2. Butte County
4. Taylor’s Crossing
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tessa Gregory, Challis
Zoe D’Orazio, Challis
Maniah Clegg, Grace
Breanna Hill, Grace
Belle Beard, Butte County
Kiya McAffee, Butte County
1ADI High Desert Conference Preview
Written by Brandon Hill
If there’s one thing coaches in the 1ADI High Desert Conference can agree on, it’s that Grace once again enters this new year as a heavy favorite to earn a bid to state.
Behind District 5-6 Player of the Year Maniah Clegg, the Grizzlies are off to a 4-1 start through the opening month of play, continuing the momentum following a 17-9 season.
“Maniah is a strong power forward that can shoot inside and out,” said Challis head coach Kari Smith. “She handles the ball well and can get to the basket. She is a threat on both ends of the court.”
Smith also named Breanna Hill as another Grizzly teams in the High Desert should look out for.
“Breanna has all the skills a coach is looking for in a player,” Smith said. “She is an offensive threat and an intense defender. She can read the court on both ends.”
Smith and her squad will be one of three teams looking to chase down Grace and overtake the dominant Grizzlies in the race to state. Smith will have a strong core of six upperclassmen — three seniors and three juniors — at her disposal as the Vikings get underway.
Seniors Tessa Gregory and Zoe D’Orazio return to the squad after earning second-team all-conference honors in 2018-2019.
“We have a team with a lot of talent and different skill sets,” Smith said. “I’m excited to see how they will come together and build off each other’s strengths.”
Smith also identified Butte County as a squad capable of staying competitive with Grace down the stretch.
“Butte County has been known for its aggressive defense,” said Pirate head coach Carla Hansen. “We hope to continue that style of play. We need to increase our tempo, involve more players on the scoreboard and shoot the ball better.”
Hansen enters her seventh season at the helm of Butte County, coming off a 10-13 season. The Pirates strung together a series of winning streaks last season but stumbled down the stretch with three losses in four games once the end of January rolled around.
“We are one year older and have some good varsity experience under our belt now,” Hansen said. “I am excited to see us as a team take it to the next level of play.”
Hansen identified the guard position as one of the most improved areas in the Pirates’ game. Belle Beard and Kiya McAfee, first-team all-conference players last year, will look to lock down that position and increase the tempo every night on the hardwood. Meanwhile, McKenzie Gamett and Anna Knight give Hansen viable options on defense, while Kelsey Isham controls the rebounding game.
“Butte County has been known for its aggressive defense,” Hansen said. “We hope to continue that style of play. We need to increase our tempo, involve more players on the scoreboard and shoot the ball better.”