Photo By Darbi Avery, photo by Chris Melgaard
Players to Watch
Trinity Slocum, Mountain View
Naya Ojukwu, Mountain View
Chloe Wright, Rocky Mountain
Sophia Glancey, Timberline
Jaleesa Lawerence, Meridian
Olivia Taylor, Skyview
Allison Ross, Boise
Two of the best 2019 squads in Idaho emerged from the same conference, but now the Southern Idaho Conference will be without a handful of the teams that made the league so dominant, including last year’s state runner-up.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions in the Treasure Valley, Boise School District schools: Capital, Boise, Borah and Timberline, won’t hit the hardwood until Jan. 19. Timberline made the state championship last year, falling to conference rival Mountain View 55-49.
For those defending champion Mavericks, a wealth of returning talent makes a repeat title all the more likely. The Mavericks fielded a lethal trio last season in Laila Saenz, Naya Ojukwu and Trinity Slocum. Ojukwu and Slocum return for 2020-21. The pair each earned first-team honors, giving Mountain View one of the most loaded rosters in the state.
Head Coach Connie Skogrand, entering her 18th year with the program, will look to dominate a shrunken field, with four of the SIC’s 12 teams sidelined until the new year.
With the Wolves out to start the year, Rocky Mountain could very well be next in line to challenge the Mavs’ claim to the conference throne.
In his first year with the Grizzlies, Head Coach BJ Humphreys could not have had a better debut last season. Rocky Mountain dropped just one matchup all year, a 62-56 loss to Timberline in the state semifinals.
The Grizzlies lost a pair of stars from last year’s roster in Makayla DeBry and Anna Smith. But Humphreys, now entering his second outing at the helm, returns junior guard Marli Reed and senior forward Chloe Wright. To help build out what he hopes to be a future SIC dynasty, Humphreys elevated Bob Brunzell to help coach the varsity squad. Brunzell brings along newcomers Cece Legaspi, Abby Blackburn and Tausalla Church to help fill out the roster.
While the Grizzlies look to have a serious shot at taking down the Mavs, Eagle could very well be on its way to rising up the conference ranks. The Mustangs survived a first-round bout with the Coeur d’Alene Vikings, winning 50-49 in last year’s state tournament. But the Mustangs, under interim head coach Cody Pickett, fell in the semifinals to the Mavericks. Now, with Pickett taking the reins of the Mustang boys team, Eagle has turned to Todd Corman.
Filling out the conference, Kuna entered the 5A ranks after the Idaho High School Activities Association bumped up the Kavemen to the state’s largest classification last summer. Kuna finished an impressive 18-8 at the 4A level last year, but failed to reach state after a disappointing finish in the district tournament.
If Kuna wants to succeed in a much tougher division, Head Coach Dennis Jordan said his team will need to rely on what it does best — stifle opposing offenses.
“We were very good at matching up defensively with everyone that we faced,” Jordan said. “We hang our hat on playing great defense and hope to continue to disrupt other team’s game plans. We like to play aggressive and hope that it can translate to creating easy offense.”
Kuna fielded the 4A SIC’s second-best defense last year, but back-to-back losses to Rocky Mountain and Mountain View to start the year have spelled trouble for another good outing on the backend of the court.
“Without a true summer season and limited time this fall, it is hard to make that call on who will step up that wasn’t a varsity player before,” Jordan said. “I am excited to see how we measure up against some of the state’s toughest teams.”
While Jordan named Eagle as an under-the-radar threat heading into the season, plenty of other squads are hoping to shock the Treasure Valley as February draws closer.
Meridian, the conference’s third-place finisher, hopes to make a splash in the final weeks of 2020.
Head Coach Stu Sells led the Warriors to an 18-7 finish last year, but missed the state playoffs, with Eagle, Mountain View, Boise, Rocky Mountain and Timberline earning the conference’s five playoff bids. Nevertheless, Meridian managed 13 conference wins over the course of the year, a better mark than the Brave, Grizzlies and Mustangs.
Sells said he’s elevated a handful of Warriors off last year’s JV District Champion team, while also retaining first-team all-conference guard Jaleesa Lawerence. Lawrence will have big shoes to fill, as Sells lost six seniors from last year’s team that averaged almost 50 points per game.
According to Sells, this year’s biggest focus will lie in building off the confidence boost the Warriors earned last year. Meridian’s biggest challenge will be maintaining that confidence and avoiding another exit in the district tournament this winter.
Skyview, operating a little further out west, hopes to crash the potential party happening in Meridian and Boise. The Hawks finished 6-16 last year, leading to a head coaching change. Enter Kacy Bonds, previously an assistant coach at Skyview.
While the Hawks didn’t earn the regular season record they were hoping for, Bonds said much of last year’s rotation returns for 2020 with added experience and passion to try and reach the state playoffs and win the team’s first title in six years.
“The entire 5A SIC is incredible and there are no weak links in our conference. We respect everyone we play, and we are excited to compete in this excellent conference,” Bonds said. “We are currently evaluating our options for filling out the roster, but we know whoever joins this group will be ready to compete and contribute for the next few years to come.”
Despite a large group of returners, Skyview will be without two notable seniors in Emma Miller and Marissa Naylor.
In their place, senior guard Olivia Taylor will step into the leadership role. The only senior in this year’s starting lineup, Taylor will be tasked with leading the seven juniors Bonds has to work with, including Jayden Glaze, Andi Wold and Brea Cahoon.
Bonds said Jay Younger will make a return to the Skyview coaching staff after spending the previous three seasons in Virginia.
“Jay brings valuable experience to our young group and we are excited to have both his leadership and his mind back in our program,” Bonds said.
Centennial might have finished second-to-last in last year’s conference standings, but the Patriots still want a chance to prove themselves in the most unpredictable sports season in recent memory.
Fifth-year Head Coach Candace Thornton said she’ll be looking to last year’s sophomore to help fill the holes left by her graduated seniors.
“It was a learning season in more ways than one - the speed, expectations, and competition of varsity are all something kids need to grow into,” Thornton said. “We took our lumps last year in order to help prepare those kids for this season and next. We asked them to stick with it, learn from the losses, and use the experience to get better individually and as a team. They did that, and we are excited to test ourselves this season.”
Coaching will be what keeps Centennial competitive down the stretch. Thornton said this year’s team is one of the youngest she’s led through the SIC, but players like Annie Stinar, an All-Conference Honorable Mention from last year, will help lead the charge heading into her junior year.
What about the Boise School District Teams?
Questions still swirl around the four teams left out of November and December. Capital, Borah, Timberline and Boise will not hit the hardwood until January, barring a change of course by the governing body of Boise schools.
Timberline might be the biggest hit for not only the conference, but the state. The Wolves finished with a 23-4 record behind second-year Head Coach Andy Jones, simply running out of time in the 5A state championship game.
While the Wolves won’t get much regular season action, Timberline and the rest of the Boise schools might have a chance to prove themselves in the district tournament. Should that be the case, Sophia Glancey and Audrey Taylor, a pair of returning juniors, will be on the hunt to enact their revenge. The two replace Ava Ranson and Emma Ellinghouse, who Jones could not speak more highly of.
“We graduated Ava Ranson and Emma Ellinghouse, two of the top players in the history of the program,” Jones said. “Ava is the school’s all-time scorer, and holds all the school records for points. Emma is the career leader in rebounding. Both are basically irreplaceable.”
Jones said Timberline will have to reinvent itself, and with plenty of off time, the Wolf fans can be sure their head coach will be scheming for a potential post season run.
Timberline’s fiercest rival, the Boise Brave, will also have to wait a beat to compete for a conference title. The Brave finished last year 17-9, winning the state consolation bracket in the process.
Boise lost plenty of size to graduation. Six-foot-four Peyton McFarland, Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year is now a Utah Ute, and in her place senior Allison Ross will try to get Boise back into the state tournament. Head Coach Kim Brydges said most of the Boise offense ran through McFarland, meaning the Brave will need a complete makeover in her absence.
“We are excited about some of our returning players who came off the bench last year and will see some big minutes this year,” Brydges said. “(Last year,) we needed (Peyton) to score in double-digits every night. This year I think we will have multiple weapons contributing to our points total.”
Capita and Borah might not have the offensive firepower Timberline and Boise might possess, but the Eagles and Lions still have a legitimate shot at making waves in the conference.
Capital, a 3-9 team from a year ago, returns seniors Alexie Johnson and Charly Weber, while adding junior transfer Keeli Branin to the squad at the guard position. Head Coach Ron Marthe said he hopes that trio will help improve the offense’s ball security, a concern from last year.
“We struggled to take care of the ball and committed to many turnovers to be consistent,” Marthe said. “We’re definitely looking to remedy that situation.”
Borah, meanwhile, won’t see any seniors return to the starting lineup. Head Coach Whitney Kenyon instead will rely on the work of four juniors to try and keep the Lions in the hunt. Jayden McNeal highlights the depleted roster, an All-Conference Honorable Mention from last year.
“We are looking forward to playing everyone, we have a lot of experience coming back this season and we are hungry to compete,” Kenyon said.
Stay tuned for updates on the Southern Idaho Conference throughout the season.