1AD1 High Desert Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
2. Butte County
4. Taylor’s Crossing
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bridger Hansen, Senior, Butte County
Brady McAffee, Senior, Butte County
Stockton Lloyd, Senior, Grace
Ivor Gibbs, Senior, Grace
Gage Stoddard, Junior, Grace
Written by: Will Hoenike
Last season, the Challis Vikings and Grace Grizzlies faced off five times in a 25-day span from late January through late February. Grace won three of the five games, but Challis won two when it mattered most — in the district tournament. As a result, Challis advanced to the 1A Division 1 state tournament while the Grizzlies players turned in their uniforms.
Flash forward to the start of the 2019-20 season, where Challis is replacing a lot of talented players while Grace only lost one starter off of last season’s 18-win team.
The Grizzlies, coached by Rory Lloyd, return three key starters in seniors Stockton Lloyd and Ivor Gibbs along with junior Gage Stoddard. The team also brings back two key bench players from last season who should step into larger roles in seniors Jordan Mansfield and Jacob Smith. The game experience gives Grace an early leg up over its rivals in the High Desert.
Butte County is coming off a strong football campaign, reaching the 1A Division 1 state championship game in football in a co-operative agreement with Mackey. The Pirates are on their own for basketball but do return one of the conference’s top players in Bridger Hansen. Hansen is a solid ball handler with good range when shooting, giving the Pirates a good go-to option along with fellow senior Brady McAffee.
Challis must replace a lot of key minutes from last year’s team as Parker May, Ross Sheppeard and William Ashley are among the players no longer on the Vikings roster after graduating last spring. Senior Isaac Schwenke played a key role off the bench for Challis last season but was injured during football season. First-year head coach Brad Lambson will be looking for young players to grow into larger roles as the Vikings are likely to improve as the season progresses.
Taylor’s Crossing is in its second season as a sanctioned program. The Eagles, coached by Ryan Hatch, started 0-12 last season before finding its footing with a 3-5 finish. Hatch took his team to a basketball camp at Gonzaga over the summer with the team reaching the semifinals in its division at the camp. Hatch will have to replace Ethan Bindenagel, who was invited to represent the team at last spring’s annual senior all-star game in District VI.
The 1A Division 1 state tournament opens on March 5 at Vallivue High School in Caldwell. The championship game will be played March 7 at the Idaho Center in Nampa. The last High Desert team to receive the state’s championship banner is Butte County, which defeated Kamiah for the title in 2013. Challis reached the championship game in 2014, but was bested by Prairie. Grace reached the classification’s semifinals three consecutive seasons, from 2016 to 2018, earning the third-place trophy in 2017 and 2018.