1ADII Rocky Mountain Conference Preview
Written by Brandon Baney
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Gavin Spencer, Grace Lutheran
Austin Beyeler, Leadore
Chase Green, Mackay
Kyle Peterson, Mackay
James Bodily, North Gem
Logan Corta, North Gem
Levi Farr, Rockland
Braden Permann, Rockland
Daniel Canfield, Watersprings
Robert Canfield, Watersprings
A year ago, a clear divide emerged in the Rocky Mountain Conference between the top four and bottom four teams. A similar fissure could develop in 2020, as Mackay, North Gem, Watersprings and Rockland all figure to be in the mix for the league crown.
Last season, Mackay won the regular season and district tournament titles. Their momentum was halted in the opening round at state, though, as the Miners fell to Dietrich 78-71 in overtime. Mackay rebounded to win the consolation final and took home fifth place. Miners coach Kelvin Krosch would love to get back to state again this year, and has a pair of All-Conference senior guards in Chase Green and Kyle Peterson to help achieve that goal.
North Gem was the other Rocky Mountain representative at state last year. The Cowboys took fourth place at state after falling to Cascade by five in the semifinal round. Second-year coach Tracey Corta has the luxury of returning his entire varsity roster this year.
“We don’t have any new players, but everyone is a year more experienced,” Corta said. “I expect the bench players from last year to all play a greater role on this team.”
North Gem’s nucleus starts with James Bodily, a senior forward who earned First-Team All-State honors last year, as well as the Rocky Mountain Conference MVP Award. Senior guard Logan Corta joined Bodily on the First-Team All-Conference squad. The rest of North Gem’s lineup consists of junior guard Bridger Hatch and senior posts Brett Freeman and Garrett Leavitt. Any one of those five are capable of leading the Cowboys in scoring each night.
“They played very unselfishly last year,” coach Corta said. “Everybody really played for the guy next to them rather than for themselves. I hope that continues.”
Rockland almost snagged North Gem’s spot at state last year, but fell to the Cowboys in the third-place game at districts 74-73. Bulldogs coach Shae Neal will lean on a pair of seniors who earned All-Conference honors a year ago: point guard Braden Permann and post Levi Farr. Throw in sophomore guard Brigham Permann and promising six-foot-three freshman Teague Matthews, and coach Neal is excited about his team’s potential.
“Last year, we were young and were able to learn from our mistakes,” Neal said. “I feel like every game we got better and now we can see the progress we have made.”
When asked to identify a potential dark horse team this year, North Gem coach Tracey Corta didn’t hesitate. “I think Watersprings could surprise some people,” Corta said. “They were a tough out last year with only five guys and they should have better numbers this year.”
Rockland coach Shae Neal agrees.
“Watersprings had five tough guys last year,” he said. “They are well coached and always play disciplined basketball.”
Watersprings head coach Scott Moe reports that his program now has enough depth to field a JV team this season. Senior forward Robert Canfield and sophomore guard Daniel Canfield achieved All-Conference status last year, and are joined by returning starters Gabe Smith, a junior forward, and Kaden Aldinger, a junior guard. Add in sophomore guard Jrew Plocher, making his varsity debut in 2020, and the Warriors boast a starting five that can match up with any team in the conference. Watersprings had the top defense in the entire state last year in terms of points allowed per game, and coach Moe is optimistic his team can continue that trend in 2020.
Grace Lutheran had an up-and-down season a year ago, finishing 5-13 overall. Coach Jeremy Hess said goodbye to three seniors in the offseason, but returns several underclassmen who saw valuable time last year. Junior Zach Horst and sophomore Gavin Spencer will lead a young Royals squad in 2020.
Unlike Grace Lutheran, Sho-Ban was senior heavy last year. The Chiefs employed six talented seniors that handled most of the scoring, and it remains to be seen how that production will be replaced.
Clark County was similarly hit hard by graduation, as coach Wyatt Kinghorn lost three seniors from last year’s team. Their depth will be further tested as the Bobcats were able to field a girls’ varsity team this year. For the past two seasons, Clark County’s girls had played alongside the boys on one varsity team.
The Leadore Mustangs went winless a year ago, but return senior Austin Beyeler, an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection. They also bring in a new coach. Michael Francis takes over the program after serving as an assistant coach under Curtis Beyeler, who resigned in the offseason.