4A High Country Conference Preview
4. Idaho Falls
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tenley Smith, Blackfoot
Hadley Humphries, Blackfoot
Tenlie Smith, Blackfoot
Macy Larson, Hillcrest
Sadie Lott, Bonneville
Written by Brandon Hill
The Bees saw a perfect 2018-19 season come to a heartbreaking end after back-to-back losses to Skyline and Blackfoot at districts, ending an otherwise phenomenal year for Bonneville.
With senior Saide Lott and a host of eight other seniors returning to the 2019-2020 squad, it’s no wonder Head Coach Ryan Erikson’s squad earned more first-place votes in the preseason coaches poll than any other High Country team.
“I’m excited to see how these girls respond,” Erikson said. “We have a lot of key players returning and they all feed off each other. They play fast. We have great chemistry within the girls.”
But if Bonneville wants to capitalize on Erikson’s first year on the job, it will have to redeem its postseason losses to rivals Skyline and Blackfoot.
The Broncos put together an impressive 2018 regular season of their own, shooting out to 20-3 and helping knock Bonneville out of state tournament contention, eventually winning the state consultation bracket. Head Coach Courtnie Smith said the athleticism and endurance of her squad have only increased, thanks to an emphasis on accelerating in transition.
“This team loves to run. We should be a great transition team, hard pressure defense full court,” Smith said. “We are strong both in our inside and outside game.”
Smith will be looking to junior point guard Tenleigh Smith to help lead that effort. Smith earned an all-state second-team selection last year, the only Bronco to do so last season.
With Hillcrest being the other High Country team to make it to state last year, Head Coach Alan Sargent will be looking to redeem a consulation loss to Blackfoot. The Broncos outpaced the Knights 50-41 last year after Hillcrest exited championship contention with a 57-47 loss to Minico in the opening round.
Size will be the toughest challenge facing the Knights, the same challenge Sargent said they dealt with all last year. And with plenty of returners in 2019, he said he plans to turn his undersized team into a lightning-fast one.
“We are similar in that we're still small,” he said. “However, we are quicker and have a few more ball handlers. This should allow us to push the ball and try to score quick.”
For fifth-year Skyline Head Coach Ty Keck, 2019 will be all about outsmarting opponents. With senior Macy Olson and three upperclassmen at his disposal, Keck said he’s coaching a purely talented squad.
“We have a strong nucleus of returning players that also bring both a strong basketball IQ and some great natural abilities,” Keck said. “The core of this team has been playing together for a long time and work extremely well together on the court.”
Skyline ended the season below .500 at 11-13, but Keck said he expects that win total to increase as his offense continues to develop.
After a disappointing 3-20 2018 season, Idaho Falls Head Coach David Vest said he plans to rebound heading into the new year. The Tigers graduated nine players from last year’s squad, but a clean slate could lead to a culture change for the fourth-ranked Tigers.
“We will look to our two returning players to provide leadership on the floor,” Vest said. “There is excitement in the air at IFHS. Our young group of players doesn’t play timid or scared and they want to play fast.”
Seniors Morgan Tucker and Caroline Keller stand as the team’s only seniors, while junior guard Cassidy Sanders rounds out Idaho Falls upperclassmen.
For Shelley, a team that failed to win last season, a new year means a new start and a fresh chance at redemption. First-year Head Coach Christopher Fielding said although the team faced plenty of adversity last year, he sees nothing but potential in the young squad. Seniors Kassidy Arzola and Brooke Kidman both return at guard, while junior Clara Benson will lock down the small forward position.
“This is my first year, but I see huge confidence in this group of girls and they are excited to get playing,” Fielding said.