Sawtooth Conference Preview
Written by Brandon Baney
Players to Watch
Kylie Wood, Carey
Ashly Botz, Camas County
Alyssa Whittle, Camas County
Aubrey Mahannah, Castleford
Zailee Poulson, Castleford
Hailey Astle, Dietrich
Tori Hubert, Dietrich
Sadie Wadsworth, Hagerman
Aubrey Peters, Hansen
Serena Kent, Richfield
The Sawtooth Conference underwent significant changes in the offseason, when perennial powers Lighthouse Christian and Murtaugh were moved up a classification to 1ADI. What hasn’t changed, though, is the favorite at the top.
The Carey Panthers, fresh off of a 20-3 season and a loss in the state championship game to Rockland, are loaded again in 2020-21. Senior point guard Kylie Wood is one of the best returning players not just in the Sawtooth Conference, but in the entire state. Wood enters the season just 210 points shy of Jaide Park’s all-time career scoring record at Carey, and set the single game record of 40 points against Lighthouse Christian last season.
Wood was a part of Carey’s 2019 state title team as a sophomore, and will lead a solid group of supporting players to what Carey fans hope is a third consecutive appearance in the championship game. Senior guard Lizbeth Ruiz, senior post Zowie Quillin and sophomore guard Berenice Vargas played valuable minutes at tournament time last year, and will be asked to take on larger roles in 2021.
Most coaches in the league agree that Carey should be considered the favorite. Beyond that, though, is anyone’s guess. Richfield coach Buck Hendren says,
“I would not be surprised by anyone this year,” said Richfield Head Coach Buck Hendren. “Dietrich, Camas County, Castleford and Richfield were all fairly young last year and didn’t lose much to graduation, so any one of them could really step up and be contenders this year.”
Richfield hung their hat on tough defense a year ago, and only lost one senior to graduation in Kyndyl Allen. Senior guard Serena Kent is the Tigers’ leading returning scorer, while junior forward Mackenzie Riley is one of the top rebounders returning. They’ll join a strong core of senior wing Emma Telford, junior guard Addy Perkes, sophomore forward Madalyn Long, and sophomore guard Maddyson Jones. For Richfield to return to their winning ways, Hendren admits they “have to put more points on the board to be a contender.”
Camas County coach Jon Botz is excited about the potential of his team this year.
“Our girls program has only been to the state tournament once, and that was a long time ago,” Botz said. “Last year, we missed state by a game and finished third in our nine-team conference. This year we will do everything we can to get there again.”
Botz has a nice foundation to build around, as junior guard Ashly Botz earned first-team all-conference accolades a season ago. She’ll be joined by junior guard Alyssa Whittle and senior post Sam McFayden as returning players who saw plenty of playing time a year ago.
The Hansen Huskies finished 15-7 a year ago, and took fourth place at the district tournament. Offseason losses hit Hansen hard, though, as five seniors (including four starters) graduated, and an entirely new coaching staff was hired. First-year head coach Nick Gonzales has 50 years of coaching experience across many sports in Oregon and Idaho.
“We have lots of juniors and sophomores that will need to step up and serve a bigger role this year, along with two freshmen who could add minutes to the varsity team,” Gonzales said.
Senior point guard Aubrey Peters is Hansen’s lone returning starter.
Dietrich also has a new coach this year, as longtime mentor Acey Shaw retired this past spring. His top assistant Rick Astle has stepped into the head job. Coach Astle brings lots of experience to the position, as he has served as Dietrich’s head football coach for the past four seasons. Dietrich will rely on junior Tori Hubert and sophomore Hailey Astle this year.
Seniors Aubrey Mahannah and Zailee Poulson helped lead Castleford’s volleyball team to a 20-1 record and the state runner-up trophy earlier this fall, and are hoping for a similar outcome in basketball.
A young Hagerman squad went 4-16 a year ago, and returned almost every varsity player. The Pirates are hoping another year of experience can put Hagerman over the top, led by junior all-conference guard Sadie Wadsworth.