1ADII Sawtooth Conference
5. Camas County
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Kylie Wood, Carey
Lauren Gomez, Lighthouse Christian
Serena Kent, Richfield
Ashley Notz, Camas County
Written by Jamey Vinnick
A year removed from a state title, the Carey Panthers are back and look poised to challenge for yet another title. Carey did lose both Kodi Green and Athena Versis, but returns five players from last year, highlighted by a young superstar in Kylie Wood. Just a junior, Wood has the attention of all the other coaches throughout the Sawtooth conference, but Merrilee Sears team is far more than just a one-woman show.
“We are excited about our seniors and the opportunity they have to play more minutes than in previous years. We play defense and we aren’t afraid to play defense for long periods of time,” Sears said. “We lost key seniors (Versis and Green) from our state championship team but we still feel like we still have great players that now have the opportunity to play more than previous years.”
While Carey may certainly have the conference under lock, Lighthouse Christian is going to be nipping at the heels of the Panthers after a 12-12 campaign in 2018-19. They do lose defensive player of the year Trudy Millenkamp, but return junior guard Lauren Gomez who has a chance to make a big impact for the Lions. Led by Tia Standlee in her seventh year, Lighthouse has one of the best chances to unseat Carey atop the Sawtooth.
“I'm most excited to watch these girls come together this season and bring what they have been working on for years to the court,” Standlee said. “Our style of play on both ends of the court is just trying to outwork everyone on the court, including our own team. Something that we will need to improve on so we can be successful this season is communication. This year’s team compared to last year’s team is that they are older, a little more seasoned from last year.”
Right there with Lighthouse is going to be Dietrich. The five-time state champions went 19-7 last year but couldn’t quite overcome mighty Carey. But with All-Conference forward Caylee Dilworth back, head coach Acey Shaw has a chance to do something special with her squad.
“I’m looking forward to watching the improvement,” Shaw said. “We are fast so we’ll have tenacious defense and disciplined offense. We do need to improve on unity though.”
Both Hagerman and Richfield would be looking at an uphill battle to compete with the top dogs, but they still will have chances to compete and to play some spoilers to the top teams. Hagerman is coming off a 17-8 season but lost three key seniors in Alana Floyd, Elle Yore and Marina Acuna. They’ll be younger, and won’t be able to rely on their senior experience as well, said coach Derrick Lyons.
“I am excited about the ability to grow and get better this year,” Lyons said. “Sadie Wadsworth will be called upon to be a leader for a young group that has the potential to improve as the year goes on. Our group will need to learn to play together and continue to improve their fundamental skills to be successful. This team is young and inexperienced whereas last year we were able to rely upon our experienced seniors.”
Richfield, on the other hand, is looking to rebound after a 4-17 year. It won’t be any easier though with six seniors departing including inside presence Shelby Buckner. With departing veterans comes new youngsters though, and there are three joining the Richfield squad after a junior high championship. Those newcomers are Madison Jones, Madelyn Long and Kaleis Adric. Richfield also only brings back one senior in forward Kyndyl Allen who will be relied on for a veteran presence.
Coach Buck Hendren is hoping to return them to the prowess that they were at when they won back to back state titles in 2015 and 2016. Looking at the season Hendren has a few things he’s focused on.
“I’m excited about that we have a lot of new faces, and I’m excited to see if they can gel,” Hendren said. “Defensively we want to keep pressure on the ball and force other teams into making mistakes. Offensively we want to execute correctly and have a lot of people scoring points. We should look a lot different with the loss of six seniors though.”