Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Timpview's Alexis Kaufusi (32) defends on a shot by Skyline's Dani Peterson (32) as Skyline faces Timpview in girls basketball action.

Timpview coach Kawika Akina doesn't know much about the T-birds' first round opponent in Tuesday's 4A state tournament.

But what he does know is that the team's brutal preseason and extremely competitive region schedule can only help the defending state champions in the tournament, which opens play today at UVSC's McKay Events Center.

"I don't know anything about them," said Akina. "They've played some pretty good games."

Bonneville split with three region opponents, including Roy, Mountain Crest and Woods Cross. The Lakers have a new coach and are led by athletic players like Caitlin Penrod, Roxie McFarland, Jen Bell, and Jordyn Bell. The T-birds finished the preseason with a record of 4-4 after playing some of 5A's top teams and then heading to Phoenix for the Nike Tournament of Champions. Then they headed into region play, which was no picnic.

"Every game we've played has been a dog fight," said Akina, who is in his second year as head coach. "Everybody is coming at us, and we really had to grind some games out. I think it just made us a tougher team. I think we'll be pretty tough because of the quality of games we've played. We know how to pull games out in the end. We know how to win."

The T-birds have last year's defensive player of the year back in guard Gabrielle Pinegar. They also have BYU-bound forward, Alexis Kaufusi, and Chelsea Bridgewater. They're an athletic team that can run, and they rebound well, which gives them an edge if their offense falters. The state's second-ranked 4A team is the Sky View Bobcats, a team that also has great post players as well as athletic, talented guards. Sky View will face Olympus, a team that tied Highland for third place in region 6. It should be an interesting match-up for a first-round game. The Bobcats are led by Amy Andrus, Lindee McKinley and Natalie Harris, although they have a deep bench as well.

Snow Canyon is ranked third and lost just one region game to Canyon View earlier in the season. The Warriors may have an edge because they are a bit of an unknown to most Wasatch Front teams, except their first-round opponent, Highland. The Rams lost to the Warriors in a pre-season game, but both teams are much improved.

Snow Canyon is led by forward Angela Walter, Liz McArthur and Whitney Dunlop. Highland, a fifth seed, relies on the leadership and defense of Mixsa Kafi, and the Rams finished strong, upsetting region 6's second seed, West, in the final game of region play.

Another interesting match-up should be No. 4 ranked Provo vs. Box Elder, a team that was in the top 5 until about three weeks ago. The Bulldogs play a completely different style of basketball, scoring a lot in transition and using the press to fuel their defense. They're led by Ashley Kuchar, Kelsey Nelson and Ethline Fa'atoafe.

Box Elder relies on more of a half-court offense that revolves around future Ute forward Mandy Munns and point guard Brooke Tolman. East High, led by Lauren Porter and Latoya Utuone, could also be in the mix, as well as Springville or Mountain Crest, two teams that face each other in the first round.

Today at UVSC

Mountain View (12-9) vs. West (13-7), 9:30 a.m.

Olympus (13-8) vs. Sky VIew (10-2), 11:10 a.m.

Highland (8-12) vs. Snow Canyon (19-2), 12:50 p.m.

Box Elder (17-4) vs. Provo (15-5), 2:30 p.m.

Murray (12-9) vs. Dixie (8-12), 4:10 p.m.

Bonneville (9-12) vs. Timpview (15-4), 4:10 p.m.

Roy (10-11) vs. East (15-5), 7:30 p.m.

Springville ( ) vs. Mountain Crest (14-5), 9:10 p.m.

E-mail: [email protected]