Sugar-Salem High School
Conference: 3A Mountain Rivers Conference
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Sugar-Salem High School Team Bio
Head Coach: Crystal Dayley
Years as Head Coach: 5th Season
Record Last Year: 22-5
State Titles: 1991, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015
Savanah Crane, F, 12
Kayla Luke, G, 12
Macie Knapp, G, 11
Sarah Maughan, F, 12
Madi Fillmore, F, 11
Mariah Dunn, F, 12
Lindsey Larson, G/F, 11
Sydney Bradshaw, F, 11
Key Players lost from last year:
Photo By: Steve Conner - #4 Savanah Crane
Written by: Matt Harris
3A District 6 Mountain Rivers Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
2. South Fremont
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Savanah Crane, Sugar-Salem
Kayla Luke, Sugar-Salem
Waklee Kunz, Teton
Jazmin Romero, Shelley
Olivia LeCheminant, South Fremont
Paizlee Hobbs, South Fremont
At this time last year, many people looked to the Mountain Rivers Conference like a two-horse race between Sugar-Salem and Teton. With Shelley and South Fremont breaking in new coaches with new systems, the established programs in Sugar City and Driggs were preparing to make runs at the state championship.
However, those dreams of a state title would go unrealized – with Teton getting smashed by eventual state champion Timberlake in the first round, followed by Sugar-Salem’s close loss to the White Tigers in the championship game.
In 2017, the conference doesn’t seem to be remaining “status quo”.
While Sugar-Salem brings much back to the table from their runner-up performance last season, the landscape throughout the rest of the conference is shifting.
“I think this conference is going to be pretty tight this year,” said first-year Shelley head coach Shari Moulton. “In order to finish on top it’s going to be whoever plays a complete game each night.”
Last season, the team that was able to do that most often was Sugar-Salem, who finished 22-5 overall and earned the top seed from the district. The Diggers only lost two contributors from last year’s team in Amanda Rudd and Addi Gehmlich. While those two played significant roles for the blue and white last year, head coach Crystal Dayley has plenty of talent waiting in the wings.
Returning starters Kayla Luke and Savanah Crane will look to lead the way this season, with Madi Fillmore, Lindsey Larson, Mariah Dunn, and Macey Fillmore bringing an array of talents to the court. Macie Knapp, Sarah Maughan, and Michelle Luke also give Dayley a great amount of flexibility in mixing-and-matching lineups. Even better for the Diggers is the amount of experience on this year’s squad, with all players mentioned getting significant time on the floor throughout the season last year.
With so much returning experience, it makes the road to the tournament that much more difficult for opposing teams.
“Our conference is always tough, but Sugar is who we have to go through to win it,” said second-year South Fremont head coach Ryan Erikson. “The team that is able to play ‘their way’ will win the conference.”
Speaking of the Cougars, look for South Fremont to rise this season after many years of dormancy. With the red and black now entering year two under Erikson, they should be a team that opponents take note of.
“We have a lot returning this year and I’m most excited about the speed that they are able to play with. It’s been impressive so far,” said Erikson.
Back in the fold this season are seniors Kenzie Parker, Brinlie Rowbury, Harlee Speth, and Olivia LeCheminant, who was a First Team All-Conference selection last year. Juniors Carly Hikida, Jalyssa Stoddard, Malorie Johnson, and Paizlee Hobbs round out a good core group for Erikson, who also noted that senior Leisl Christensen is expected to make an impact this year as well.
“We (as a coaching staff) want them to play aggressive, fast, and smart,” he said. “I feel that if we can play at our speed and play aggressively all year, then the mistakes that happen from playing at that speed early on will go away as we become more confident in what we are trying to do.”
While Erikson and his crew want to speed the game up, the name of the game for Teton was to slow it down last season.
The Redskins boasted plenty of height and post skill while also harboring good shooters on the outside. The goal was simple – play inside out basketball.
This season, that goal may change depending on how head coach Shon Kunz plans to utilize the talent available to him. With stalwart players such as low-post machine Jenna Abbott gone, along with standouts Avery Kunz, Tasha Arnold, and Gabrielle Berry, Teton will need to re-tool and look for offense in those who now fill the void.
Guard Waklee Kunz, who saw significant time as a freshman last season, will be among the leaders of a relatively young group of players, along with forward Brooke Kaufman, forward Janie Nelson, forward Analea Brown, and guard Aspen Lasson.
Despite the amount of talent that graduated, coaches in the conference say that no one should overlook Teton.
“Teton lost their core group of players so people might overlook them, which is never a good thing,” said Moulton.
“Teton lost a lot, but they are very well coached and Shon Kunz will have them ready to play every game,” said Erikson.
There’s only one new coach in the conference this season – that being Shelley head coach Shari Moulton. This marks the third new head coach on the bench for Shelley in three seasons, after last year’s coach Wally Foster moved over to the Russets’ boys squad for this year.
Moulton will look to mold the Russets back into contenders after Shelley went 8-14 in 2016-17, going two-and-out in districts and missing the state tournament for the first time in three seasons.
Simply put, Moulton expects every effort from her players every game, especially on the defensive end.
“If we’re going to be successful this year, we will have to bring it defensively every game,” she said.
The Russets have some talent to work with, including seniors Abbey Crandall, Ashleigh Ball, Ashlyn Hobbs, and Jazmin Romero. Madison Jolley and Sydney Leal will also bring a spark to the team as juniors. Look for Kassidy Arzola to make an impact as well.
“We are returning a lot of players from last year’s team so it should be fun to watch everyone step up and be awesome,” said Moulton.
Shelley fans are hoping that the returning experience pays dividends down the road once conference play and districts begin – especially with the road to state having a big roadblock named Sugar-Salem square in its path.
“Any game against our conference is important, but Sugar has been on top for awhile now,” said Moulton. “Anytime you play them is going to be the most important because if you can bring down the champs… just think what that will do confidence-wise for your team.”
Confidence could be a theme for the Mountain Rivers Conference this season. Does Shelley and South Fremont have the confidence to take the next step? Does Teton have the confidence to prove their youth doesn’t equal lack of talent or desire? Does Sugar-Salem have the confidence to continue their run of excellent play and get back to the state title game?
When it comes to teenagers, confidence is one of the most important attributes one could possess.