1ADII Long Pin Conference
1. Garden Valley
4. Salmon River
5. Tri Valley
6. Horseshoe Bend
7. Meadows Valley
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Braeden Nichols, Council
Michael Onaindia, Cascade
Cody Mooseman, Cascade
Ethan Shepherd, Salmon River
Jimmy Tucker, Salmon River
Sammy Mahon, Council
Covy Kelly, Garden Valley
Blake Thurston, Cascade
Austin Fry, Horseshoe Bend
Devin Yearsley, Garden Valley
Written by: Jamey Vinnick
So close were the Garden Valley Wolverines last year, falling in the state title game to Lighthouse Christian after a remarkable 21-8 campaign. What makes Garden Valley so dangerous this year though is the returning stars. The Wolverines bring back nine players off that team, highlighted by 1ADII Player of the Year Covy Kelly. In addition to Kelly, Devin Yearsley, Corban Fields and Hayden Elmore all received All-Conference honors. And while Bryce Edwards had departed, there is so much talent on Joel LaFleur’s squad that the Wolverines will likely be right back in the mix for the state title.
“We are really excited to have essentially the same group back from a state runner up squad last year. We have an extremely committed, connected group of kids and coaches who work tirelessly and cohesively together,” LaFleur said. “Last year’s team did not know how good they were and could be. This team understands what it took to do the things they did last year and are committed to taking a quantum leap past where they were last year.”
While Garden Valley may stand above all else in the conference, there will be some other teams trying to chase them down.
Cascade’s trio of Michael Onaindia, Cody Mooseman and Blake Thurston will pose a threat, as will the duo of Sammy Mahon and Braeden Nichols with Council, but a couple of teams hoping to push relatively under the radar include Salmon River and Tri-Valley.
Like Garden Valley, Salmon River made a run to the state tournament largely behind the shooting of Randy McClure but, with McClure graduating, the Savages will need to get a big impact from returning All-Conference players Ethan Shepherd and Jimmy Tucker. Adding a big body in center Connor Johnson should help, but it is likely more of a retooling year for Salmon River with the loss of McClure along with Reece Jones and Canyon Harper. Head coach Levi Tucker will likely have some growing pains early on, but the talent that Shepherd and Tucker have could help Salmon River surge.
“After a deep run last year, I am most excited to see what kids will step up and fill the voids that
graduated. We want to play fast, spread the floor and find shooters. We will have to win the
rebound battle and stay out of foul trouble to make a deep run,” Tucker said. “Last year, we were bigger more athletic. This year we are more experienced, with better shooters and more skilled.”
Tri-Valley didn’t necessarily have the deep runs that Salmon River or Garden Valley had, but it’s still coming off a 14-10 season. Similar to Salmon River though, Tri-Valley suffered some major losses with top two scorers Orion Southwick and Michael Barnett graduating along with starting point guard Jayden Mink. Honorable Mention Ty Barnett is back for Tri-Valley, but the losses will loom large, especially early on for head coach Barrett Morris’s squad.
“I’m always excited to start a New Year and see players step into their new roles on the team. We had a successful summer program with good turnout so our incoming starters got to get their feet wet, so-to-speak,” Morris said. “If healthy, we’ll field a competitive varsity program again this year. This year’s group will be competitive as any I’ve had the privilege to coach. However, we will not have the depth that we’ve been blessed within the previous years.”