Written by: Sven Alskog
1AD1 Western Idaho Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Liberty Charter
4. Idaho City
6. Greenleaf Friends
8. North Star Charter
9. Horseshoe Bend
10. Victory Charter
11. Compass Charter
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kate Roberts, Senior, Ambrose
Ally McDaniel, Freshman, Greenleaf Friends
Cory Hamblin, Senior, Liberty Charter
Madison Dodge, Senior, Liberty Charter
Jade Warren, Junior, Horseshoe Bend
Destiny Quebrado, Junior, Notus
Anna Frizzell, Junior, Riverstone
Louisa Goltry, Freshman, Riverstone
Kortne Randall-Harper, Junior, Notus
Olivia Barber, Senior, Idaho City
Behind the return of star point guard Cory Hamblin, an All-Conference selection from a year ago, Liberty Charter is the preseason favorite in a wide-open 1AD1 Western Idaho Conference.
A year after the Patriots, Horseshoe Bend and Idaho City were the representatives at state, things could look very different this time around, with the Mustangs struggling with numbers (seven girls) and the Wildcats losing multiple key talents.
What that means is for teams like Ambrose and Notus that barely missed the dance a year ago, things could be turning in their direction this season.
“Ambrose will be a very good team this year. They have made some great improvements in the last few years and Jordan Tucker is doing a really nice job with his girls program,” said Liberty Charter head coach Brad McCain.
It could be a fun race for conference supremacy between the Patriots and Archers, with Liberty Charter also returning All-Conference senior post Madison Dodge and First Team All-Conference selection Kate Roberts leading Ambrose as a senior from the guard line.
Both coaches are excited about their teams.
“We have a young and athletic team which will allow us to mix things up defensively more than we have in the past. We have girls who are willing to be unselfish and play whatever role they need to in order to help their team be successful. Stephanie Caro is a fireball who will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come once she gets to understand what she is capable of. Bridget Maw is the most athletic girl on our team and can really fill it up when her confidence gets going,” said McCain.
It was similar sentiments for Tucker.
“Our basketball knowledge and grasp of concepts are higher than they ever have been and like in years past, we are incredibly athletic, fast, physical and imposing,” added the third year head coach.
For Liberty Charter on the offensive end, it is all about getting multiple players involved on each possession.
“Our style of play on the offensive end is not about one or two key players. Of course we have our returning All-Conference players in Madison Dodge and Cory Hamblin, who are two of our senior captains this year, but we have some younger players who can be dynamic and explosive if we need them to be. Defensively, we are the team that is always the first to get on the ground for loose balls and [we] make it our goal to not get out hustled. We place a huge emphasis on not getting outrebounded on both ends of the court and show up each night ready to give it our all as a team,” said McCain.
Ambrose likes to swarm on defense and force the opposition into mistakes.
“We will put a lot of pressure on offenses, seeking to force turnovers whenever we can. Offensively the girls have a knack for finding the open person. Our success will be determined by our mastery of our system,” said Tucker.
Beyond the preseason top two teams, there will be a frenzy trying to sort out the standings, with multiple teams having the potential to show improvement.
Notus has a pair of juniors who could make big impacts this season in Kortne Randall-Harper and Destiny Quebrado, while Idaho City senior Olivia Barber hopes to lead her Wildcats back into a state tournament appearance.
One of the teams that could be a potential sleeper is Greenleaf Friends, which enters its first season under new coach Karri Fisk.
While the Grizzlies are young, they will look to outwork their opponents to get some wins.
“We want to play tough team defense, whether in man or zone. We are quick and pretty feisty. Rebounding will be a challenge, as we are not real big overall. We are extremely young, with four freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors and one senior, Tezianna Nunn, who is in her first year of high school basketball,” said Fisk.
Kylin Olsen is a player to watch for Greenleaf, as she can distribute the ball to her teammates and score when needed as well.
“As we gain experience, our confidence should continue to grow. We saw a lot of growth over the past weekend, as we played three games in two days at Garden Valley and each performance was better as we went along. I have been very pleased with their hard work, and they were able to get an early reward by winning the tournament last weekend,” added Fisk.
Riverstone has a first year head coach as well in Roy Ledesma, who takes over following an 8-11 mark for the Otters in 2016/2017.
Junior forward Anna Frizzell and incoming freshman point guard Louisa Goltry are a couple of the major difference makers for this team.
It’s an extremely young group in place for Ledesma, with a flock of sophomores and juniors in place to lead the charge.
“I am excited to see how my returning players will step up to lead a very young team. I don’t have any seniors on the team. We play tenacious man-to-man defense and will press a lot. This will feed into our up-tempo style,” said Ledesma.
Wilder has not won a game since December 18, 2014 at Ambrose, but second year head coach Clay Hatfield is optimistic that the Wildcats could surprise some people this year.
“We have a lot of young and new talent that is going to complement our returning players very well,” added Hatfield.
Guard Thalia Guajardo and forward Dulce Monter are a couple of the returners who will be joined by newcomers Emma Badgley and Sofia Aguilera.