3A Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference
Written by: Sven Alskog
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Meg Walker, Junior, Kimberly
Josie Schmitz, Senior, Kimberly
Grace Parker, Senior, Gooding
Laken Wolf, Senior, Gooding
Ella Fischer, Sophomore, Filer
Haven Jones, Junior, Filer
Emily Gorrell, Senior, Buhl
Kyra Azevedo, Senior, Buhl
McKenna Lively, Senior, Buhl
There is not much of a consensus as to who is going to come out on top in the 3A SCIC this season. In fact, each coach that voted in the preseason poll selected a different team to take home the hardware at the end of the season.
When all the votes were tabulated, Kimberly ended up as the preseason favorite, led by Meg Walker and Josie Schmitz.
There is not much of a question that the Lady Bulldogs will be tough, the question is, can they make it to state after just missing out last year?
“This conference is going to be a real meat grinder this year and any team could come out of the mix. Every team returns experience and some really good players,” said Buhl head coach Dan Hill.
That sentiment is echoed throughout the conference.
“Last year our conference was close all the way around. The records never showed or were good indicators on how each game was played. I think Gooding will be interesting to see with a new coach coming in. Same for Buhl. I believe Kimberly will be just as, if not more, successful [than] they were last year,” added Filer head coach Mike Amaya.
Gooding was picked second in the preseason coaches poll and is led by All-State performer Grace Parker and All-Conference honorees Erika Anthony and Gracie Faulkner.
“With seven of the ten varsity girls returning this year, we mainly just add more maturity and experience,” said Gooding head coach Ben Rayfield. “I’m just excited to coach this group of girls. They are all good kids that play hard, love the game and care about their teammates. We are in a very unique situation because out of the ten girls that are on varsity, really any of them could start on any given day.”
Other major contributors include Laken Wolf and Riley Comstock, plus other returners Keely Wolf and Mallory Brown.
“We want to play a fast-paced, up-tempo style of basketball. We want to run the court and play team basketball where we pass to look for a good shot. Our team is fast and athletic and we will try to use that to our advantage. I think once we improve more on our individual and team confidence, the sky is the limit,” added Rayfield.
Filer lost to Buhl in the district championship game last year and then fell to South Fremont in the play-in game to barely miss a trip to state.
It was an incredible late season run for the Wildcats, who went 7-18 on the year, but still gave themselves a great shot at playing postseason basketball by playing their best at the right time of year.
“This year’s team will be much improved just based on the fact that they are now in their second year with myself and know what we expect from them. Should be less thinking and more doing from an individual standpoint. They are hungry, but humble,” said Amaya.
There are plenty of players that could be listed off that will make an impact for Filer, however Ella Fischer, Haven Jones and Kelsie Snyder have to be considered towards the top of that list, along with senior post Fallon Stoddard.
“I think Ella Fischer from Filer is someone to game plan for,” said Rayfield. “She is physical and athletic and an overall good basketball player.”
Most everyone else on the roster, along with Fischer, has varsity experience as well.
“All but one of our players this year played at least one game of varsity last year. This will help the girls as far as familiarity with each other. The younger girls last year gained so much experience. We believe that it will only make them much more confident for this season,” added Amaya.
He likes the style his team should be able to play.
“We feel that we have the ability to play fast on offense and aggressive on defense. That will be the type of team we strive to be. We will be athletic and aggressive, and the girls strive to be relentless on both sides of the floor. As is often the case with younger teams, we need to better control the ball in close games and continue to refine our decision making.”
Buhl was the lone state representative from the conference last season, and welcomes in a new head coach to the sideline to try to carry on the positive momentum.
The team will have to learn to play without Sage Eckert, a glue player who will be missed greatly on both ends of the floor, and fellow seniors from last year in Madison Somers and Caroline Vera.
Fortunately, there is still a lot of talent back that gained experience last season, including hard-working post McKenna Lively and guards Kayla Morse, Kyra Azevedo and of course Emily Garrell, who was an All-State selection last year.
“We have a lot of experience coming back and [are] coming off a great year. I think they’re ready to keep rolling. We have a core group of seniors that are ready to take the reins,” said Hill.
Despite the losses of some talent, he expects this team to have a good shot within the conference.
“While we lost some key seniors, we’re returning a lot of experience and adding some very good athletes to the team. We’re going to push the ball on offense and get after it on defense. I think we have a great attacking mentality.”
A group of newcomers including Monica Oviedo, Kiann Scifres, Brynlee Nebeker, Shyanna Higgins and Autumn Montgomery will all see playing time as well for Buhl, which tries to defend its district championship.