With Enterprise having moved up to the 2A ranks this year, there is only one clear favorite to win this year's 1A girls basketball tournament - Valley.
The No. 1-ranked Buffaloes will shoot for their second straight title and seventh in school history when the tournament gets under way Wednesday at Southern Utah University. Combined, Valley and Enterprise have won every title since 1989.Led by last year's 1A MVP Caroline Heaton and fellow senior Beverly Glover, the Buffaloes finished the season 19-1 and a perfect 14-0 in Region 15, the classification's toughest region.
In fact, in last year's tournament, teams from the southern region garnered six of the top eight places, which is no surprise to northern school coaches like Dugway's Butch Boegler and Manila's Scott Taylor.
"They are in small towns . . . they have packed houses, and they get a tremendous amount of support at state," said Boegler of the Region 15 schools. "Most of us in 1A are just different schools in a community . . . we don't have the same sense of spirit. There is just a different kind of makeup."
"Valley's got a real strong program that's been developing for years," added Taylor. "(Region 15 schools) also have a bigger selection of girls to choose from."
While both coaches know knocking off Valley would be very difficult, they're not counting themselves out just yet.
Second-ranked Dugway is 20-1 entering the tournament, winning both the Region 14 regular season and tournament titles. The Mustangs have a high-powered offense with just one senior in guard Heidi Bruce. Four different Mustangs are able to go off for 20-plus points in a game, including Bruce, center Tracy Weaver and forwards Kim Kagihn and Margaret Alfors.
"This is the best chance we've ever had," said Boegler. "But to win state, you've got to go through Valley. Not to say it can't be done, but we're not the favorite."
Third-ranked Manila at 18-3 also went undefeated in Region 16 play and won its region tournament title. These Mustangs rely heavily on center Lindsey Guest, who averages nearly 20 points per game and is an honorable mention All-American.
"We're awesome at times, and then we struggle at other times," said Taylor. "If we do the things we can do, we can play with (Valley)."
Region 15 foes that also hope to give Valley a run for its money include fourth-ranked Panguitch, fifth-ranked Piute and Wayne.
The tournament runs through Saturday with the championship game set for 2 p.m.
GIRLS 1A TOURNAMENT
At SUU Centrum, Feb 18-21, First Round
Escalante (6-9) vs. Dugway (20-1), 10 a.m.
Wayne (10-8) vs. Rich (11-10), 11:30 a.m.
Green River (8-10) vs. Int. Christian (17-4), 1 p.m.
Whitehorse (6-11) vs. Valley (19-1), 2:30 p.m.
West Desert (7-14) vs. Manila (18-3), 4:30 p.m.
S.L. Lutheran (12-9) vs. Piute (13-7), 6 p.m.
S.L. Christian (10-12) vs. Panguitch (14-5), 7:30 p.m.
Monument Valley (7-4) vs. Waterford (13-6), 9 p.m.