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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
American Fork's Haley Holmstead tries to spilt Timpanogos defenders Noelle Sanders (5) and Amy Weitzeil (11). The Cavemen are considered a top contender for a state 5A title in basketball.

A couple of weeks ago, it was appearing more and more certain that a pair of state girls hoops titles would be making their way down to Utah Valley this year.

Now, though the waters might be a little more muddied, that is still very much in the realm of possibility.

The 4A girls state playoffs begin Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at UVSC's McKay Events Center, while the 5A tournament begins the same day and time, but at Salt Lake Community College.

4A teams

The Timpview T-Birds wrapped up the Region 7 championship some time ago and have been on cruise control ever since, hoping they can pull off a repeat of last year and peak during the 4A state tournament, taking out all comers along the way.

Though the T-Birds remain the consensus favorite to rebound themselves to a second trophy in two years, the path to that goal is not without its obstacles.

Timpview's toughest challenges will come from the likes of highly ranked and highly motivated Snow Canyon, early-season favorite Box Elder, Sky View, and the T-Birds own region rival, Provo.

That's not to say another team couldn't get hot and go on a roll — after all, Timpview was a bit of a shock to most of the state last year.

TIMPVIEW: The Thunderbirds are led by the inside attack of BYU-bound Alexis Kaufusi and the guard play of Gabrielle Pinegar, along with a host of solid role players who know exactly what they need to do to help the team win. Timpview began the preseason with a few losses and some inconsistent play at times, but since league play began, the T-Birds have taken control and are flying high.

PROVO: The T-Birds' cross-town rival Bulldogs have wrapped up the second spot in Region 4 and will have to take on Region 5's third-place team in the first round of the playoffs. That will be a tough challenge as all three top teams from that region have shown plenty of ability this season. But the Bulldogs have high hopes and will be playing behind some strong inside presences of their own with Kelsey Nelson and Sara Heaton. They also have a tough-as-nails backcourt tandem in shooter and all-around scorer Ashley Kuchar and point guard Vanna Cox.

MOUNTAIN VIEW: The Bruins can get hot at times, but its offense has been a little chilly through most of the season. If the Bruins can put together both offense and defense with their balanced attack, they could also throw some scares into the competition. Alyssa Olsen leads a solid team-oriented squad that will also be looking to the likes of Anjie Lines and Christina Augustin to get it through some tough games.

SPRINGVILLE: The Red Devils rocketed to near the top of 4A in the preseason and through the first half of league play, but since the their loss to Timpview in their sixth regular season contest, they've fallen on tough times. Still, Ashley Kroneberger is leading the attack every night and has a solid supporting cast if they can come through a little more consistently and find the fire again.

5A teams

Much of the focus will be on 5A, with all four teams that have edged their way into the playoffs having high hopes of making some noise. The trouble with 5A is that about 10 teams lay claim to a shot at the title with Utah County squads among them.

From day o cxne of the season it appeared the race for the Region 4 crown and possibly even a state championship could come down to American Fork and Lone Peak. Both teams devastated all of their

instate competition throughout the entire preseason.

Then they started traveling in different directions once the regular season began. Doubt began creeping in about the Knights while the Cavemen were undefeated, No. 1-ranked and flying high.

Then the tides turned again, and even the Timpanogos Timberwolves stuck their noses into the fray. And the Vikings have put together some solid games during the regular season.

All of it came together to place a little confusion and some uncertainty in the minds of every team in Region 4. But the teams all also have plenty of hope that they can beat any team out there. The trouble is that nearly every team in the 5A playoffs feels that same way in one of the most wide-open races in recent memory.

"Utah County is playing really good basketball right now, and the teams from the north are going to have their hands full. The state tournament is wide open, and it's about who's playing together and who's got the momentum," said Timpanogos coach Liz Darger.

While Timpview has a load of pressure to drag into the postseason and high hopes of adding another trophy to its resume in 4A, the Region 4 girls will find life entertaining and tough as all of the 5A teams beat up on each other on the way to the trophy in one of the most wide-open races in years.

AMERICAN FORK: The Cavemen have plenty of weapons and can beat any given team on a given day, but they've also had some difficulties lately. If Haley Holmstead can control the ball and get into the paint, Amy Krommenhoek's long-ball is falling and Kaycee Mansfield can hit the mid-range jumper, this team is deadly. With plenty of help from Cydne Mason, Nikki Ybarra, Makenzie Moea'i and a host of other players on this incredibly deep team, the Cavemen are not a matchup any team wants to greet. Their stifling pressure defense and pure speed make any game they play fascinating.

TIMPANOGOS: Timpanogos has built itself throughout the year into a similar adversary as the youngsters and elder statesmen have learned to play together. With Amy Weitzeil, Megan Bishop, Morgan Freestone and Noelle Sanders providing talent and senior leadership and players like Amanda Larsen and Morgan Bailey adding their own sharp abilities to the mix, the T-Wolves are a dangerous squad that can take out almost any competition when they're playing to potential.

LONE PEAK: Lone Peak has gone through ups and downs, but Amanda Farish and troops seem to have righted the ship in the last few games, putting them right back on track to make noise in the tourney. When the Knights play relaxed and run their offense, they can be just as tough as anyone in the state. They took out several favorites early on and seem to have found their game again. It's important for freshman Marquelle Funk to keep her game together and Shantel Flanary to stay in the game without foul trouble in order for this team to compete at its highest capability, however.

PLEASANT GROVE: Pleasant Grove has taken out the T-Wolves twice and improved its game as the year has unfolded. The team has plenty of inside defense with Jennifer Hamson and Sarah Clement manning the paint. Those two can keep most any team on the outside as long as they're not picking up fouls along the way. Clement's offense has come on strong, and with Whitney Giles' shooting and help from other solid players, this team could upset someone along the way.

2A, 1A team

AMERICAN LEADERSHIP: After starting its season with an unimpressive 5-9 record, the American Leadership girls team is coming on strong, wining seven in a row and landing Region 14's second playoff seed. The Eagles are looking forward to making people take notice as they head into their noon playoff game today against Grand in ALA's second year as a school.

MERIDIAN: The Meridian Mongoose team has also been making solid strides as the group of youngsters has learned to gel through the season. Meridian reached the Sevier Valley Center playoffs with a solid play-in victory over Milford, a team that had blown them out earlier in the season.

E-mail: jolsen@desnews.com