Written by: Sven Alskog
4A Southern Idaho Conference Preview
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
2. Bishop Kelly
4. Mountain Home
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lillie Smith, Senior, Emmett
Lydia Nieto, Senior, Bishop Kelly
Theresa Reeping, Senior, Bishop Kelly
Lexi Mitchell, Junior, Middleton
Kylie Meadows, Senior, Mountain Home
Adrie Blanksma, Junior, Mountain Home
Zoey Moore, Sophomore, Middleton
Meriah Deugan, Senior, Middleton
Madie Edwards, Senior, Skyview
Sarah Reinecker, Senior, Vallivue
Katrina Vallejo, Sophomore, Caldwell
Jade Martinez, Sophomore, Caldwell
After an all-SIC championship last season, expect much of the same out of the power conference in the 4A classification, especially considering the talent returning for Middleton and Bishop Kelly.
The Vikings bring back All-State selection Lexi Mitchell for her junior season, where the forward will look to continue forward with what has already been an outstanding high school career. She is joined by a couple of strong scoring threats in Zoey Moore and Meriah Deugan to give opponents of Middleton even more headaches this year.
“We should have a deep team, with many on the roster capable of major contributions each night,” said Middleton head coach Andy Jones. “We like to play pressure defense and up-tempo offense. We focus on winning the rebounding battle each night. We need to limit our turnovers.”
The one-two punch at the top of the conference with the Vikings and Bishop Kelly is as good as it gets in Idaho.
“Middleton returns many studs and BK only lost one senior. Will be a tough conference,” said Skyview coach Cindy Pasta.
Bishop Kelly returns Lydia Nieto, the reigning Conference Player of the Year, which is huge for the team to try to keep pace with Middleton, which also returns a heavy portion of the 2016/2017 roster.
Joining her as returners with honors for the Knights is senior Theresa Reeping and junior Gabby Keefe. That trio should be expected to lead this team right back into the state tournament again this year.
It seems clear conference-wide that BK and Middleton are the teams everyone is chasing, but multiple other teams in the SIC have some exciting talent that could make some noise.
“Middleton always has a loaded group of players to watch out for. I am sure BK will be strong again. There isn’t any one player to watch out for but we know there are some strong teams out there,” said Emmett head coach Laraine Harrison.
One of the more intriguing teams in the conference is Caldwell, a group which returns two players in Katrina Vallejo and Jade Martinez that both saw major minutes as freshmen.
Vallivue head coach Darrin Shindle thinks the Cougars could surprise some people this year.
“They got their best player back from injury and are well-coached,” said Shindle.
After winning 13 games last season, except Caldwell to make the climb right into contention for a spot in the state tournament.
Another team expected to see an increase in wins is Mountain Home, which returns Second Team All-State post Kylie Meadows, Second Team All-Conference guard Adrie Blanksma and Honorable Mention All-Conference point guard Jazzi Cristobal.
“We are returning a lot of players with quite a bit of varsity experience. A lot of the juniors have played varsity since their ninth grade year,” said Mountain Home head coach Brent Keener.
Expect the Tigers to be a high-octane team that wants to get the game into the open floor.
“We will try and transition as much as we can. We want to get out and run. We must get better at defending, cutting down on turnovers and rebounding well,” added Keener.
For Mountain Home, the x-factor to getting a berth into the state tournament is all about the mindset that they can knock off some of the perennial conference heavyweights.
“Our girls have to believe in themselves that they can beat the traditional powers,” said Keener.
A potential sleeper pick out of the SIC is Emmett, which returns do-everything senior guard Lillie Smith from a knee injury. The dynamic scoring threat was the Snake River Conference Player of the Year in 2015 when Emmett was in the 3A classification.
“We have our MVP from two years ago back from an ACL. She is ready to go and looks strong. Her with Gemma LaVergne should help with our perimeter ball handling and scoring. Lexi Child will help us with our inside game. We have some tough, hard-nosed kids who are not going to back down to any team out there,” said Harrison.
Teams from around the conference are taking notice that the Huskies could be a threat this season.
“With the return by Smith from injury, they have all positions covered with talented players,” said Jones.
Watch out for freshman Jazzy Jenkins as well, a player who will bring some more strong outside shooting to the floor for Emmett.
How far this team will go is entirely dependent on how well the Huskies can get out and run in transition, something which was not as strong for the group as it has been in years past under Harrison.
“We are definitely going to utilize our defensive pressure. We like to vary our defense up and keep teams guessing what we are doing. We also like to push the ball and get transition lay ups from our defensive pressure. I think our perimeter game will be stronger this year with the addition of having Lillie Smith back,” added Harrison.
Gelling together is the key for Emmett.
“We need to get comfortable playing with each other. A pretty new group just getting our offenses and defenses down and playing together as a team. I think once we mesh and get some games under our belt, look out.”
Skyview lost its leader in points, assists and steals with the graduation of Natalie Robison.
All-Conference selection Madie Edwards will need to pick up a fair amount of the scoring load for a Hawks team that will look for a new identity without Robison.
“We will need to slow down and have a quality shot selection with better movement on the offensive end. Defensively we plan to play a tenacious style of D,” said Pasta.
With constant improvement throughout the season it could be a very different looking Skyview team by the time district tournament play comes around.
“We have speed and passion. This group is new to play together and will get better each game,” added Pasta.
Vallivue returns a bunch of players from last season, which makes them another interesting team to watch in the conference.
Second Team All-Conference guard Sarah Reinecker and Honorable Mention All-Conference wing Tawni Morrison are some of the key cogs for the Falcons.
“I’m excited to see the maturation of our team now that we are in the second year of this system. I’m also excited to see if we can come together as a team and put the team first,” said Shindle.
Vallivue is another team that wants to run.
“We would like to run the floor in transition and play aggressive on the perimeter on defense to force turnovers,” added Shindle.
After going 1-22 in the first year of the girls basketball program, Ridgevue has an uphill battle in a tough conference. The Warhawks key player should be junior Stephanie Castillo, an Honorable Mention All-Conference honoree from last year.