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Idaho state girls basketball preview

The Lake City, Sandpoint and Timberlake girls basketball teams head to state tournaments with high expectations.

None may be more realistic than Timberlake’s aspirations. The Spirit Lake school has finished runner-up four of the last five years.

State begins Thursday and concludes Saturday at six venues in the Boise area.

5A: It’s been a four-year project for coach Bryan Kelly.

The first couple of years were lean but an influx of young talent, coupled with senior sisters Kate and Olivia Maryon who endured the early lumps with Kelly, put LC in position to win a league championship this year.

LC (19-4) is making its first trip to state since the Timberwolves won the title in 2006-07. They open against District III runner-up Centennial (21-3) at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. Tipoff is 6:15 MST.

Kelly has a deep team and could start any one of eight players.

“They all play about equal minutes,” Kelly said. “If you look at our stats, we have five players who average between eight and 10 points a game. They have really bought into our team concept. When it is your turn, you give 100 percent all the time. It’s great to have eight players that seriously can all contribute and play.”

LC took a trip to Boise in December to play three games in three days. It served as preparation for what a state tournament presents.

“They’ve been working for this since last year at this time,” Kelly said. “We knew we had some big pieces coming back. They were in the gym all summer and all fall. It’s been good. They deserve it.”

LC faces a difficult opener. Centennial has been ranked second most of the season.

“We’ve been preaching defense all year,” Kelly said. “Defense is going to win championships. We’re tough to score on when we get everybody on the same page.”

Kelly expects a focused team at state.

“We’re going down there to do some damage,” he said. “We’re not going to settle for getting there.”

4A: Sandpoint is making its third straight trip to state.

The Bulldogs (13-9) took third last year. Sandpoint opens against Burley (15-10) at 3 at Timberline High in Boise.

Sandpoint’s heart and soul is senior wing/guard Madi Schoening, who has signed with Montana. She has scored 1,376 points as a four-year starter. She’s averaging 19.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.9 steals.

“We got third last year so why don’t we win the whole thing this year,” Schoening said. “It’s a progression right there.”

Sandpoint has a nice blend of experience and youth. Being at state isn’t anything new for most of the Bulldogs. Several have been on state title soccer and cross country teams.

“They’re mentally tough,” Sandpoint coach Duane Ward said. “Our bench has gotten stronger as the year’s gone on.”

In the regional final, Sandpoint held Moscow to 11 points in the first half.

“We want to be known by our defense,” Schoening said.

3A: Timberlake has won 20 straight games since a season-opening 54-52 loss at 5A Lewiston.

The Tigers open against Homedale (18-5) at Middleton High School. Tipoff is at 3.

Timberlake has overwhelmed opponents with full-court pressure all year. And they’ve done so with a deep bench.

In the district title game, coach Matt Miller had 12 players in the game in the first seven minutes.

“It’s the most unique problem I’ve ever had coaching,” Miller said. “The kids have to make a lot of sacrifices in terms of minutes. It’s not an ideal system. I definitely wouldn’t want to do it this way every year. But with this group it’s the best way for us to play.”

Timberlake’s leaders have been juniors Keelie Lawler and Allison Kirby, who were named co-most valuable players of the Intermountain League. But they don’t always start. Miller rotates his starting five and replaces them quickly with the next five.

“Going into the postseason, we had eight different leading scorers throughout the season,” Miller said. “It’s been really balanced. Everybody contributes in a different way on a different night. They’ve done a really good job of buying in.”

1A Division II: Lakeside (15-5) opens against Rockland (16-6) at 1:15 at Nampa High School.

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