South Fremont High School
Conference: 3A Mountain Rivers Conference
Head Coach: Ryon Pope
Years as Head Coach: 4th Season
Previous Experience: 16 seasons
Record Last Year: 18-10
State Titles: 2015
Alec Pope, Point Guard, Senior
Cody Tucker, Guard, Senior
Tyler Barney, Guard, Senior
Dalton Thompson, Guard, Senior
Blake Bartschi, Post, Junior
Returning Players with Honors:
Alec Pope – 1st Team All-State, 1st Team All-Conference
Blake Bartschi – 2nd Team All-State, 1st Team All-Conference
“Key Players” lost from last year:
Con Bauer, Forward – 3A Idaho Player of the Year
Garrett Remington, Guard – Great Defender
Junior Gonzalez, Guard – Steady Ballhandler
Joseph Davenport, Post – Physical Defender
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
Flashback to the latter stages of last season – January 31st to be exact.
The South Fremont Cougars were coming off of a 65-48 loss at the hands of conference-foe Shelley. The Cougars were 8-8 at that point and were mired in the middle of the conference along with archrival Sugar-Salem. The Cougars hadn’t been consistent all year to that point and really hadn’t found their groove.
Flash forward to March 7th.
South Fremont was now standing at mid-court of the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. They had finished the season with 10 wins in 12 games. The Cougars were holding a shiny blue trophy above their heads along with a large white banner that read “3A Boys Basketball ‘Real Dairy Shootout’ State Champions” – their first boys basketball title in school history.
If you would have asked anyone outside of St. Anthony if the Cougars would be a championship contender come March, most likely they would have flatly told you, “No”. Good thing that none of the Cougars cared for outside opinions.
So, the question then has to be asked: What happened? What changed in less than a month’s time?
The answer? Their identity.
The Cougars figured out who they were and what their most effective style of play was… and in a world of up-tempo offenses and run-n’-gun shooting displays, South Fremont took the opposite route and slowed the game down. It worked to perfection.
Led by 3A Idaho Player of the Year Con Bauer and a host of supporting characters including the departed Junior Gonzalez, Garrett Remington and Joseph Davenport, along with returnees Blake Bartschi, Alec Pope, and Cody Tucker, the Cougars made history and brought the title home to eastern Idaho, upsetting three district champions along the way at the state tournament.
The theme of ‘identity’ may have a familiar ring to it for the 2015-16 season.
With the quartet of Bauer, Gonzalez, Davenport, and Remington gone, South Fremont will once again battle to find their true identity heading into this season.
“We have a lot of new faces this year as we graduated seven seniors off of last year’s team,” said head coach Ryon Pope, now in his 4th season leading the Cougars. “We are still evaluating to see just how the starting spots and rotations will go.”
Two players that you can pencil into the starting lineup, however, are returning point guard Alec Pope and returning post Blake Bartschi. Pope averaged 12.0 points per game along with 5.0 assists, 2.9 steals, and 3.1 rebounds per contest while Bartschi contributed 12.0 points per game with 7.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals per contest as well. Both were named to the 3A All-Idaho teams.
Despite the change in overall personnel for this season, Pope said he and his team are excited for the year ahead.
“Our chemistry is good early on,” he said. “The kids are excited and I think they really want to play team-oriented basketball. Whenever you have that, as a coach you get excited about the possibilities for the year.”
Pope said that having his kids gain varsity experience early in the year and learning from that experience will be a big key to the year. The chemistry will be key on offense as the Cougars search for balance.
“We have a good balance between our perimeter and our inside game,” Pope said. “We think we will be able to have some good scoring balance between our bigs and our guards.”
Pope did acknowledge that his team needs to gel more quickly on offense this year compared to last.
“We hope to get off to a better start offensively than we did last year,” he said. “We struggled with turnovers, especially in our first few games.”
Down the stretch in 2014-15, there may not have been a better defensive team than South Fremont. Pope hopes to carry on with that momentum.
“I think our strength defensively will be in our ability to gel into one defensive unit,” he said. “We must help each other and work together in order to reach our full potential as a defensive team. If we can do that, we could find some success this year.”
Pope hopes his team doesn’t try to rely on just one or two guys to lead the charge on defense, especially on the boards.
“We definitely need to do a better job of boxing out this year,” he said. “We relied heavily on Con (Bauer) and Blake (Bartschi) to get all of our boards and this year we really need everyone to help out more on the glass.”
The 4th year head coach said he expects his team to play a variety of different lineups and that their versatility could help them in select games depending on the night.
The history made last year wasn’t lost on the community. Upon arrival from Boise after the state tournament, cars were lined up and down Bridge Street honking their horns and flashing their lights in support of the Cougars. It was an all-out party – at 4 a.m. in the morning. The ensuing assembly at South Fremont High School the Monday following the tournament was jam-packed with community members, students from all schools in St. Anthony, and the entire South Fremont student body.
I asked South Fremont junior guard Alec Pope at the time what it had been like since winning the state championship. All he could say was, “Amazing. The amount of community support has just been unreal.”
“We appreciate the loyal fans and supports of South Fremont basketball,” coach Pope said. “We always have a great student section and community support.”
The Cougars will need their support more than ever before this season. It’s tough to win a state championship. It’s even tougher to repeat as champions.