Written by: Lucas Gebhart
3A Southeast Idaho Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Snake River
2. Marsh Valley
3. American Falls
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Josee Steadman, Sophomore, Snake River
Abby Morgan, Senior, Snake River
Mia Harper, Senior, Snake River
Kassidee Campbell, Senior, Snake River
Jordan Gilbert, Junior, Snake River
Valerie Vorwaller, Junior, Marsh Valley
Lyndee Belnap, Senior, Marsh Valley
Emma Barclay, Sophomore, American Falls
Grace Barclay, Sophomore, American Falls
Mckenzie Long, Sophomore, American Falls
For years, the 3A Southeast Idaho Conference has been a two-horse race between Marsh Valley and Snake River. On paper, this season looks to continue that tradition.
Last season, Snake River was the only team in the conference to finish with an overall record above .500 and the Panthers made a run to the state championship game for the first time since 2013 where they fell to Sugar-Salem.
Snake River’s conference championship was the first conference crown not won by Marsh Valley since 2014. Marsh Valley finished with an abnormal 8-16 overall record last season and missed the state tournament for the first time in three years despite beating Snake River twice during the regular season. But the Eagles lost to the Panthers twice in the district tournament, giving Snake River the conference seed at state.
The Panthers and third-year head coach Jeff Steadman enter the new campaign as an early contender to return to the state tournament, but some of the conference’s coaches say Marsh Valley could serve as a dark horse.
“Snake River will be the team to beat,” said Stephen Grigg, American Falls head coach. “But I think Marsh Valley will be better than most people think.”
Snake River returns most of its key pieces. Although the Panthers lost Kelsey Higginson (16 points per game), who’s now playing at Colorado Mesa, to graduation, Steadman’s squad returns seniors Abby Morgan, Mia Harper and Kassidee Campbell as well as sophomore Josee Steadman and junior Jordan Gilbert, all of which played a vital role in the Panthers deep tournament run, which saw wins over Bonners Ferry and South Fremont.
Steadman also expects an increased role from Dalli Merrill and Abbie Tew, whom both played up from JV during district and state games last season, a stretch where the Panthers only lost one game – the state title game.
“We have a very coachable group,” Steadman said. “This team has potential to play at a high level.”
Both Marsh Valley and American Falls will look to spoil Snake River’s efforts to get back to the state tournament.
The Eagles return Valerie Vorwaller, a junior, and Lyndee Belnap, a senior, while losing a vital post piece in Taya Batts to graduation.
“We will miss Taya Batts’ speed and athletic abilities,” said Kyle McQuivey, Marsh Valley head coach.
American Falls had a tough go at it in Grigg’s first season. The Beavers’ only win was a 40-32 road win at 2A West Side on Nov. 30.
Grigg’s second season will feature a young point guard in McKenzie Long, a sophomore, who brings athleticism to a team that will try to push the ball in transition. Grace Barclay will supply the team with an outside scoring threat, and sister Emma Barclay, brings both scoring and rebounding threats to the table.
Grigg is excited about the energy he has seen from his young players to continue building a culture within the program.
“In our second year, we have really focused on the little things,” Grigg said. “Proper footwork and making the right passes. Our team has really come a long way from where we were a season ago and we love to be the underdog.”