While Kori Pentzer was born in the Treasure Valley with friends and family by her side, she wasn’t there for long.
Pentzer moved north to Winchester, Idaho, when she was a baby and again to John Day, Oregon, in the eighth grade. So when Pentzer found out during a state track meet last May that she was finally returning home after so many years away, the junior was ecstatic.
“I was so excited that it was hard for me to keep it quiet,” Pentzer said. “I was really happy to go back and be reunited with family and friends and be able to be closer to them.”
Pentzer’s return to the Treasure Valley was a triumphant one, particularly for the Meba girls basketball team this season. She broke or tied eight school records and averaged 22.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.5 steals, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game to lead the Mustangs to a state consolation championship.
She was selected as the 2A Western Idaho Conference Player of the Year, and is the 2016-2017 Idaho Press-Tribune’s Sports Stars Girls Basketball Athlete of the Year.
“Kori never shied away from any moment. When the game was on the line, she definitely wanted the ball in her hands and everyone on the team totally trusted her,” Melba coach Dave Lenz said. “She’s a great competitor and teammate and our players just fed off of that. Everyone knows what a great basketball player Kori is, but she’s also an overall great kid and was a lot of fun for me to coach and get to know.”
Pentzer’s return home couldn’t have come at a better time for Melba. In the midst of trying to turn around a program that had won just 12 games over the past two seasons, the team welcomed her in with open arms.
None more so than Pentzer’s best friend, sophomore guard Emma Clark.
With Clark back at her side, Pentzer proceeded to reinvigorate the program. It started with tying the school record for the most 3-point field goals in a single game with five in the second game of the season against Liberty Charter, and made its way to recording the first triple-double in program history against Marsing on Jan. 14. Pentzer finished that game with 30 points, 16 rebounds and a school-record 17 steals in a 60-54 win.
Performances like the one against Marsing and wins became the new norm for the Mustangs with the 5-foot, 9-inch guard at the helm. More school records followed for Pentzer — points in a single game (37), 3-point field goals in a season (46), highest free throw percentage in a game (92.3), highest free throw percentage in a season (77.4) and the most points in a season, with 562. She also tied the school record for most steals in a season (135) with Clark.
As a result, Melba racked up a 16-game winning streak on its way to claiming both the 2A WIC regular season and district tournament titles to qualify for state for the first time since 2014.
“Her moving here obviously helped our team a lot. It took some pressure off and gave us another scorer,” Clark said. “Kori is athletic and likes the role of a scorer. If she’s open, she looks to score. If she’s not open, she can create a shot because of her height and ability to jump and shoot over the defender. It was really special to play with her, it was something I never thought would happen.”
But at the 2A State Girls Basketball Tournament, Pentzer and the rest of the Melba girls basketball team had a rare off night. Pentzer went just 2 of 13 from the 3-point line and 5 of 21 from the field. The Mustangs shot a dismal 23 percent as a team, falling 49-40 to Malad in the opening round.
However, Pentzer didn’t let that one game define her season. She combined for 38 points on 42 percent shooting over the next two games to lead Melba to back-to-back wins for the consolation championship.
“Being able to flush a game like that was really difficult for me,” Pentzer said. “I had a really bad shooting night that night, so I felt that game a lot on my shoulders. But my teammates came through for me and really encouraged me to forget about that game and come out stronger for the next two games. And that’s exactly what I did.”
Although the season is over, the three-sport athlete, who also plays volleyball and track and field, is still playing basketball for her club team, the Idaho Flash. She decided to skip track and field this season in pursuit of getting a scholarship for basketball. Pentzer said she is currently in talks with Montana State and Cal-Poly.
“Basically, my dream is to go Division I,” Pentzer said. “When I was a kid, I’d watch games on TV and would be like, ‘I want to do that one day.’ So I’ve always strived towards that.”
Pentzer, though, still has another full high school season ahead of her. And she’d like to deliver the program’s first state championship while staying at Melba.
“We’re not moving again. We’re staying right here. Well that’s the plan at least,” Pentzer said with a laugh.
5A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Tori Williams, sr., G, Centennial
Coach of the Year: Kim Brydges, Boise
Mandy Simpson, sr., Boise; Cassidy Tiegs, sr., Eagle; Abby Kreiser, sr., Mountain View; Kiana Corpus, sr., Borah; Kate Murray, jr., Eagle.
Lauren Brocke, sr., Centennial; Taeli Carrillo, sr., Mountain View; Alyssa Bolt, jr., Borah; Janie King, jr., Eagle; Jaynee Taufoou, sr., Meridian; Beverly Slater, jr., Capital.
Elena McHargue, so., Timberline; Adriana Vickery, sr., Mountain View; Peyton McFarland, fr., Boise; Meghan Boyd, so., Eagle; Abby Mangum, sr., Eagle; Ayana Amaechi, sr., Centennial; Maddie Geritz, jr., Borah; Ami Ti’a, jr., Centennial; Madi Thurston, sr., Kuna; Kayla Anderson, sr., Mountain View; Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil, so., Timberline; Sabrina Castaneda, sr., Nampa; Emma Ellinghouse, fr., Timberline; Meghan Holloman, jr., Kuna; Yesenya Bendinelli, jr., Capital; Ashlyn VanCampen, sr., Kuna; Brittany Ralston, jr., Capital; Audrey Dingel, sr., Boise; Elly Johnson, jr., Capital; Alesia Jones, jr., Borah; Alison Chanhthala, jr., Mountain View; McKenna Emerson, jr., Eagle.
4A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Lydia Nieto, jr., G, Bishop Kelly
Coach of the Year: Derek McCormick, Bishop Kelly
Natalie Robison, sr., Skyview; Kylie Meadows, jr., Mountain Home; Lexi Mitchell, so., Middleton; Morgan Mitchell, sr., Emmett; Theresa Reeping, jr., Bishop Kelly; Lita Forse, sr., Caldwell
Bukky Ogunrinola, sr., Ridgevue; Gabby Keefe, so., Bishop Kelly; Meriah Deugan, jr., Middleton; Sarah Reinecker, jr., Vallivue; Adrie Blanksma, so., Mountain Home
Katrina Vallejo, fr., Caldwell; Madi Jo Taylor, sr., Emmett; Madie Edwards, jr., Skyview; Tawni Morrison, so., Vallivue; Jade Martinez, fr., Caldwel; lSage Huggins, sr., Middleton; Jazzi Cristobal, so., Mountain Home; Stephanie Castillo, so., Ridgevue; Zoey Moore, fr., Middleton
3A SNAKE RIVER VALLEY CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Madison Jackson, so., G, Parma
CJ Davis, sr., Weiser; RaAnna Dahle, sr., Fruitland; Ashley Gentry, sr., Parma; Kassity Forsberg, sr., Parma; Josey Hall, so., Homedale
Lauren Bouvia, sr., Weiser; Madi Pedracini, jr., Fruitland; Darcie Condie, jr., Parma; Shelbie Allen, so., Weiser; Adyson Harris, fr., Parma; Kadee Winn, sr., Payette
Carleigh LaCrone, jr., Fruitland; Sophie Cowgill, sr., Fruitland; Sydney Miller, jr., Fruitland; Caitlin Rice, jr., Fruitland; Katie Davis, sr., Weiser; Abbey Shirts, so., Weiser; Ashley Burks, jr., Homedale; Faith Jacobson, jr., Homedale; Lydia Stevenson, sr., Parma; Roni Shaw, sr., Payette; Rachel Henderson, sr., Payette
2A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Kori Pentzer, jr., G, Melba
Holly Golenor, jr., Cole Valley Christian; Emma Clark, so., Melba; MacKenzie Farrans, jr., Marsing; Kenzie White, jr., New Plymouth; Paige Albers, sr., Cole Valley Christian
Sheyanne Glorfield, sr., Marsing; Jessie Wood, fr., Nampa Christian; Miriam Edes, sr., Cole Valley Christian; Lauren Hansen, so., McCall-Donnelly; Brianna Killion, sr., New Plymouth
JoJo Salinas, sr., McCall-Donnelly; Allie Herman, jr., Melba; Brook Robinson, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Elsa Margarito, jr., Marsing; Alex Grant, so., Marsing; Ace Hahs, jr., Cole Valley Christian; Mary Ellen Cossel, so., Melba; Callie Young, sr., Melba; Kamryn Frates, jr., New Plymouth; Elia Burgin, jr., New Plymouth
1A DIVISION I WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Kate Renfro, sr., Horseshoe Bend
Coach of the Year: Patrick Goff, Horseshoe Bend
Rachel Cummings, sr., Idaho City; Kaylene Gallegos, sr., Idaho City; Kate Roberts, jr., Ambrose; Madison Dodge, jr., Liberty Charter; Hallie Ashton, sr., Liberty Charter
Jade Warren, so., Horseshoe Bend; Aspin Quijas, sr., Horseshoe Bend; Cory Hamblin, jr., Liberty Charter; Destiny Quebrado, so., Notus; Bailie Jewett, sr., Rimrock
Annie West, sr., Ambrose; Cameron Kingsmore, so., Victory Charter; Taylor Lanham, sr., Idaho City; Julia Corkish, sr., Liberty Charter; Jillian Culbertson, sr., North Star Charter; Cheyenne Stewart, jr., Notus; Macee Carpenter, jr., Notus; Valeria Lino, jr., Rimrock; Nikita Schwarztman, sr., Riverstone