Girls High School Basketball

Salmon River High girls basketball revival led by ‘Coach Grandma’

Maddy Tucker
Maddy Tucker

Paula and Maddy Tucker were comfortable with their roles as grandmother and granddaughter.

It’s taken some adjusting to transition to a coach-player relationship.

“Off the court, she’s my grandma, and she just bought me a Valentine’s Day card and candy,” Maddy said. “But on the court, she is definitely my coach and has no mercy.”

After previously coaching basketball at Walla Walla Community College and Garden Valley, Paula moved to Riggins in 2011 to become the Salmon River volleyball coach. Until last season, the school did not have enough players to field a varsity girls basketball team.

With Paula’s guidance, the Savages revived the program last season with seven players, and the 10 girls on this year’s roster are making Salmon River’s first appearance at state since 2003. The Savages (15-4) open the 1A Division II tournament against Nezperce (17-4) at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at Nampa High.

“We had to talk a couple of the girls into playing,” said Maddy, a junior guard. “They had to scrounge to get a team together, and there’s some that don’t really see much of the court, but they push us a lot in practice. We’re super thankful for them.”

Maddy moved from Emmett to Riggins this school year to play for her grandmother, who she calls “Coach Grandma” on the court. Paula’s niece, Chevelle Shepherd, is a starting freshman guard.

“When Maddy came in, that just tipped us over the edge,” Paula said. “We were going to probably do fairly well anyway with Chevelle, because she’s definitely a baller, but Maddy just made it a little bit easier.”

Paula led Garden Valley to a state title in 2006 when her daughter, Layne Tucker, was voted the 1A All-Idaho Player of the Year.

Maddy is the daughter of Paula’s oldest son, Levi, who is an assistant coach for the Savages.

“I love being around family, and I love being coached by my grandma,” Maddy said.

Added Paula: “I can be pretty intense, and I am not used to doing that with my grandkids. I’m just used to spoiling them. But I am starting to get used to it. This morning, Maddy wasn’t playing defense the way I liked, and the intensity was coming out.”


It has been more than a decade since a Treasure Valley area team won a 2A state championship.

Nampa Christian was the last, winning its second title in four seasons in 2003.

Cole Valley Christian (20-2) — which has never won state — finished No. 1 in the final state media poll of the season, but the Chargers fell to New Plymouth 45-44 on a last-second shot in the district title game, ending their 15-game winning streak.

The Chargers open state against West Jefferson (19-5), which was ranked No. 2 in the final poll. New Plymouth (18-4) faces Wendell (16-8) in the first round and is on the same side of the bracket as defending champion Soda Springs (19-5), which edged the Pilgrims 44-43 in last year’s opener.

Cole Valley beat New Plymouth for the consolation title last season. No Treasure Valley team has advanced past the semifinals since 2003.


Lapwai returns to defend its title after setting classification records for most points in a game (100), most points in a tournament (229) and highest tournament average (76.3).

Lapwai won all three of its 2015 tournament games by 22 points or more, and reigning All-Idaho Player of the Year Iris Domebo leads the Wildcats (18-2) to their 16th straight trip to state. The Wildcats have played in six of the past seven title games, winning in 2009, 2011 and 2015.

Valley teams Liberty Charter (20-2) and Notus (13-9) are seeking their first titles. No local team has advanced to the final since the classification was formed in 2009.


Council was the unanimous No. 1 pick in the final state media poll, and the Lumberjacks (19-4) enter the tournament on a seven-game winning streak after winning their second straight district title.

But the predetermined brackets weren’t kind to Council, which opens against defending champion Richfield (19-6 this season, four state titles since 2007).

Council is led by senior Zoe Wessels, a Northwest Nazarene signee and an All-Idaho second-team selection last season.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @IDS_VarsityX