Photo By Keylee Wilson, photo by Kent Kidd
2A Western Idaho Conference Preview
Written by Brandon Hill
Players to Watch
Elle Fraas, Cole Valley Christian
Kate Clark, Melba
Emma Austin, New Plymouth
Alana Larrusea, Marsing
District Three made a surge in last year’s 2A State Tournament, filling out half of the semifinal bracket with Southern Idaho squads.
But Cole Valley Christian and Melba, the Western Idaho Conference’s best teams in 2020, came just short of securing the state title, with the Mustangs falling to Declo in the semis and the Chargers losing to Soda Springs in the championship.
Heading into 2021, the conference again looks to have the firepower capable of torching through this year’s postseason.
Cole Valley returns several key cogs from last season’s runner-up machine. Three all-conference nominees — Ellie Fraas, Anna Veeck and Lyndsie Krogh — will suit up for first-year head coach Matt Beglinger, who took over for Annie Mintz this offseason.
Beglinger said he wants to increase the speed of his lineup, giving his team an edge when playing against dominant squads like Soda Springs.
“We were not as effective in transition as I would like to see,” he said. “We are hoping to get up and down the floor a little more this year, as more of a perimeter team.”
When it comes to Cole Valley’s strengths, Beglinger said his team shares the ball well, keeping defenses on their heels with lightning-fast passes. Coupled with a half-court press, Beglinger said his schemes should be picked up quickly by newcomers Hadley Fraas and Emma Boyette.
Melba, meanwhile, also returns a trio of postseason honorees, including Kate Clark, Kendall Clark and Keylee Wilson. That trio played a major role in making the Mustangs’ offense the highest scoring in the conference last season. Fifth-year Head Coach David Lenz also recruited a number of new faces to varsity to help fill the holes left by co-conference MVP Kortney Trappett.
“We will be adding a freshman point guard this year in Brooklyn Dayley,” Lenz said. “I think Brooklyn will make us better on both ends of the floor with her ability to push the ball offensively and her work ethic defensively. We will also be adding Juniors Telissa Christensen and Erika Hunter.”
With a third-place finish in last year’s tournament, the Mustangs could field another dominant defense. Melba held Declo to just 26 points in last year’s tournament, the best backcourt performance during the playoffs.
While Lenz acknowledged Cole Valley remains the team to beat in 2021, a crop of underdogs could give his Mustangs trouble down the stretch. New Plymouth, for example, earned the conference’s third ticket to state, making the most of the opportunity by winning the consolation bracket defeating Bear Lake and Grangeville on the way to the championship game.
Luckily for the Pilgrims and Head Coach Denise Oliver, last year’s star Alyssa Christensen will make a return. The senior guard and post helped lead a dominant ‘Grim defense, holding opponents to an average of 33 points per game.
Oliver said despite some favorable statistics to build on this year, consistency through four quarters is always an issue, something he hopes to fix in his 21st season with the team. Establishing an offensive identity will be a must, as the Pilgrims finished well short of the scoring marks set by the Chargers and Mustangs.
With a better outlook on that end of the floor, the Nampa Christian Trojans finished with the second-best offense in the conference, scoring an average of 47 points per game. Beglinger said while the Trojans lost a handful of seniors off last year’s team, Nampa Christian still promises to remain competitive. The Trojans came excruciatingly close to reaching the state tournament after losing by just three points in overtime to New Plymouth.
Marsing also hopes to field a much-improved team after just two wins last season. First-year Head Coach Michael Swanson will rely on three seniors in Jade Wainman, Alana Larrusea and Mazzi Roper to help right the ship.
“Our league is extremely tough and I am looking forward to learning from all the highly talented coaches in our league,” Swanson said.
There seems nowhere to go but up for the Huskies. Marsing averaged 32 points per game while allowing 55, the second-worst mark in the conference. But with Vision Charter not fielding a girls team this year, the Huskies will need a serious makeover on both ends of the court to avoid a last-place finish.
This year’s wild-card will likely be Ambrose Charter, which moved to the 2A level after years in the 1ADI Western Idaho Conference. The Archers finished 9-13 last year, failing to reach the state tournament in 2020.