1ADII Rocky Mountain Conference
2. North Gem
5. Grace Lutheran
7. Clark County
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Chase Green, Mackay
Jacoda Wittworth, Mackay
James Bodily, North Gem
Austin Beyler, Leadore
Braden Permann, Rockland
Levi Farr, Rockland
Logan Corta, North Gem
Kolton Holt, Mackay
Written by Jamey Vinnick
Mackay looks, once again, to have a strong preseason lead in the Rocky Mountain Conference looks. The Miners went 20-6 last season and didn’t experience much turnover from last year, although both Dallin and Caleb Green have departed.
First-team all-conference players Jacoda Wittworth and Chase Green return along with Kolton Holt inside, a junior that head coach Kelvin Krosch speaks very highly of. Mackay also adds Kyle Peterson with the hope he can complement the shooting abilities of Green and Wittworth.
“I am excited to see how hungry the kids are after finishing second in the football championship game. I expect these kids to be hungrier more than ever with them getting so close to the ultimate goal and fall just short,” Krosch said. “We have a ton of experience as most of these kids have either started 3-4 years in their time in this program here. We should be quicker and more developed as these kids have matured in the past year. I think we are going to be more physical this year as most of these kids had a successful football season.”
One of the top candidates to unseat Mackay will be North Gem, lead by James Bodily and Logan Corta. There were some major offseason changes for North Gem, though, as Tracey Corta takes over as head and will have to press on without three all-conference players in Bronx Holbrook, Bennett Cooper and Jacob Neese. Despite losing those three players, Corta and Bodily both return with all-conference honors as does Toby Parker. For North Gem to replicate the success they had last year with a 19-5 record, they’ll need those three to lead the way in a tough Rocky Mountain conference.
“This year’s team is a group of really hard-working kids that have been together for a while. They have great chemistry and push each other to get better. There is a lot of talent on this team despite some losses of key players from last year’s team and I am excited to see how the kids that played reserve roles last year step up to be key contributors.”
Right there with Mackay and North Gem will be Rockland, although likewise to North Gem they will be missing some key players with Landon Farr, Pratt Matthews and Caleb Norwood all graduating. All-conference point guard Braden Permann is back, however, and he will be joined by another Farr in junior forward Levi Farr and by a new group of freshmen, including his younger brother Brigham. It will certainly be a different look for head coach Shae Neal, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and with new faces comes new aspirations.
“We are a completely new team this year. Graduating a bunch of big key players will allow openings for the younger players to fill. It will be a rebuilding year for us but we have some great talent and hard-working athletes that love to compete with everyone,” Neal said. “We are a completely new team this year. Graduating a bunch of big key players will allow openings for the younger players to fill.”
Somewhat flying under the radar this year will be Watersprings, although Neal identified them as a team that could surprise in a big way. Although Watersprings isn’t a particularly deep or seasoned team, they play hard and play fast under the tutelage of head coach Scott Moe. While the team won’t blow anyone away on offense, they are stingy defensively and were the top team defensively in the state last year.
“We are young and lack depth, but we are highly motivated and committed. We were the No. 1 defensive team in the state last year and we hope to build on that,” Moe said.
In the same boat as Watersprings is Grace Lutheran. Similar to Watersprings, Grace Lutheran had another coach point them out as a potential surprise team with North Gem coach Tracey Corta noting that they continue to improve and their players have grown up with the program.
Although Grace Lutheran was just 5-14 last year and lost Kieran Slack to transfer, they bring back a trio of senior guards with Joel Besel, Kayden Cummings and Nate Jimenez with Besel likely leading the charge as the top-scoring threat, taking over where Slack left a void.
“I’m excited to have seniors this year for the first time. We’ll have a lot more depth this year. I’m looking for Joel Besel to be our main scoring threat. Our supporting players have all improved a ton from last year,” said Grace Lutheran head coach Jeremy Hess. “We’ll be able to play a little more up-tempo this season. Last year we didn’t have the depth to run as much as we’d like. We can also afford to be more aggressive on defense. We had to sit in soft zones more than I’d like to avoid foul trouble, and this year we should be able to get after teams a little more. We’ll need to improve our outside shooting and post defense to have a successful season this year.
Sho-Ban may not have the title hopes that the others do, but they are looking to be competitive after a rocky 4-18 season. Jayvis Friday leads a team laced with seniors that will hope to use their experience to push the better teams in the conference.
Rather than the run and gun style of most teams, Sho-Ban plays a more deliberate game of basketball to try and slow the pace down and control the tempo. Head coach Tim Wilson sees his team’s experience as a big factor.
“We all have a year under our belt together, so the foundation has been set and everyone knows the expectation,” Wilson said. “We will slow the pace of the game down offensively and defensively.”