5A Southern Idaho Conference
Written by: Sven Alskog
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
2. Mountain View
6. Rocky Mountain
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ava Ranson, Timberline
Peyton McFarland, Boise
Emma Ellinghouse, Timberline
Naya Ojukwu, Mountain View
Trinity Slocum, Mountain View
Betsey King, Eagle
Gracie Kolka, Meridian
Jaleesa Lawrence, Meridian
Allison Ross, Boise
Laila Saenz, Mountain View
Jada Reed, Rocky Mountain
The SIC has dominated 5A girls basketball in Idaho in recent years and once again enters the new season with some of the premier talent in the state.
Boise begins the year as the preseason favorites in the coaches poll, with All-Conference selections Peyton McFarland and Allison Ross leading the way. McFarland provides a dominant interior presence for the Brave, while Ross can shoot it with the best of them from distance.
“I felt very positively about our summer season and am excited to have such a strong, experienced core returning,” said Boise Head Coach Kim Brydges. “Not only was our chemistry very good over the summer, but we competed well on a consistent basis and had many different players step up at different times. I’m probably most excited about this group’s positive energy and their overall depth.”
Both McFarland (Utah) and Madi Williams (Point Loma) have already committed to play at the next level, with fellow returning starter Allie Guerricabeitia adding experience at the guard position.
“Our group has a fairly balanced attack of scoring weapons and they agree to play
unselfishly for the greater good of our unified team,” Brydges said. “I would like to see us improve our transition offense and take more risks by pushing the ball better. Defensively, we return many players who can guard effectively and who have bought in to our team defensive concepts. I’m excited to mix up our defensive schemes a bit with this veteran group and challenge them with some new approaches this season.”
Perennial power Mountain View is another team that will challenge for a 5A SIC title after finishing as state runner up last season.
The Mavericks have as strong of a trio as anyone in the state with Laila Saenz, Naya Ojukwu and Trinity Slocum each back. Gatorade Player of the Year Darian White and leading rebounder Emma Anthony are the notable departures, leaving holes to fill on the ball and down low.
“We will be smaller and quicker,” said Mountain View Head Coach Connie Skogrand. “We are an up-tempo team with a pressure defense. We move the ball well and get up and down the floor. We need to become consistent outside shooters and (improve) defensive rebounding.”
After a successful first season under a new coaching staff, Timberline is a popular pick to once again reach state, with Santa Clara commit Emma Ellinghouse back from injury down low and Montana State signee Ava Ranson manning the off-guard spot.
“We have one of the best players in the state returning in Ava Ranson at shooting guard and one of the best centers in the state - Emma Ellinghouse - returning off of an ACL injury which cost her her junior season,” said Head Coach Andy Jones. “We have great depth at each position. We should be versatile and able to play big or small and fast or slow.”
While the dynamic duo gives the Wolves obvious reason for optimism, some young faces will need to step into larger roles to fill the void vacated by the previous senior class.
“We are younger at a couple of positions, but we have more depth,” Jones said. “We will not be as dependent on a couple of players as we were a year ago. We should have plenty of scoring, inside and out. We must grow defensively and we must become a great rebounding team.”
Defending state champion Eagle was picked fourth in the preseason poll by the coaches and has some notable voids to fill of their own, including Meghan Boyd and Jaimee McKinnie.
The Mustangs will be led by Honorable Mention All-SIC selection Betsey King on the guard line and have a winning pedigree surrounding her. Alex Stokoe and Elise Boockholdt were mentioned by Head Coach Cody Pickett as returners to watch.
Entering his seventh season as head coach, Pickett will be tasked with trying to lead an almost entirely new group back to the state tournament after the first state championship in school history a year ago.
New Meridian Head Coach Stu Sells moves down the road from his previous stop at Cole Valley Christian and inherits what was a strong roster put together by previous coach Matthew Creech.
Highlighting the talent pool for the Warriors is the tandem of senior guard Graci Kolka and junior forward Jaleesa Lawrence.
“Meridian has a new coach and looks to improve on last year’s run in the playoffs,” Brydges said. “They return the majority of their firepower.”
It’s a similar sentiment from the majority of the coaches within the conference.
“Meridian should challenge the top contenders this season,” added Capital Head Coach Ron Marthe.
Rocky Mountain is the other program in the 5A SIC with a new coach this season, welcoming in BJ Humphreys to the sideline. Humphreys has experience as an assistant at The College of Idaho and also as an assistant in the Eagle boys basketball program.
A cohesive group should help keep the Grizzlies competitive on a nightly basis, with seniors Jada Reed, Anna Smith and Makayla Debry. Sophomore guard Marli Reed is a newcomer that her coach is excited about.
“I am most excited about the chemistry of this team,” Humphreys said. “Our positive enthusiasm for our teammates and their success has been fun and encouraging for all involved. We hope to have a balanced fast-paced attack on offense and an aggressive defense.”
It will be the second season at Borah for Head Coach Whitney Kenyon, who has to deal with the loss of the top two leading scorers from a year ago, including the dominant Nyalam Thabach.
A strong sophomore class will now look to take advantage of even more opportunities to bring the Lions some more wins this season. Sophomores Abby Rowedder Jayden McNeal, Maddie Montoya and Maggie Sawyer will team up with senior guard Brittlyn Randall and senior forward Kendra Bryant to form the nucleus of the roster.
“We return four girls that played last year as freshmen,” Kenyon said. “I’m excited to see them grow after having a year of varsity under their belts. We are still extremely young. We have two returning seniors and the returning four sophomores. Everyone else is new to varsity, so we will have a bit of a learning curve to start the season as we get everyone comfortable with the change in pace.”
Pace is the word to note for the Lions, who want to run as much as possible.
“We try to keep an up-tempo style of play on both ends of the floor,” Kenyon said. “We run the floor well for the most part, but we need to continue to get better at transition defense.”
Youth is also the name of the game for Centennial, which has been mentored during the offseason by seniors Abigail Nichols, Taylor Pooley and Caitlyn McMurray.
“Our senior leadership has been great from the very start of summer,” said Centennial Head Coach Candace Thornton. “We have seniors that have worked their way up to varsity and are determined to exceed expectations. They include and coach up the underclassmen and understand the impact they can have as leaders for our entire program. We have great attitudes and dedication, and we believe a lot can be done with those two things.”
Sophomore point guard Annie Stinar is one of the impact newcomers Thornton mentioned as being excited to see play this year. Stinar joins a deep backcourt that does not have much in the way of size to work with on the interior.
“We are undersized compared to most every other team in the conference, so we have to play smart,” Thornton said. “Game planning and execution will be critical to our season, but we have kids who are willing to put in the time and won’t shy away from opponents.”
After a challenging first year up at the 5A ranks, Skyview is a team that looks to be hungry to move up in the standings.
“They have a chip on their shoulder from last season and nothing to lose,” Thornton said. “That makes for a scary opponent.”
The Hawks won just two games last year and none in conference play.
Capital is as young and full of new faces as any team in the league, as point guard and school all-time assist leader Lauren Baumgartner has graduated and moved on to Vanguard University in California.
Guards Alexie Johnson, Charly Weber and Allie Laufenburger will be heavily relied on along with sophomore forward Gracie Strickland.
“We’ll miss the leadership of our graduated point guard, but we feel that we have more scorers this upcoming season that can share the load,” Marthe said. “Capital has always been known for its grittiness and toughness. It might not look pretty, but our effort and attitude has always been solid.”
Freshmen Hannah Price, Saioa Sarria and Emily Horner are some new faces to get to know for the Eagles.
“I’m excited for our young players to get their feet wet and become a part of this highly competitive conference,” Marthe said. “The talent is so rich and I look forward to watching them compete against the best.”