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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday — February 18, 2004


State is a new trip
for Wood River girls

Wolverines open against Marsh Valley

Express Staff Writer

Four teams have been there before. Four teams are new to the hoopla and pressure and high expectations.

Natalie Green, Wood River’s leading scorer, puts the ball home here during last Tuesday’s 52-30 SCIC championship game win over Declo. Express photo by David N. Seelig

But all eight qualifiers will start fresh with hopes of a state championship Thursday, Feb. 19 when the State 3A girls’ prep basketball tournament tips off with four games at Bishop Kelly High School gym in Boise.

Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference champion Wood River (15-6) and the "Cinderella" Gooding Senators (16-8) are making their first-ever trips to the State 3A basketball tournament ball sponsored by the Idaho High School Activities Association.

"We’re playing well. Hopefully we’ll go down to Boise and play our best and give ourselves the best chance," said Wood River coach Brent Carnduff after his team’s 52-30 SCIC title game win over Declo last Tuesday in Hailey.

Leading scorer Natalie Green (20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists), point guard Emily Smith (18 points, 3 assists) and top rebounder Jessica King (11 points, 9 boards) led Wood River to its 22-point district title victory.

Gooding, a team that won only seven of its 35 games in the past two seasons prior to 2003-04, is even more of a state surprise than Wood River. In a way, both teams are delighted to be there—and have nothing to lose.

But they have an uphill battle.

The Fourth District traditionally has a tough time at state, with only Buhl in 1997 claiming a championship. The four favored teams in the tournament are from the girls’ strongholds of northern and eastern Idaho.

They are Shelley, the defending champion and four-time state winner; Marsh Valley, last year’s state runner-up; Priest River, last year’s consolation champion; and the Lakeland Hawks, going for their third title in four years.

Marsh Valley and Priest River, ranked #2 and #1 in the Idahosports.com poll, have a particular focus. Both teams have been knocking at the door and are looking for their first-ever state titles. And they’re on different sides of the state bracket.

Wood River has a tough opening-round draw in Marsh Valley (17-2, averaging 56.4 ppg). The Eagles are riding an eight-game winning streak including their 75-28 rout of Bear Lake in the Fifth District final Feb. 7.

Carnduff said, "Marsh Valley plays a very up-tempo game. They push it hard, put pressure on you and have some real good scorers. We played them three times two summers ago so we’ve got a good idea what they can do, and they have good seniors."

Not only does Marsh Valley have solid seniors in 5-11 center Natalie Collins, 5-7 center Melissa Davis, 5-10 forward Danielle Larsen and 5-4 guard Krystle Whitworth, they have two fine juniors in 5-9 forward Cora Chandler and 5-10 center Ashley Thompson. Thompson scored 13 points and Chandler 10 in Marsh Valley’s 48-42 win over Shelley in December.

Marsh Valley lost to Shelley (24-3) 45-35 in the 2003 State 3A title game. "And Marsh Valley returns just about everybody," said Carnduff, who has some concern about his team’s depth compared to Marsh Valley.

One plus for Wood River: Many of the Wolverines played on the volleyball team that opened the 2003 State 3A tournament in Coeur d’Alene with a victory over Marsh Valley, then beat Priest River en route to second place.

Another plus: Wood River (49.9 ppg offense, 42.0 ppg defense) is hot with a five-game winning streak, and they’ve beaten their opponents by an average 25.0 ppg in the win streak.

One minus: Marsh Valley beat Buhl by 10 points in last year’s state opener, then Buhl exited early with a four-point loss to Lakeland. And Filer went 0-2 at last year’s state tourney.

It doesn’t get any easier at state.

The winner of Thursday’s Wood River-Marsh Valley game will probably go up against Lakeland in Friday’s semi-final. Lakeland beat top-ranked Priest River in two of three meetings this season—and the Hawks are looking for a return to the championship game they won in 2002 and 2001.

The loser of Wood River-Marsh Valley will probably meet Sixth District runner-up Salmon Friday at 1:15 p.m. Shelley beat Salmon 50-38 for its district championship recently.

Besides Thursday’s Wood River-Marsh Valley opener at 1:15 p.m., the feature game of the first day will be the 6:15 p.m. match-up between #3-ranked Shelley (19-2) and #1-ranked Priest River (21-2, averaging 61.2 ppg). The Shelley-Priest River winner will likely make Saturday’s 3:50 p.m. title game at The Idaho Center in Nampa.

Third District champion Middleton and Gooding battle in Thursday’s 8 p.m. nightcap. Gooding earned the second SCIC state berth, and a more favorable first-round state match-up, with a 40-33 upset triumph over Declo last Thursday in Hailey.


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