NAMPA — For two quarters Friday night, the Sugar-Salem girls basketball team looked out of sorts. The defending 3A state champions were plagued by cold shooting, foul trouble and uncharacteristic mistakes as Homedale eyed an upset.
But in the second half, the Diggers returned to championship form. Led by senior guard Macie Knapp, Sugar-Salem clamped down on defense and finally started clicking on offense, pulling away for a 62-43 victory at Skyview High.
Sugar-Salem (23-2) advances to Saturday’s 3A state final, where it will face Parma (23-2) at 3:50 p.m. at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
“The first half wasn’t pretty—we weren’t playing Digger basketball,” Sugar-Salem coach Crystal Dayley said. “We missed a lot of shots that we normally make, and I think it got in our heads a little. But we made some adjustments at halftime, and we got back to playing our game.”
Despite the slow start, Sugar led 14-12 after one quarter and 24-21 at the half. But the Diggers were cold, shooting 34 percent from the floor and missing all six of their 3-point attempts.
“We were playing really nervous, but we just needed to come out and have fun,” Knapp said. “We chose to play better in the second half. We chose to go out and win it.”
With renewed focus and crisper execution, the Diggers blew the Trojans away with a dominant third quarter. A 15-3 run keyed a 19-9 advantage in the period as the defending champs took command for good.
Knapp led a balanced Sugar-Salem attack with a game-high 18 points. Macey Fillmore added 14 points, Madi Fillmore scored 10, Lindsey Larson had eight and Mardee Fillmore chipped in seven for the Diggers. Sugar-Salem shot 54 percent in the second half, knocking down four 3-pointers to pull away.
Josey Hall scored 14 points and Jayci Swallow added 11 for Homedale (13-11). The Trojans’ upset bid was doomed by 29 turnovers and 10 missed free throws on 23 attempts.
With the victory, Sugar-Salem will return to the Idaho Center, where Dayley’s squad will attempt to win its second consecutive state title and third in five seasons.
“It’s every player and every coach’s dream to play in the Idaho Center,” Dayley said. “It’s been our goal since the beginning of the season, and these girls have worked so hard and been so coachable. They’ve earned the right to be there.”
SUGAR SALEM 62, HOMEDALE 43
Homedale 12 9 9 13—43
Sugar Salem 14 10 19 19—62
HOMEDALE (43)—Jayci Swallow 11, Amaya Carter 9, Savana Buckley 4, Makayla Kelly 1, Josey Hall 14, Alex Grant 4. FG: 13. FT: 13-23. 3-POINTERS: 4 (Swallow 3, Grant). TOTAL FOULS: 17. FOULED OUT: Carter.
SUGAR SALEM (62)—Sunny Bennion 1, Macie Knapp 18, Madi Fillmore 10, Megan Pannell 4, Mardee Fillmore 7, Lindsey Larson 8, Macey Fillmore 14. FG: 23. FT: 12-16. 3-POINTERS: 4 (Knapp 2, Fillmore 2). TOTAL FOULS: 19. FOULED OUT: Sydney Bradshaw.