If ever there was a lock for a repeat state championship, it’s the Coeur d’Alene girls basketball team.
Remember the Boston Celtics of the 1960s? Or UCLA of the same era?
I’m not likening Coeur d’Alene to those teams, but you plainly see what I’m predicting. This will be the fourth consecutive year the Vikings reach the final.
Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way, though. Yes, anything can happen at a high school state tournament. They are teenagers, after all.
All the state tournaments begin today. In the 5A tourney at the Idaho Center in Nampa, No. 1-ranked CdA (22-0) opens against District III third-place finisher Eagle (13-9) while Lake City (15-8) takes on second-ranked and District III champ Centennial (23-0), which enters state with one more win than the Vikings.
Counting Highland (22-0), three teams head to state with unblemished records. But no team has played a more difficult schedule than CdA.
The Vikings are bracing themselves for gimmick defenses – anything from a box-and-one on senior wing Kama Griffitts, the reigning 5A player of the year, or a triangle-and-two to perhaps slow the pace.
CdA is a savvy bunch. Four of its five starters were on the Idaho Center court last year. This is the fourth straight trip to state for Griffitts, guards Sadie Simon and Amy Warbrick and wing Whitney Heleker.
“We’re better than last year,” CdA coach Dale Poffenroth said. “The kids are more mature, they’ve played together longer, had more reps together.”
If there’s a team peaking at the right time, it could be Lake City.
The Timberwolves were throttled 62-36 by CdA in a regional opener, but they bounced back to win three straight loser-out games.
“If we play like we did in the last three games, we’ll have a chance to win a couple of games,” LC coach Royce Johnston said.
•In the 4A state tourney at Mountain View High in Meridian, Lakeland (15-7) faces District III runner-up Nampa, which entered state-qualifying play as a fifth seed and upset top-seeded Bishop Kelly.
Lakeland, which has qualified for state 10 straight years, returns essentially the same team from a year ago. The Hawks hope their experience pays off.
•In the 3A state tourney at Skyview High in Nampa, District I-II champ Bonners Ferry (15-5) takes on play-in qualifier Wendell (17-7) and first-time qualifier Timberlake (16-6) goes against District VI champ and No. 1-ranked Sugar-Salem (23-0), which is heavily favored.
“Sugar-Salem could probably win in 4A,” BF coach Travis Hinthorn said, alluding to the fact that Bonneville, the top-ranked 4A team, suffered its only losses to Sugar-Salem.
Timberlake coach Matt Miller hopes his team doesn’t understand the challenge it faces against Sugar-Salem.
“I’ve been told to pray,” Miller said. “We’re pretty young. We might not be aware of our situation.”
•Idahosports.com owner Paul Kingsbury has set an aggressive Web cast schedule at state. He plans to air 44 games.
“Every team in the tournament will get covered at least once,” Kingsbury said.
The 5A, 4A and 3A state-qualifying tournaments will be held Friday and Saturday at Lakeland High School. Action begins Friday at 5 and resumes Saturday morning at 9. The finals in each classification will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The top four in 5A, two in 4A and three in 3A advance to state, Feb. 27-28 at Idaho State University’s Holt Arena.
•The 5A Region I boys basketball tourney begins Friday at Lewiston.
In the opener, No. 2 seed Lake City (16-4) takes on No. 3 Post Falls (15-5) at 5:45 followed by No. 1 Lewiston (16-3) against No. 4 CdA (8-12).
Play resumes Tuesday when the winners meet at the site of the highest seed to decide the regional title and the losers meet in an elimination game.