Photo By Kelly Magee - #23 Reagan Rex
4A Great Basin Conference Preview
Written by Sven Alskog
Players to Watch
Amari Whiting (Burley)
Hannah Schvaneveldt (Jerome)
Brinley Iverson (Twin Falls)
Dorcas Lupumba (Canyon Ridge)
Sadie Drake (Mountain Home)
Madilynn Keener (Mountain Home)
Allyson Vorwaller (Minico)
Kelsie Pope (Burley)
Three fewer teams will reside in the 4A Great Basin this season, as Century, Preston and Pocatello have exited the conference, leaving the league looking similar to what it did a couple of years ago prior to the addition of those three schools.
Of the seven remaining teams in the conference, four put up double-digit win totals a year ago.
Burley was one of the three representatives from the Great Basin at state last season, winning the consolation bracket with a win over Blackfoot.
The Bobcats return All-Conference guards Amari Whiting and Kelsie Pope, which should help the program remain tough once again.
Senior guard Alli Hege, senior forward Brook Hege and senior center Whitnee Hill join the dynamic backcourt duo as key returners for a Burley team hoping to carry forward with the positive momentum from the end of last season.
“We ran the floor well and everyone came into their roles at the right time for districts and state,” said Burley head coach Amber Whiting.
A pair of Searle’s are expected to also make a key contribution for the group.
“Lynzey and Sydney Searle will have a huge impact on the defensive end,” Whiting said. “Their length and defense were key to our team in district and state last year.”
According to other coaches in the Great Basin, what has the ability to make the Bobcats special is the talent of Whiting, who burst onto the scene as a freshman from the point guard position.
“She is one of the top players in the state at any level,” said Mountain Home head coach Brent Keener. “She’s already gotten numerous offers from big time colleges.”
Others around the conference called her a “beast” and “without a doubt the best player in the conference”.
While Burley has generated plenty of respect from the outside, the Bobcats have been putting in work to improve in specific areas this offseason.
“We need to be better at reading and reacting to what the defense is giving,” Coach Whiting said.
Further down the road in Twin Falls, 14th year head coach Nancy Jones once again has a team that looks primed to be towards the top of the conference standings.
Leading the way for the Bruins will be the senior inside-out combination of post Brinley Iverson and guards Reagan Rex, Keeli Peterson and Kaylin Bailey.
The Bruins went 15-7 last season and graduated a few key pieces, including McKayla Rodriguez, Morgan Cargile and Brinlee Stotts. Leading scorer and rebounder Paige Beem is also out due to a knee injury suffered over the summer.
“We are quite young as far as our new additions, but all are coachable and want to improve and succeed,” Jones said. “We will go far as we feed off their energy in practice.”
She hopes that injuries will be less of a factor this season after plenty of challenges in that regard a year ago.
“We really had a hard time staying healthy last year,” Jones said. “We hope to keep concussions to a minimum so we can have our options open.”
Jerome is another one of the teams in the conference that posted a double-digit win total a year ago, finishing off the campaign 16-9.
Second year head coach Cory Musgrave loses four key senior pieces, but is excited about what returns for the Tigers, including second team All-Conference forward Hannah Schvaneveldt and senior point guard Alexis White.
“We are fortunate to have another good senior class coming in this year,” Musgrave said. “Our team will be vastly different, but we will need to find ways to win.”
With Schvaneveldt in the mold, Jerome has one of the best players in the conference on the roster.
“Hannah is one of the better post players in our conference,” Keener said. “She has good post moves and has the ability to step outside and knock down the 3-point shot.”
Defense and rebounding are two areas where the Tigers will strive for improvement this season. If that happens, Jerome can be right in the mix for a postseason spot.
The fourth team that posted a winning record out of the Great Basin last year is Mountain Home, which went 13-11.
Three returning players for the Tigers received postseason accolades from the conference last season, including junior posts Sadie Drake and Emily Harper and sophomore guard Madilynn Keener.
“We rebounded pretty well and started to get better defensively last year,” Coach Keener said. “We want to improve on shooting the 3-pointer, running and getting in transition more, as well as improving on our man defense.”
A pair of coaches who have experience as head coaches have also returned to the staff at Mountain Home to give the program as deep of a coaching staff as any in the area.
“Jack Dooley and Ben Rayfield have returned to Mountain Home to help,” Keener said. “Both have improved with some experience being the varsity coaches at Nampa and Gooding.”
It will be a youthful look for the Tigers this year, but one that should allow the team to be competitive.
“Mountain Home returns a young roster and will be better this year,” added Musgrave.
There is no question that depth is abundant in the conference, as most teams have the ability to beat anyone else on any given night.
Minico is one of those teams that could be potentially dangerous, with six underclassmen on the roster that have their sights on being impact players.
Beyond those underclassmen, junior post Allyson Vorwaller returns after earning honorable mention All-Conference accolades as a sophomore. Senior guards Itzel Guzman and Triniti Peralez are also expected to be key returners.
“Communication was a key aspect for our team last season and we hope to continue and improve on that this year,” said Minico head coach Anna Bateman.
The loss of point guard and team leader Bailey Black to graduation will provide a challenge in regard to running the offense and setting things up defensively, but the Spartans do have some capable newcomers ready for an opportunity.
Bateman noted that improving the team free throw shooting percentage is a critical area where the team needs to show progression.
Progression is something that Canyon Ridge showed last season after a 1-20 mark the year prior.
The Riverhawks improved to four wins a year ago and displayed some signs that continued development could see that number continue to rise.
“We developed an aggressive attacking mentality that I hope with another year of experience will allow us to play with more confidence,” said Canyon Ridge head coach Kevin Cato. “We struggled with turnovers, so hopefully with another year of maturity most of our players will be able to handle pressure better.”
Guards Jordan Roberts, Logan Roberts and Lilly Teske combine with senior post Dorcas Lupumba to highlight the returners for Canyon Ridge, which has some newcomers that the coaching staff is excited about as well.
“I am hoping for strong contributions from Payton Swoboda and Luci Garcia off of the JV team,” Cato said.
Wood River is another team that will look to continue to make strides following a 5-17 season last year.
The Wolverines graduated five seniors from that group, but had seven juniors last year, which should help to provide some continuity on the roster.
Last year Paige Madsen, Lily Hogan, Bella Roberts, Sydney Smith, Irene Vargas, Sayler Peavey and Natalee Morse were all juniors for Wood River.
Kelsey Barg is entering her second season as the head coach of the Wolverines. Barg is a Carey High School graduate who played four seasons for the Panthers, including leading the program to a third-place finish at state in 2009.