District 5-6 Preview
Written by Brandon Hill
Players to Watch
Tylie Jones, Rigby
Megan Calley, Highland
Sid Parker, Madison
Lauren Davenport, Thunder Ridge
Kennedy Robertson, Idaho Falls
The largest schools in eastern Idaho, home to a great deal of talented athletes, disappointed in last year’s state tournament.
Just one team, the Rigby Trojans, appeared in February’s tournament, and the district’s sole representative swiftly exited after two straight losses. Heading into 2021, District 5-6 will be filled to the brim with competitive teams hungry for a chance to prove their worth.
While the Trojans fell flat in last year’s playoffs, Head Coach Troy Shippen knows his team has what it takes to make it back to the tournament. All-State selection Tylie Jones returns for her senior season, leading a Trojan squad that will be without Ruby Murdoch. Shippen said Murdoch’s leadership glued the locker room together, not to mention her on-court contributions, which helped Rigby average 53 points per game.
To help fill the gaps, Shippen will bring on freshman Kambre Barber and junior Hadley Good up to the varsity level, which he hopes will bolster an already impressive defense that led the conference last season.
“Defense is what we focus on,” Shippen said. “We have a lot of depth this year.”
But securing a District 5-6 title is everything but guaranteed, especially with the still young Thunder Ridge Titans biding their time.
The Titans finished second in last year’s district tournament but did not advance to state after falling in the play-in game. Despite the setback, Head Coach Jeremy Spencer said he’s excited to see what his returning stars can do.
Senior Lauren Davenport returns to her shooting guard position for the Titans, joined by center Paige Clark, point guard Seirra John and power forward Halli Smith, making for a Thunder Ridge deck stacked with senior leadership. Davenport finished as a first-team all-conference selection in 2020, earning defensive player of the year honors in the 5-6.
But while Davenport remains a lockdown defender, Spencer said he hopes this year’s Titans improve on that end of the court. Thunder Ridge allowed a conference-high 50.96 points per game last year.
“We have to do a better job keeping teams contained on defense,” he said. “Everyone loves to see the points on the board but defense wins championships.”
In the middle of the pack, Madison and Highland, a pair of 10-win teams from last year, hope to knock off the district favorites heading into holiday tournament time.
Rams’ Head Coach Gino Mariani, fresh off the gridiron, returns a trio of seniors in Megan Calley, Lydia Maughan and Mackenna Thayne to help boost Highland to the top of the conference standings. In addition to his key returners, Mariani added Clarissa Schrock and Kiki Baldwin to the varsity squad. Mariani said he hopes the newcomers, especially Schrock, will help kickstart last year’s flat offense.
“Defensively, we were good. We need to continue to compete,” Mariani said. “But Scoring, we need to finish and be able to put points on the board.”
For the Bobcats, graduation took on of the key pieces in Head Coach Traci Peterson’s scheme. Macie Gordon departed last year with a decorated career, finishing as the team’s leading rebounder and scorer.
In her place, Peterson hopes senior post Sid Parker and senior guard McKell Parkinson pick up the slack. Junior Grace Dow will be a new face on the varsity team, helping out at the post position, while sophomore Charli Cook will fill in at point guard.
And speaking of new faces, the former four-team conference became five over the summer, as the Idaho Falls Tigers elevated to the 5A level. Idaho Falls has a tall task ahead, winning just five games last year as a 4A squad.
“As a young team, we struggled to put the ball in the basket,” said Idaho Falls Head Coach David Vest. “Our girls put in a lot of individual time this summer and we hope to score more consistently than in past seasons.”
Senior Kennedy Robertson will hope to lead a more efficient Tiger offense, with Abbey Corgetelli, Calyn Wood and Megan Hurst all making a comeback for a new year. Vest also said he recruited some new faces to his team to help against a higher grade of competition.
“Sydney Hess is an incoming sophomore new to varsity,” he said. “A great all-around athlete who can score, rebound and do about anything we ask.”