THOMAS — It is never easy to spend an entire season playing with a target on your back.
But as the defending 3A state champion and a perennial power in the 3A ranks the Snake River Panthers are used to playing with the added pressure.
And when the team tops off the 3A state tournament against Filer today they will be just 96 minutes away from hoisting the championship trophy again.
Getting through the bracket to the championship game will be one of the toughest in recent memory as the Panthers face a tough road in their 10th consecutive state tournament appearance.
Luckily for the Panthers faithful the team is deep and talented and ready for the big stage.
It is tough to pick out one player on the team and label them as the leader as each of the starting five and the three main reserves each bring something different to the team.
But if one player had to be singled out as the leader it would be senior Brad Coombs.
Coombs is the only starter from last season's championship team and while a vocal leader, Coombs lets his play do the talking.
at 6-foot-2 Coombs is not afraid to get into the low post and draw contact from defenders, he also will step out and hit the 18-foot jump shot or hit a big three pointer.
But it has not just been Coombs, fellow seniors Kade Keller and Curtis Keller have been huge all season long to the teams success.
Curtis, the 6-foot-5 post player has been a dominate force inside all season for the Panthers who come into the state tournament winners of their last eight ballgames.
Defensively Keller uses his long arms to alter or block shots all while controlling the game rebounding the basketball. On offense Keller is just as likely to step out and hit the short jump shot as he is to drive to the basket for a layup of a dunk.
Fellow senior Kade Keller has been one of the teams most consistent scorers all season long.
Keller scored a game-high 27 points in the 3A District 5 championship game victory over Bear Lake and over the last few weeks of the season seems to be playing his best basketball.
Add seniors Kade Harral and Trey Albertson combined with junior Klay Keller and sophomores Tyler Coombs and Jaden Poulter and the Panthers are a very dangerous eight player rotation.
Snake River finished the season 19-3 with two of the losses coming to Shelley is on the same half of the bracket as the Panthers.
The Panthers also are on the same side of the bracket as 20-2 Homedale who takes on Shelley in the first round of the tournament so getting into the title game will take two flawless performances from the Panthers.
Snake River takes on Filer today at 6:15 p.m. at Meridian High School.