Payette High School
Conference: 3A Snake River Valley Conference
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Head Coach: Tory Bratcher
Record Last Year: 1-22
Mike Holcomb (JV)
Kipp McKenzie (Fr/Soph)
Krystal Benitez (Sr)
Rachel Henderson (Sr)
Ronie Shaw (Sr)
Madi Exferd (Sr)
Kadee Winn (Jr)
Returning Players with Honors:
Benitez / Winn – Honorable Mention All-SRV
Written by: Will Hoenike
Last season was a struggle for the Payette Pirates girls’ basketball team. The team won only one game and only scored as many as 30 points five times in 23 games. Thus, the path is clear for head coach Tory Bratcher – continue to develop on the offensive end of the court.
Bratcher has a roster that contains four seniors (Krystal Benitez, Rachel Henderson, Roni Shaw and Madi Exferd), six juniors and one freshman (Journey Lewis). The best hope for the future may lie in a couple of those juniors and Lewis, who isn’t even halfway through her first year of high school yet.
The best hope for the present is senior guard Krystal Benitez and junior guard Kadee Winn. Both earned honorable mention All-Snake River Valley honors last season and both are off to solid starts this season. In a game in early December, the duo combined for 17 points (Benitez 9, Winn 8). In another game just before Thanksgiving, the pair notched 16 points (Benitez 9, Winn 7), with Winn chipping in five rebounds as well.
The scoring struggles are still there, but there are signs of improvement. The Pirates have already cracked 30 points twice and scored 28 points in a third game. It’s an incremental improvement that illustrates that the players are continuing to work hard and improve, so Bratcher and his staff have every reason to believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Another light is this – Payette currently has 19 freshmen playing basketball. That’s compared to four sophomores, six juniors and the aforementioned six seniors.
Put another way, Bratcher’s program has more freshmen participating, top to bottom, than the other three classes combined. Bratcher and his staff doesn’t need all 19 to develop into top-shelf players to turn the program around, he just needs all of them to keep growing as players and buying in to the program. If that can happen, there definitely is a light at the end of the tunnel in Payette.
The Pirates will compete in the Parma Holiday Tournament over the break before diving back into SRV conference play. It includes four games against the SRV’s two State Tournament qualifiers from last season, Homedale and Weiser, along with a road game against neighbor rival Fruitland on January 13.
It may not be fair to measure Payette strictly in terms of wins and losses this season. That’s not to say they can’t or won’t win games but, coming off of a one-win season and with a program that has 23 freshmen and sophomores in the gym, it’s reasonable to expect this team to take incremental steps. The growth should come, the improvement should come. But it might take more than one season to start to reap the rewards of that work and faith.