1ADII Long Pin Conference Preview
Written by Brandon Baney
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cruz Duerden, Cascade
Blake Thurston, Cascade
Wyatt Vining, Council
Corban Fields, Garden Valley
Josh Gillespie, Garden Valley
Covy Kelly, Garden Valley
Colten Meyer, Horseshoe Bend
Jimmy Tucker, Salmon River
Justin Whitten, Salmon River
Nathan Kindall, Tri-Valley
A year ago, Long Pin Conference bragging rights were constantly changing hands between Cascade and Garden Valley. The Ramblers won the regular season title, the Wolverines won the District Tournament, and then Cascade reclaimed the top position by advancing all the way to the 1A DII state championship game. The Ramblers ultimately fell to Lakeside and brought home the 2nd place trophy. Conversely, Garden Valley couldn’t capitalize on its district tournament title, as the Wolverines went 0-2 at state. So it should come as no surprise that everyone in the Long Pin Conference is looking up at Cascade and Garden Valley again in 2020.
The Ramblers lost a couple of important seniors from last year’s runner-up squad, but they do return their leading scorer: senior guard Blake Thurston. Cascade coach Amos Lee says Thurston will pair nicely with the strong rebounding of senior forwards Cruz Duerden and Evan Dallenbach to give Cascade a balanced foundation this year.
“Last year, we played physical defense and still managed a high point average per game. That was due to some great rebounding, an energetic defense, and shooters being able to hit from all over the floor,” Lee said. “It was hard to shut us down in one location and we hope to continue that legacy.”
Garden Valley appears ready to tangle with the Ramblers for league supremacy again in 2020. The Wolverines return the Long Pin Conference MVP/All-State honoree Covy Kelly, a senior guard. Also returning is senior guard Corban Fields, an All-Conference performer. However, Garden Valley coach Joel LaFleur says his most intriguing player this year is a transfer.
“Josh Gillespie is a transfer from (5A) Mountain View High School and will be a top-tier, All-State type of player for us,” LaFleur said. “It’s very unusual to have a kid of his caliber transfer into a small school program like ours.”
Despite the preseason buzz surrounding Cascade and Garden Valley, coach Lee doesn’t necessarily see things as a two-team race.
“The entire Long Pin Conference is a wild card. All of the teams have a shot to be contenders this year,” Lee said. “Council and Salmon River both return a big cast and Horseshoe Bend brings in a slew of new freshmen. It really is anyone’s game.”
Council finished 3rd in the league standings last season. The Lumberjacks finished 16-8 and return senior Cooper Iveson, junior Thatcher McLinn, and sophomores Wyatt Vining, Josh Gipe and Porter McLinn. All five saw extensive playing time last year, and if they continue to develop, Council could challenge for the league’s top spot in 2020.
Most coaches agree that Horseshoe Bend is a dangerous darkhorse this season. Garden Valley coach Joel LaFleur says that “several of their kids didn’t play last year and have decided to come back and play this year.” Mustangs coach Tivon Miller will rely on senior Logyn Bromgard and junior Colten Meyer to lead Horseshoe Bend.
Salmon River finished in last place a year ago, and coach Levi Tucker is blunt in his assessment of the Savages.
“Based on our record last year, we didn’t do anything well,” Tucker said. “We must improve in every aspect of the game.”
The good news for coach Tucker is that Salmon River brings back two senior All-Conference guards: Jimmy Tucker and Justin Whitten. Three freshmen will also be thrown into the varsity fire right away, and coach Tucker says their development will be key for the Savages’ fortunes this year.
The Tri-Valley Titans are in a similar position as Salmon River. The Titans went 8-14 last season, but return several talented playmakers that could take a step forward and help Tri-Valley make the leap this year. Six-foot-five senior Nathan Kindall will give opposing coaches fits inside. Additionally, coach Barrett Morris also welcomes back senior guard Jarret Mink and junior forward Brendan Wood.
After a year away from varsity competition, Meadows Valley returns to the Long Pin Conference in 2020. They will be led by coach Daniel DeLurma.