are a combined 32-11.
The Tigers have made a habit of reaching the Idaho Center, playing in six of the last seven championship games before falling to eventual champ Sugar-Salem last year in the semis. The two sit on different sides of the bracket this year.
THE CONTENDER: Defending champ Sugar-Salem (21-2) returns loaded for another run with 3A’s top offense (60.1 ppg). Reigning first-team All-Idaho guard Macie Knapp (15.2 ppg) leads the show, but six other players score at least seven points per game. The Diggers’ only losses came to Soda Springs, the defending 2A state champ.
THE DARK HORSE: Parma has put together a 57-14 record the past three years, including 21-2 this season. But it has flamed out at state the past two years. Senior and Montana State signee Madison Jackson (16.9 ppg, 7.8 rebounds) remains one of the state’s top players and is capable of carrying a team. But she has help this year with the Panthers fielding 3A’s top defense (30.6 ppg) and her younger sister, junior Grace Jackson (7.5 ppg, 6.1 rebounds).
THE FAVORITE: Soda Springs (24-0) could be Idaho’s best team, regardless of classification. The Cardinals have won 50 straight games. And they tested themselves this year with wins over two Utah 6A programs and one Utah 5A team that are a combined 48-18. Sugar-Salem and Utah’s Corner Canyon are the only teams to score more than 46 points against Soda Springs this year.
THE CONTENDER: Ririe (20-4) battled Soda Springs in last year’s title game and didn’t lose a single player from that state runner-up team. But a rematch would come in the semifinals this season.
THE DARK HORSE: Melba (22-1) enters with a sparkling record for the third straight year. But it hasn’t reached the Idaho Center in the previous two trips. The Clark sisters — Emma and Kate — hope to end that streak. Emma Clark is averaging 15.1 ppg while Kate Clark averages 13.7 ppg.
CLASS 1A DIVISION I
THE FAVORITE: Lapwai (19-4) stands as Idaho’s most consistent program, reaching the state tournament for the 19th straight year. Its run-and-gun style has led the Wildcats to the semifinals 10 years in a row, and they lead all Idaho teams with 63.8 points per game.
THE CONTENDER: Prairie (18-3) ranks second among all Idaho teams in scoring (61.8 ppg) and stands as Lapwai’s longtime nemesis. The two have waged countless battles over the years, including the 2014, ‘15, ‘16 and ‘17 state title games. The bracket sets up for another championship rematch.
THE DARK HORSE: Shoshone (21-1) will pose contrast styling to Lapwai and Prairie with the state’s stingiest defense regardless of classification (25.4 ppg). The Indians’ entire starting lineup is seniors who are searching for the school’s first title since 2005.
CLASS 1A DIVISION II
THE FAVORITE: Salmon River (19-2) rolls into state on a 17-game winning streak after early-season losses to Grangeville (2A) and Nezperce (1A Division II), both state qualifiers. Senior Chevelle Shepherd (17.2 ppg) gives Salmon River a dominant scorer, but she’s not the only one capable of taking over a game.
THE CONTENDER: Sho-Ban (21-2) can shock teams not accustomed to its up-tempo style. It leads 1A Division II at 60.8 points per game. But it backed its way into state after getting upset by Rockland in the district finals.
THE DARK HORSE: The record for Genesis Prep (12-10) won’t jump out on paper. But it consistently plays up against larger schools and opponents from other states. Washington State signee Bella Murekatete make the Jaguars a threat every night.