NAMPA — With numerous state titles in multiple sports, it is no secret that Sugar City is a title town.
On Saturday, however, the girls basketball team made history while adding to the trophy haul.
Upon defeating Parma 57-40 in the 3A state title game at the Ford Idaho Center, Sugar-Salem won the program’s seventh title but first back-to-back. The Diggers (24-2) have come close to a repeat with titles in 2007, 2009 and 2011, but never completed a repeat until Saturday.
“All of us seniors have been playing together since fifth, fourth grade,” said senior Lindsey Larson, who had eight points, four rebounds and two assists Saturday. “It’s kinda cool to know we’re the first. It’s amazing.”
The Diggers exchanged smiles, applause and ‘point-to-the passer’ gestures while on the Idaho Center court for their second consecutive state title game appearance. Larson said early game nerves faded once the Diggers started playing, and she and fellow senior Macie Knapp said the on-court enthusiasm was genuine.
“We’re best friends and we love this game more than anything,” said Knapp, who had a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds in her final game in a Diggers basketball uniform. “We weren’t gonna leave with anything but a state championship.”
The title makes three in five seasons for Sugar-Salem head coach Crystal Dayley, who is in her seventh season at the helm of her alma mater. A reminder of the three titles she won was beside the bench the entire game, her 3 year-old daughter Tayzli. Wearing Sugar-Salem blue from head to toe, Tayzli high-fived Sugar-Salem’s starters as they were announced Saturday and sat on Larson’s knee for postgame photos with the trophy and banner. Dayley was pregnant with Tayzli when the Diggers won the 2015 title.
“She’s been part of this since she was in the womb,” Dayley said. “Coaches are happy to get one state championship. It’s a dream come true to be able to have three. I feel super fortunate to have the support from so many parents.”
The historic repeat came against a Parma (23-3) team the Diggers described as long and athletic. Through the first four and a half minutes of the game, there were more turnovers and jump balls than made field goals (one between the two teams). The scoring picked up in the final 90 seconds of the first quarter, which ended 11-6 Sugar-Salem and with three fouls on Parma’s leading scorer Madison Jackson.
“Madison Jackson is hands down one of the best athletes in the state,” Dayley said. “We knew they’d be tough, but we knew it would go our way if we played our game. I told them, ‘Defense has won us our last two state championships. Let’s win a third one.’”
Parma cut the deficit to 13-10 at 6:23 in the second quarter before Knapp, Sydney Bradshaw and sisters Madi, Macey and Mardee Fillmore went to work to put the Diggers up 28-20 at halftime. Of those points, 16 were by Knapp.
The margin was cut to seven points three times early in the fourth quarter, but Knapp, Macey Fillmore and Larson ended the game on a 10-2 run.
Dayley said the Diggers were favored to win the 2017-18 title after falling to Timberlake at the buzzer in 2017. She and Knapp believed the Diggers were overlooked this season, and the repeat state championship made a statement upon ending the year with 22 consecutive wins.
“I just feel like we never got enough credit all season,” Dayley said. “Our only losses were to the back-to-back undefeated 2A state champion (Soda Springs). We lost all our height, but I just feel like our girls had a lot of heart.”
Knapp called her Sugar-Salem girls basketball career ‘the best experience of her life.’
“After we won, I couldn’t stop bawling,” Knapp said. “I love this program and the girls on this team more than anything.”