1ADII Rocky Mountain Conference
4. North Gem
7. Grace Lutheran
8. Clark County
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Harley Jackson, Sho-Ban
Riley Moore, Mackay
Madalyn Perman, Rockland
Abigal Yadon, Watersprings
Written by Jamey Vinnick
Coming off a 17-6 season, the Rockland Bulldogs plan to continue to their pursuit of that elusive state title. Favorited to win the conference, the Bulldogs are led by longtime coach Vern Nelson, entering his 24th season with Rockland. With a returning star in Madalyn Perman, Rockland has a chance to make some magic happen in the upcoming season.
“This team will have good depth with the returning varsity players and the new players coming from JV. Madalyn Permann and Charlotte Wilson give us good guard play both offensively and defensively,” Nelson said. “Both are veteran players with a lot of varsity experience. Madalyn has been our offensive go-to player for the past two years. She can score from the outside and by driving to the basket. She has a great understanding of the game and is a great leader on the floor.”
The combination of Permann and Wilson will be a deadly one, Nelson said, especially when he decided to dial up the speed of his offense.
“The team will have good quickness and athletic ability, which will allow us to play up-tempo as much as possible on offense and to be very aggressive on defense, both full court and in half-court,” he said. “To be successful, we are counting on certain players to step up on offense, so that we have more than one or two scoring options. Since we are an aggressive team we need to recognize between being aggressive and overly aggressive, so we can stay out of foul trouble with key players and limit the other team’s trips to the foul line.”
Looking to challenge Rockland is going to be Riley Moore and the Mackay Miners.
In addition to Moore, Mackay also returns All-Conference players Chloe Fullmer and Trinity Seefried to a team that went 18-6 last year. Even without point guard Remi Wojochowski who graduated, head coach Kashia Hale has a squad poised to compete.
“We are returning all but one player to our team and we are looking to build off last year’s season,” Hale said “These girls are very passionate about basketball and work hard every day to have great team chemistry. They are one of the hardest working teams I have ever coached and we have 10 player on this years team who all have the same desire to win.”
Both North Gem and Watersprings are middle-of-the-pack type teams looking to make the jump up to the top half of the conference.
Waterpsrings is coming off a difficult 5-15 season, but if they have senior Abigail Yadon healthy all year, they are a definite force to be reckoned with. Yadon, along with returning Second-Team All-Conference forward Joanna Hayes, is hoping to push Watersprings toward the top of the conference and compete with the likes of Rockland, Sho-Ban and Mackay.
“We have more experience than we have had in the past. Joanna Hayes will be our foundation inside on both ends of the court and provide leadership. We hope to have Abigail Yadon for the second half of the season, which will help at the guard position and team leadership,” Hale said. “Jessica Merkle and Rylee Mathison will be needed to help with rebounding and mid-range scoring. The big key to our success will be the defensive duo of Angie Gomez and Riley Winkelmann.”
North Gem finds itself in the same boat as Watersprings, looking to rebound from a tough season last year. North Gem doesn’t have quite the firepower that Watersprings and some of the other teams do, but they return Harlee Davids, who was Second-Team All-Conference and add Grace Lutheran transfer Sydney Partain.
“This year’s team has great attitudes and desire. The chemistry is the best in the 5 years I have been here,” said North Gem head coach Dana Strong. “This team is faster as well. They are committed to getting better and work at the skills necessary to improve. We are faster than a year ago and are able to press and break the press better.”
It might not be the best outlook for Grace Lutheran, who won just two games last season, but with a young coach in Ryan Strehlow, there is some hope for the Grace squad.
Despite losing Sydney Partain to North Gem, sophomore guards Emma Grayson and Raquelle Trogden are likely candidates to be called upon along with incoming freshman Allie Austin. Looking at the season, there’s plenty for Strehlow to be excited about with his youth.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to move up to the high school ranks and help to continue to see progress and growth in a very young team that is eager to go out and give it all they have each night. With such a young team we really will continue to focus on fundamental growth, and looking for ways to get easy baskets that can hopefully turn into competitive games, and potentially a few wins this year.”