For the past seven years, Amber Paulson’s dream has been to win a state basketball championship.
After making the state tournament three years in a row - leaving unsuccessful each time - Paulson entered her senior season with one final chance.
The Bonners Ferry High basketball standout vows this will be the year.
Paulson’s career started in the sixth grade when she joined an AAU team in Bonners Ferry headed by then-coach Sam Carey.
“There were 12 of us on the team,” said Paulson, the Badgers’ leading scorer. “And we used to call ourselves Sam’s Girls and kind of still do. (Sam) was incredible. He worked us hard as girls and he was pretty tough. He wasn’t very sensitive to girls’ emotions.”
Of the original Sam’s Girls, only Paulson, Sarah Walter, Kara Braniff and Sara Carey remain playing together.
“It’s been our dream since the sixth grade to win a state championship,” said Paulson. “We figured we would be together all through high school, but everyone started dropping off until there was four of us left. But the four that are left are really dedicated to the dream.”
As a 5-foot-11 power forward, Paulson has dominated the first half of the season, averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds per game. She scored a game-high 18 to lead the Badgers to a 46-35 Intermountain League win at Lakeland on Tuesday, improving Bonners Ferry’s league-leading record to 3-0 and 10-1 overall.
The Badgers’ loss came to Colville in overtime at the West Valley Tournament despite Paulson’s 34 points. Bonners Ferry played without two starters, but Paulson said the key to the loss was 25 turnovers.
“It was a tough loss for us and we felt like we should have beat them even though we were down a bit in our lineup,” said Badgers coach Jim Nash, who became head coach the year Sam’s Girls entered their freshman year. “I’d liked to turn around and play them again, but you can’t have games like that back.”
The Badgers’ biggest obstacle on their road to state will be Intermountain League favorite Moscow (2-0, 9-2), which defeated Bonners Ferry in overtime for the district championship last season.
The teams collide in the first of two league games Saturday at Bonners Ferry. Moscow raised eyebrows with a recent 97-20 pummeling of St. Maries.
“Moscow’s our biggest rival,” said Paulson. “But I’m not too worried. We’ve just got to keep working hard if we want to beat them and I think we will. We’ve got the team for it.”
Paulson, coming from an athletic family, became interested in sports after going to a basketball camp during the summer after third grade. She’s attended the camp every summer since.
“My brothers have had a major influence on me,” said Paulson.
Paulson is unsure of what will happen after high school. She has received a few phone calls and letters from colleges, but said she won’t decide what to do until the season is over.
Said Paulson: “Right now, the team and our goals come first. The greatest feeling in the world is stepping on that floor with those four other girls and just knowing that all of you are clicking. The most important thing is my team. They’re the greatest and they make the sport totally worth it.”
Thus, the final chapter of Sam’s Girls will write itself out with the end of the season.
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