They've been there before. And they want to play all the way until the final day.
Wood River High School and Carey High School are sending teams to this weekend's state girls' basketball tournaments in the Treasure Valley and hoping their seniors carry them back to where they want to be.
In Saturday's championship games at The Idaho Center.
Wood River played in its first 4A title game last February, falling 47-33 in the final to Middleton. Carey played in its first 1A Division 2 championship two years ago, coming up short 41-35 to Richfield's Tigers.
You have to win three games in the spotlight and with hands in your face and elbows in your ribs to win the coveted state banner. It's time for 48 girls' teams to pull out all the stops.
Great Basin Conference champion Wood River (13-9, 42.4 ppg), winners of seven straight games, will clash with 5th District champion Century of Pocatello (11-13) Thursday, Feb. 16 at 1:15 p.m. in the opening game of the 4A meet at Boise's Timberline High gym.
Century, along with Madison of Rexburg and Skyview of Nampa, are the new teams in the eight-school field. Last Wednesday the host Diamondbacks, with only one senior and averaging 38.0 ppg, defeated Pocatello (14-10) 37-32 for the fourth time in five tries this season to earn a state trip.
The winner of Thursday's Wood River-Century game advances to meet the winner of what promises to be a great brawl on Thursday at 3 p.m. on the same Timberline court. That's a match between the unbeaten Middleton Vikings (23-0) and Madison (15-11).
All Middleton has done is win 46 consecutive games, four straight Boise-area district titles including last Thursday's 38-34 victory over host Skyview, and two straight State 4A championships. But watch out for the Madison Bobcats.
Madison started the season 2-5 but is 13-6 since December, including five epic battles with Rigby. Three of them took place in the 6th District tournament. Host Rigby won the first, 66-60 in overtime Feb. 4. Madison battled back, ousted Bonneville 64-56 and then out-rebounded Rigby by a sizable margin in Thursday's 50-43 rematch.
It forced a deciding game of the tournament, which Rigby captured Saturday in Rexburg by a 71-62 score in overtime. Led by senior guard Hailey Larsen (25 points), the Trojans had to rally from a 10-point deficit to win its second straight High Country title.
Other 4A match-ups on the other side of the bracket are Skyview (17-6) against last year's consolation winner Moscow (11-10) at 6:15 p.m., and Rigby (20-4) taking on Bishop Kelly of Boise (20-4) at 8 p.m.
Carey needs OT for state
Carey didn't make state last year, so coach Merrilee Sears' Panthers (14-7) is the only new team in the eight-team field playing at Nampa High School.
But the Panthers are red hot, having won 10 of their last 13 games after starting the season 4-4. They earned second place in the eight-school Northside Conference tournament Thursday with a 43-42 overtime victory over Richfield (17-7).
Sears said about Carey's third state tourney trip in four years, "We seem to be peaking at the right time with our team bonding. We're hoping our experience at state and our senior leadership will help us. We're really excited about state."
Providing Carey's first win over Richfield after six straight losses to its rival was senior Darby Northcott. She made two clutch free throws with 10 seconds left in OT to salvage the win. Carey led 24-16 at half and 33-20 after three quarters, only to see last year's state runner-up Richfield score 19 fourth-quarter points for a 39-39 tie.
"Richfield put the press on and got back into the game, but our girls didn't panic," said Sears. "We built our lead with our defense, getting some steals and easy baskets and using a box-on-one defense on (Richfield senior) Sasha Kent." Kent settled for a 10-point effort.
Sears added, "The girls have been determined to make state. We knew we had as good a team as anyone in our conference. We played five games in six days. But all week long, the girls kept getting better."
Leading scorers Micaela Adamson (11.5 ppg) and Jaide Parke (14.0 ppg, 19.2 ppg at district) led Carey against Richfield—senior Adamson with 16 points and 7 rebounds and junior Parke with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists. Senior Nicole Gomez added 7 points and 7 assists, and Carey out-scored Richfield 13-8 at the line.
Kent bounced back with 28 Saturday in Richfield's 56-39 state play-in win over Meadows Valley at Glenns Ferry.
Carey opens its seventh trip to the state girls' basketball tourney Thursday at 1:15 p.m. against the Tri-Valley Titans from Cambridge (14-6), a team that made state last year but went two-and-out with 24-point and 15-point losses to North Gem and Summit Academy.
Other first-rounders: At 3 p.m., the Summit Academy Patriots of Cottonwood (17-6) vs. North Gem of Bancroft (9-14); at 6:15 p.m., Mackay (13-7) vs. Richfield; and at 8 p.m., defending state champion Dietrich (21-0) vs. Clark Fork's Wampus Cats from northern Idaho.