THOMAS – The Snake River Lady Panthers have been on a quest all season long. They wanted to earn a berth to the state girls basketball tournament.

On Monday night, that dream became a reality when they handled the Marsh Valley Lady Eagles by the final score of 44-29 Monday in a game that may have been easier than it looked.

“We’re really happy,” Panther coach Jeff Steadman said. “This team’s been through a lot of ups and downs this season and I think we’re peaking at the right time. We’re really excited to go over and see how we match up at state.”

Monday’s game was a defensive battle right from the start. In fact, the two teams only combined for a total of six points in the opening period.

“It was definitely a defensive battle,” Steadman said. “They were playing good defense and so were we. We made some adjustments at halftime, and I think our offense flowed a lot better after that. It was a good rivalry game and the girls played hard.”

The Lady Panthers got into a better rhythm in the second quarter, but things were still on the defensive side as they outscored the Lady Eagles by six points, 10-4, to move to an eight-point lead at intermission. The Lady Panthers went to the locker room leading 14-6 and still hadn’t been the offensive force that people expected with two teams that can be explosive. Also missing was the usual three-point barrage that Marsh Valley likes to throw at opponents.

In the second half, things loosened up offensively for both teams as they made adjustments that promoted the offense and still emphasized the defense.

Suddenly, the shooters were finding the range and getting the ball to fall through the basket. The defensive intensity was still there on both sides and that intensity spilled over into some skirmishes on the floor. By the time the period ended, the Lady Panthers had added another four points to their lead and were ahead by the score of 28-16 and things were looking bleak for the Lady Eagles.

In the fourth period, it was more about the Lady Panthers maintaining their lead and the Lady Eagles trying to take some desperate measures to get back into the game. The occasional three-point shot was all that was keeping the game as close as it ended up, but the Lady Panthers were able to match the effort of the Lady Eagles with fast break baskets and more solid defense, and in the end Snake River had added a few more points to the lead, outscoring the Lady Eagles 16-13 in the period.

Next stop for Snake River will be a date on Feb. 20 in the opening game of the 3A state tournament which will begin at 1:15 p.m. and will be played at Middleton High School. The opponent will be the second place team from District 3, which at this point in time looks to be Fruitland, who is the second seed in the District 3 tournament and had a date with Parma in the championship game Tuesday night.

As for Marsh Valley, they are not finished yet, but they will need to win a pair of play-in games to reach Boise and the state tournament themselves. That journey will begin at Shelley High School when they play Teton on Thursday and if they win, then a subsequent game on Saturday against an opponent to be named.

Marsh Valley 2 4 10 13 — 29

Snake River 4 10 14 16 — 44

Marsh Valley — Vorwaller 10, M. Smedley 2, Marshall 1, Armstrong 6, Dunn 8, N. Smedley 2.

Snake River — Olivia Kracl 2, Adia Goff 4, Josee Steadman 15, Howell 1, Sage Stimpson 4, Tatum Cherry 4, Jordyn Gilbert 14.