Photo By Kelly Magee - #5 Lexy Monson
3A Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference Preview
Written by Sven Alskog
Players to Watch
Alx Roe (Gooding)
Reece Garey (Kimberly)
Ella Fischer (Filer)
Jazmyn Smothers (Filer)
Alexis Monson (Filer)
Trinity Tvrdy (Buhl)
You would be hard-pressed to find a conference in the Gem State that has been as competitive as the 3A SCIC in recent history, something which the coaches in the league expect to continue once again this year.
Entering the new season, Kimberly and Filer each bring back a quality group of talent which should keep them towards the top of the standings.
The Bulldogs will be embarking on their fifth season under head coach Stanley Watts, who led the group to a 10-10 mark a year ago and a trip to the state tournament.
Key pieces Abby Miller and Reece Garey return for Kimberly, giving the team a pair of nice outside options.
Annie Walker is a player that the Bulldogs will miss however.
“She will be missed for her hard work, will to win and her never give up attitude,” Watts said.
A youth influx on the inside should mesh well with the talents of Miller and Garey, giving the roster balance.
Other coaches expect Kimberly to once again be a major challenger for the conference title, after Filer won the district tournament last year.
“Kimberly should be right at the top of the conference despite losing a bunch of seniors because of their shooting and length,” said Gooding head coach Derrick Lyons.
Kimberly went 4-0 against Buhl and Gooding last season, but lost all four contests against Filer, including twice at districts.
That Filer squad took the top seed out of the fourth district into the state tournament and went 18-8 overall a year ago, including an undefeated mark in conference play.
After what was an overwhelmingly successful campaign that included a win over Teton at state, the Wildcats return plenty of talent, including Ella Fischer, Jazmyn Smothers and Alexis Monson.
“Filer is going to be strong - but with this conference - anyone can come around,” Watts said.
As recent years would indicate, any team can come out of the district tournament with a spot at state.
Buhl is one of those squads that has had multiple memorable runs at districts over the years. The Indians are looking to improve their fortunes and get back to state after going 5-17 last season.
Some new faces will need to step up for the team to see a spike in wins, with junior guard Trinity Tvrdy joining forces with the senior trio of Annie Tvrdy, Reina Elkin and Kassidy Lajoie as some of the key returners.
Outside of that group, expect the newcomers to play a pivotal role in the success of the team.
Tressa Christensen, Samantha Ourique and Hannah Bowman are some of those pieces that the coaching staff will look to for major minutes.
“We were pretty senior-heavy last year,” said Buhl head coach Dan Hill. “All of them contributed and helped the team, so it’s hard to pick just one or two that were key players. We lost a lot of experience and leadership from Kayla Morse, who was a part of multiple state tournament teams, was an All-Conference player and who did a lot for us on the court.”
Entering his third season as the head coach, Hill has the Indians focused on a couple of key areas for improvement.
“We definitely struggled with rebounding,” Hill said. “We often could force a team into a bad shot, but then would give up a much better shot right under the basket. The emphasis on rebounding is increasing this year.”
He also mentioned a couple of places where Buhl hopes to continue having success.
“Our first shot defense was very strong,” Hill said. “I thought our defense was difficult to find openings against when we were locked in. We still plan on being a defensive-oriented team, though we may do a few things differently as opposed to years past.”
Up in Gooding, new head coach Derrick Lyons inherits a program that went 8-14 last year.
Junior guard Alx Roe will once again be a primary option for the Senators after earning All-Conference accolades as a sophomore.
Senior Lacey Yore and juniors Reece Fleming and Kiera Patterson are some of the other key returners.
“From some of the film review, it seemed that the team was able to get out in transition and get easy baskets last season,” Lyons said. “Hopefully, we can continue that this year.”
He mentioned cutting down on turnovers and improving percentages at the free throw line and in the paint as areas of emphasis for improvement.
“We are young and most of our returning players haven’t seen extensive time at the varsity level, so all of them should have an impact,” Lyons said. “We hope to have a couple of our freshman and sophomore players be able to step up to a higher level as well.”
Lyons, previously the head coach at Hagerman, brought on Devan McCool as his assistant coach. The two worked together at Hagerman, with McCool a Gooding native who has coached some of the girls on the roster in the past, which should help with the transition on the coaching staff.
After a long offseason, the Senators hope to see their hard work pay off once the new year gets underway. Coaches in the conference expect the team to be a tough out.
“I think Gooding might be a sleeper team this year,” Hill said. “I saw a lot of improvement in their team last year over the course of the season. They have got a good mix of girls that I think will play with anyone in the conference.”
With the way things have gone in the 3A SCIC over the last handful of years, another wild district tournament might be on the horizon again come February.