4A Southern Idaho Conference Preview
Written by Brandon Hill
Players to Watch
Tyler Medaris, Middleton
Jacob Martinez, Vallivue
Jaylen Alexander, Columbia
Aidan McGarvin, Bishop Kelly
Isaac Mercer, Ridgevue
While Tyler Robinett is dropping dimes for the College of Idaho, the Middleton Vikings will hope their remaining stars can help lift them to Southern Idaho Conference Champion status once again.
The Vikings and Kuna Kavemen made up half of the state semifinal picture in 2020, but the pair of Treasure Valley teams faltered one game from the title. Middleton fell short 51-50 to the eventual champion Preston Indians. Kuna meanwhile, lost in a shocker to the Moscow Bears 63-60.
With Kuna no longer in the 4A picture, the Vikings and Head Coach Andy Harrington will look to win their first state title since 1965 behind the talents of Tyler Medaris and Merit Foote, key returners off last year’s squad.
Before that happens, Middleton will have to battle through a gauntlet of ferocious SIC opponents from both the 4A and 5A classifications.
“We hope to continue being an elite defensive program. Last year, we led 4A in scoring defense by around three points per game,” Harrington said. “Offensively, we want to improve. We will be going into a more fast-paced up and down style offensively.”
Harrington said his team’s defensive stats might suffer as a result of the shifted focus, a worthy sacrifice considering Middleton already fielded the best defense in the conference by an average of five points per game.
“We are going away from five-out-and-motion and going to a more updated motion system,” he said. “We will run more sets this season as well.”
Harrington said while rival Bishop Kelly stands at the Vikings’ most likely challenger in the conference race, a few darkhorses should be in the mix as well.
The Knights finished third in the SIC last season, winning a play-in game en route to an 0-2 performance at state. Aidan McGarvin returns for BK this season, making other SIC coaches’ job all that much harder.
“Aidan is a hard worker that has a knack for the ball,” said Nampa Head Coach Derek Pegram. “His skill are much improved from a year ago and will surprise some people this year.”
Pegram returns a host of Bulldogs in Donovan Gray, Trace Hoopii and Thad Sandidge, but will be without mutli-faceted athletes Donavon Estrada and second-team all-conference selection Gavin White.
Last year’s fourth-place Bulldogs average just below 50 points per game in a tight conference race on that end of the court. Defensively, Pegram’s players soard, holding opponents to 48 points per game. That solid front was even better beyond the arc, with Nampa opponents knocking down threes just 28% of the time.
“With a senior-led roster who’ve played together a lot, I believe these boys are ready to make that improvement,” Pegram said.
Coming out of hibernation, the Columbia Wildcatrs, a six-win team from last year, could make some noise and disrupt the standings this season.
“I am not sure if they will surprise, but I expect Columbia to make a significant jump this year with the return of Jaylen Alexander as well as solid unit around him,” Harrington said. “Coach Morris is a good coach and has a ton of experience.”
Alexander looks capable of taking the SIC by storm in 2021. The Wildcats finished seventh in last year’s standings, exiting the district tournament after two quick losses. But coaches across the Treasure Valley say Alexander’s talents are enough for a potential playoff push at Columbia.
“Jaylen Alexander is an immediate Player of the Year contender,” Pegram said. “Getting Alexander back and surrounding him with experienced guard like Columbia has will be a tough test for any team in our league this year.”
While Vallivue and Caldwell remain on the bubble, Emmett and Ridgevue, the conference’s bottom two finishers, look to make a comeback in 2021.
The Warhawks, after winning just six games last year, look to regroup behind fifth-year Head Coach Neil Stutzman.
“I thought that at certain times we executed offensively,” Stutzman said. “I thought we did a good job of putting the ball in our leading scorer hands and giving him the opportunity to score.”
Ridgevue’s all-time leading scorer, Mathew Flake, graduated last summer, leaving junior Isaac Mercer and senior Carter Mechaca to help lead the Warhawks out of the SIC basement.