4A High Country Conference Preview
Written by Brandon Hill
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Sydney Hunt, Bonneville
Isabelle Arave, Blackfoot
Macy Larsen, Hillcrest
Mattie Olson, Skyline
Brynley Cannon, Shelley
It’s lonely at the top.
Every girls basketball squad in the state of Idaho finished 2020 with at least one loss. Every squad, except for the Bonneville Bees.
Some came close. The Mountain Mavericks lost three times en route to a 5A championship. The same for the Soda Springs Cardinals, while Lapwai lost just one contest.
But the Bees, the best team in 4A, went a perfect 27-0 through the course of last season, and it wasn’t even close. 5A Rigby gave Bonneville the most run for their money, coming two points away from ruining Bonneville’s immaculate year.
But the Bees have stumbled to start 2020-2021, already losing the more games in a year since the 2015-2016 season.
But the season is still young, and the defending champs have plenty of time to turn things around.
“It's tough to find anything bad from last year with a team that went 27-0,” said first-year Head Coach Andy Trane. “I know that we will have a learning curve with so many new players, but feel we can get to a position to defend the state title.”
The regression can mostly be explained by the exodus of last year’s seniors, leaving mile-wide gaps in the Bonneville roster. All-Area Player of the Year Sadie Lott is no longer driving the lane in the Green and Gold, making way for some new Bees to prove themselves in her and eight other seniors’ absence.
Sydnee Hunt seems heir apparent to Lott, coming off an All-Conference Honorable Mention worthy season.
“Sydnee will be a very good player for us and will provide strong leadership,” Trane said. “I expect Syndee to be one of the best guards in the area this year. She has a very smooth shot and is good at getting to the basket.”
Hunt and the rest of the Bees will have a tall task defending their title. Plenty of teams are closing the gap in the 4A High Country Conference, including the Blackfoot Broncos and Skyline Grizzlies.
Blackfoot came the closest to knocking Bonneville off the conference throne last season, finishing second in the district and reaching the state consolation championship.
First-year Head Coach Raimee Odum hopes to build off last year’s momentum and overtake Bonneville as conference competition kicks into high gear.
“These games will give us a good opportunity to evaluate where we are and what we need to improve upon in order to be successful for districts and state,” Odum said.
Odum won’ have any senior leadership in his starting lineup, but four juniors should be valuable tentpoles to build a dominant squad for the next two years. First-Team All-State selection Hadley Humpherys makes a comeback, a rising star in a conference that lost much of its notoriety to graduation.
“Each girl had their own strengths that made it difficult for teams to match up against. I hope we can continue and further capitalize on each player's strengths,” Odum said. “I think all teams can improve on doing the little things better. If our girls can value every possession, take pride in rebounding, compete and give effort every play then we could have a successful season.”
As for the Grizzlies, Ty Keck returns for a sixth year at the helm with nothing but optimism heading into a new season.
“We began to find our offensive identity and how to work well off each other as a team rather than trying to find offense as a group of individuals,” Keck said.
Keck’s Grizzlies will be without Macy Olson, a glue-like figure in the Skyline locker room that was a force on the defensive end of the court. Nevertheless, Sophia Anderson, Lizzie Bialas, Drew Chapman and Taryn Chapman return to provide some senior leadership and experience.
To get past what should be a stacked conference slate, Keck said Skyline needs to improve on defense and rebounding, which proved to be the difference in a handful of close losses last year. Every second counts, Keck said, especially against rising squads like the Hillcrest Knights, home to the exceptional Macy Larsen.
“She is a guard that has a wide range of abilities and is a great floor general,” Keck said. “She can score quickly and also has great court vision and is able to get open player the ball in great spots.”
Hillcrest tied with Skyline for an even 5-5 conference record. The Knights also fielded a similar defense, allowing just one more point per game than the Grizz.
“I think Hillcrest could surprise some teams this year,” Trane said. “They are well-coached and have a tradition of good teams, and should return a more experienced team this year.”
Odum, meanwhile, sees Shelley as a potential threat heading into the new season. The Russets finished last in 2020, just behind Idaho Falls, which now competes at the 5A level.
“I think Shelley could surprise some people this year,” Odum said. “They have been building that program the last couple years and I believe they have a group of girls that will really work and improve this year.”