Soda Springs girls basketball

Soda Springs head coach Wade Schvaneveldt (left) and Cardinals players react near the end of their 42-27 loss to Melba in the first round of the 2A state tournament at Bishop Kelly on Thursday.

BOISE — Everybody knew it was coming. Even Soda Springs coach Wade Schvaneveldt tempered expectations early in the season. With only three players coming back with much varsity experience, and All-Area Plyer of the Year Sadie Gronning graduating, the writing on the wall was plain to see for the Cardinals’ three-time defending state champions, the greatest dynasty Idaho 2A girls basketball has ever seen.

But the dynasty didn’t officially end until Thursday, and it came in fitting fashion as the Cardinals, who had pressed and ran their way over every team in Idaho for three years, were smothered by Melba’s full-court press in a 42-27 loss at Bishop Kelly on Wednesday afternoon.

“When they started the press, it wasn’t really a tight press, we just didn’t do the things we’ve been practicing and have been doing all year,” Schvaneveldt said. “At that point we got scared to make a play. I think we played about six minutes of really good basketball out there and the rest of the time we watched and didn’t do a whole lot.”

Inexperience is magnified on an unfamiliar stage when the stakes are high, and for Soda’s team of youngsters, running into Melba was the worst way have that inexperience exposed.

After Soda Springs scored 13 points in the first quarter to take a 13-9 lead, the Mustangs extended their full-court press further and further, slowly racheting up the intensity.

When they got into the halfcourt, the Cardinals were just as shackled, dribbling aimlessly at the top of the key and seeing every attempt to go inside turned away.

Soda scored three points in the second quarter and upped that to four in the third. By that point, Melba was up 32-20 going to the fourth quarter.

“We had a great first quarter, and then it was like we quit playing, almost,” Schvaneveldt said. “I think that’s where our inexperience showed up. They were the more aggressive team and we almost became passive at that time.”

The low point came on a possession when Soda Springs, stymied again, looped a hopeful entry pass into the post. Instead, it fell right into the hands of a Melba defender lurking behind the play as Schvaneveldt turned on his heel and a chuckle rose from the Melba bench.

For the Mustangs, it was sweet revenge after losing to the Cardinals 50-34 in the state championship game in 2019.

“We’ve had lots of battles with them,” Melba coach David Lenz said. “It was nice to beat them.”

For the Cardinals, although it was the end of an era, there’s light in the future. Sophomore Taylor Billman led Soda Springs with 10 points. In fact, out of Soda’s 27 points, all but Tayler Thompson’s four and Kaitlynn Moldenhauer’s two were scored by sophomores or freshmen.

“The three in a row is still there, it’ll be there forever,” Schvaneveldt said. “But if we look at reality, a month ago, we didn’t know if we were going to be here. So it’s huge for those younger kids to get here and experience it. ... I think the girls learned a lot today.”

MELBA 42, SODA SPRINGS 27

Soda Springs 13 3 4 7 — 27

Melba 9 13 10 10 — 42

Soda Springs — Billman 10, A. Moldenhauer 5, Thompson 4, Garbett 3, Somsen 3, K. Moldenhauer 2.

Melba — Ke. Clark 14, Dayley 9, Wilson 7, Arnold 6, Ka. Clark 3, Christensen 3.