Sugar-Salem High School
Conference: 3A Mountain Rivers Conference
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Sugar-Salem High School Team Bio
Head Coach: Shawn Freeman
Years as Head Coach: 5th Season
Previous Experience: 7 Years at Sugar-Salem
Record Last Year: 20-5
State Titles: 1962, 1973, 1993, 1994, 2017
Chandler Pincock, Wing, 12
Dan Shirley, Guard/Wing, 12
Thomas Baldwin, Post, 12
Curtis Drake, Guard, 11
Returning Players with Honors:
Chandler Pincock – All-Conference Second Team
Dan Shirley – All-Conference Honorable Mention
Key Players lost from last year:
Parker Miller – All-State First Team
Hayden Wood – All-State First Team
Luke Holt – All-Conference First Team
Jr. Gonzalez – All-Conference Honorable Mention
Jaron Rose – All-Conference Second Team
Cameron Garner – All-Conference Honorable Mention
Incoming impact players:
Simeon Rydalch, G, 11
Pasen Michaelson, G/W, 10
Kyler Handy, W/P, 10
Photo By: Steve Conner - #12 Chandler Pincock
Written by: Matt Harris
3A Mountain Rivers Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
4. South Fremont
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kyler Yancey, South Fremont
Reece Yancey, South Fremont
Coleby Hess, Teton
Mason Swainston, Teton
Mason Price, Shelley
Jack Thompson, Shelley
Chandler Pincock, Sugar-Salem
Curtis Drake, Sugar-Salem
The 2016-17 season was a banner year for the Mountain Rivers Conference. The Sugar-Salem Diggers took home their first state title since 1994 and the conference earned their second state championship in three seasons.
Sugar-Salem was a team that was under the radar for much of the season. But the Diggers hot shooting and consistent team play despite not having a true star led them to a conference crown, title game appearance, and eventual state championship.
Many of the players who played key roles last season for Sugar-Salem are now gone, including Conference Player of the Year Parker Miller, Hayden Miller, Luke Holt, Jr. Gonzalez, Jaron Rose, Cameron Garner, and Taevin Norman. However, a few holdovers do remain who will look to help Sugar-Salem defend their state crown.
Back in the fold this season are seniors Chandler Pincock, Dan Shirley, and Thomas Baldwin, along with sharpshooting guard Curtis Drake. Those players will be expected to lead the way for a new, younger generation of Diggers entering the varsity ranks of the program, including junior Simeon Rydalch and sophomores Pasen Michaelson and Kyler Handy.
For head coach Shawn Freeman, the anticipation of a new season with new players is what he is looking forward to the most.
“I’m excited to see different players fill their roles and to watch them compete,” he said. “Chandler Pincock was a starter last year and will be a great scorer. Dan Shirley gave us great minutes last year and will have a great impact on our chemistry with his leadership.” Freeman also said he expects Tom Baldwin to have a big impact in their post play.
With so many new faces that the Diggers are bringing up to the varsity level, there will be some adjustments made. But Freeman says his team already plays well together and has a good team bond.
“We like to play team ball with a lot of movement on offense,” he said. “We like to play tough man defense and our communication is something that can always get better.”
In the tough Mountain Rivers Conference, Freeman added that consistency was needed across the board in order to win their league this year.
A team who is not unfamiliar with winning conference championships is the Shelley Russets. However, the Russets will have their third coach in four seasons beginning this year with Wally Foster taking the reigns of the program.
The red and black lose the services of departed seniors Brady Hollist, Adam Driscoll, and Brennon Wattenbarger due to graduation, but as is usually the case at Shelley, there is no shortage of athletes or talent to work with – a great situation for a new coach to step into.
Returning for the Russets this season are senior mainstays Mason Price and Jack Thompson. They are joined by fellow seniors Kimball Smith, Stockton Cannon, Peyton Whitaker, Payton Nelson, and Austin Wattenbarger. Shelley brings back the most senior returning players of any team in the conference.
Shelley is also expecting big contributions from the junior class as well.
“Brandon McBride is a point guard that can be really explosive, quick, and intelligent with the ball,” said Foster. “Jake Wray is a guard that can really shoot the ball and Wyatt Remington is a quick, hard-nosed guard and a good shooter as well.”
With Foster being in his first season as head coach, there is plenty for him and his coaching staff to be excited about.
“I like our team chemistry,” he said. “We have a nice mix of size and speed and, if we put it together, I think we have the capability of being a very dynamic team.”
The coach added that his team possesses plenty of length and athleticism which should help their cause.
“Mason Price is super explosive as a scorer and defender, Kimball Smith should be a big impact player, and Jack Thompson is a player with a lot of varsity experience who is looking to have a great senior campaign.”
With the athletes that the Russets have to work with this season, Shelley isn’t afraid to play up-tempo by any means, but they also feel they have the versatility to slow the game down.
“We want to take advantage of our quickness and push the ball on offense where we can, but we also have some pretty good shooters,” said Foster. “We will be looking to run some sets to get these kids some open looks as well. Pushing the tempo, whether offensively or defensively, will most of the time play to our advantage.”
Shelley has challenged themselves in their non-conference schedule this year, taking on a good amount of top-tiered talent. The Russets open the year at defending 2A champion Bear Lake, before hitting the road the following weekend against Fruitland in what Foster called a ‘hostile atmosphere’. Shelley has two games planned against perennial contender Snake River and is also playing in the Magic Valley Holiday Classic, opening the tournament against 5A Centennial.
For their conference counterparts to the northeast in Driggs, the Teton Redskins will look to continue to turn around their program under the direction of second year head coach Rob Heuseveldt. The Redskins have more of a balance this year that should aid them in their rebuilding efforts.
“I’m most excited about the leadership of our returning players and the youth that will follow them,” said Heuseveldt.
Back in the fold this year are seniors Coleby Hess and Mason Swainston, whom coaches around the conference said are certainly the players to watch on this Redskins team. But Teton also brings in youthful talent that should help elevate their program.
Joining the fray this season are juniors Satchell Heinen, Fletcher Wartig, Daegan Allen, and Tanner Danielson. Sophomore Carson Reilly and freshman Luke Thompson are expected to make a big impact along with senior Talon Tonks.
With plenty of youth in the program, Heuseveldt says that is their key to their season.
“With the leadership of the two returning players, we are excited to see how far the young players can progress before conference games.
The Redskins plan on using their speed to their advantage on both sides of the floor.
“Defensively, we are quick and aggressive. We need to develop a mental toughness to be successful this year,” Heuseveldt said. “Offensively, we are a good shooting team and we need to play as a team and focus on developing our inside game to compliment our shooting.”
Being a team that has struggled for a few seasons, Teton feels that they can potentially turn some heads this season with improved play. Other coaches in the conference agree.
“Teton could surprise this year. They have some good young athletes coming up,” said Sugar-Salem’s Shawn Freeman.
“I think Teton will be much improved and they players they now have are hard-working kids who know how to win,” said Shelley’s Wally Foster. “They could be a very dangerous team to play at the end of the year.”
A team that is an unknown entity to start the season is the South Fremont Cougars, as they feature an almost entirely new squad.
“In many ways, it feels like I am starting over because we only have two returners in Kyler and Reece Yancey,” said South Fremont head coach Ryon Pope. “It raises many questions, but it’s also excited to see what we can make of this season. I believe we have good potential as people get more comfortable in their roles.”
Pope added that the Cougars will miss the leadership and commitment of the seven seniors lost from last year’s team.
“They were a great group of kids to coach and were great representatives of our school and community. They will be greatly missed,” he said.
The key to the season for South Fremont may be how quickly the new varsity players adapt to the speed of the varsity level and how they fit into and fulfill their roles.
“We will be very inexperienced, but we have a nice mix of players that can help us be more competitive as the year goes along,” said Pope. “I am mostly excited about the quality of young men on this year’s team. They are great guys with character and a willingness to work hard.”
In the past, the Cougars have had no qualms about slowing down the pace of play to establish their offense and to use the skills of the players at their disposal. This season, Pope says that may or may not change.
“Our style of play will evolve this year as I get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the players and the kind of things we can be good at as we develop,” he said. “We have so many new faces that it is hard to say what our style of play will be, but as always, we will value strong defense and offensive execution.”
When it comes to the conference, the theme has been parity from quite a long time. Pope says he doesn’t see that changing this season and that everyone has a shot at the conference crown.
“Almost every year in our conference is a dogfight, so I don’t think any kind of result would surprise me that much.”