POCATELLO — The Snake River Lady Panthers got off to a quick start in their 3A fifth district championship game against long time nemesis Marsh Valley as they led from start to finish for a 52-43 victory over the Lady Eagles.
"I knew that one of us would shoot the ball well tonight and it happened to be us," Snake River head coach Rich Dunn said. "Tonight was just one of those nights that we were ready. We weren't too pumped up and during our shoot around at four I told Mike [Kirkham] that we were ready. I could just feel it."
Madison Pilster was feeling it, especially in the opening quarter as the senior placed the Lady Panthers squarely on her back for a trio of three point baskets in the games opening minutes, staking Snake River to an 11-1 lead before the long line in the hallway could even get into the gym to be seated.
"We were ready to go, right from the tip off," Pilster said. "I was just really calm and on those three's they were sagging way off of me so I shot it. It was a good feeling to give them a facial."
The hot start spilled over into the second quarter as Makena Shelley added a pair of long range bombs in the first half of play and at the break, Snake River led 30-17. All told, Snake River was a most impressive 5 of 9 from long range in the first half of play.
"Both teams have three of four girls who can dot you," Coach Dunn said. "That first quarter was the key. We knew that they would make a run at us but that first quarter was the key to the game tonight."
Marsh Valley did make a run, as most in the crowd knew that they would, cutting the deficit to single digits as they held the Lady Panthers to just one field goal over the first four minutes of the third quarter.
Big shot Coby then took center stage as the senior drilled back-to-back treys and then found Brylie Bair loose on the baseline for a sweet dish and a bucket to push the lead out to 16 at 40-24 with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter.
"They were on their run and "Big Shot" did it again. Those baskets were just what we needed there," Coach Dunn said. "Honestly though, it wasn't about any one individual tonight. From start to finish every girl, including the girls coming off of the bench did their jobs. We finally rebounded which got us into our transition game. It was the best overall team effort that we have had in about a month."
Fourth quarter action was all about the free throw line, a task that hasn't been exactly a strong suit thus far on the season for the Lady Panthers. Snake River bucked that trend however as they knocked down 8 of 12 in the fourth quarter, 15 of 22 for the game to seal the deal as the student body celebrated another trip to the state tournament.
"I'm happy for the girls and we will give them the night off tomorrow but the next day we start preparing," Coach Dunn said. "There are schools who are happy to go to state but at Snake River the expectation is to bring hardware home."
Last season it was the Marsh Valley squad who brought home the top prize from state, a feat that Snake River will look to emulate this season.
"I would love to face Marsh Valley again over at state," Pilster said. "I felt like we should have played them in the championship game last year but maybe we will this year instead."
Snake River (20-2) will open their state tournament on Valentines day when they tip off at Skyview High School in Nampa at 1:15 against an opponent yet to be determined.
SNAKE RIVER 52, MARSH VALLEY 43
Marsh Valley 6 11 9 17 - 43
Snake River 17 13 12 10 - 52
Marsh Valley (43) - Dassia May 6, Sara Mcnabb 8, Maycee Belnap 6, Amanda Marshall 10, Jessica Dunn 9, Paige Howell 4. FG: 16. FT: 7-11. 3-pointers: 4-13 (Sara Mcnabb 1, Amanda Marshall 2, Jessica Dunn 1). Fouls: 21. Fouled out: (Paige Howell).
Snake River (52) - Madison Pilster 15, Makena Shelley 13, Scout Baldwin 2, Darci Polatis 4, Brylie Bair 9, Maegan Peace 1, Kylie Coby 8. FG: 15. FT: 15-22. 3-pointers: 7-13 (Madison Pilster 3, Makena Shelley 2, Kylie Coby 2). Fouls: 12. Fouled out: none.