Players to Watch:
Jane Parke, Carey
Berenice Vargas, Carey
Jehta Matchovic, Castleford
Hannah Skinner, Hansen
Jordan Wolverton, Lighthouse Christian
Ady Stanger, Murtaugh
Falon Bedke, Oakley
Kylan Jones, Oakley
Addie Mitton, Oakley
Reagan Jones, Raft River
Jessi Knudsen, Raft River
Karlie Chapman, Shoshone
Lexi Huettig, Valley
Written by: Katie Knight
The hard part with small towns and schools is the ever-changing number of students in classes. Some teams will have to rebuild after graduating five or six seniors and some teams get to bring everyone on the roster back. Oakley will be the latter. Coach Matt Payton is bringing back all his players, except one.
Among the returning players will be Falon Bedke and Kylan Jones, who were both 1st team All-Conference selections last season. Joining Bedke and Jones will be 2nd team All-conference selection Addie Mitton and honorable mention Jentry Hawker. The Hornets will have seven seniors and two juniors from a team that won the consolation trophy at the 2022 state tournament. Coach Payton knows his team is “ball savvy” and will rely on their experience throughout this season. Having the valuable varsity and state tournament experience will add to the chemistry of a team that can start any of the players.
The depth and experience of the Hornets will allow “the team to share the ball and anyone on the floor at any given time can score,” says Payton. Coach Payton’s team wants to limit their opponents to 25 points and take away easy baskets.
Another strong SRC team is Raft River who will be led by the returning Coach of the Year Bart Deters and Player of the Year Caroline Schumann. The Trojans also bring back All-Conference picks Libby Boden, Jessi Knudsen and Reagan Jones. There is a strong core of upperclassmen bringing varsity experience and taste of what it takes to get to the state tournament.
Changing the landscape of the Snake River Conference are four new teams: Carey, Castleford, Hansen and Valley. Carey brings perennial powerhouse coach, Merilee Sears who consistently has her team playing strong in the district tournament and earning multiple trips to the state tournament. Carey knows how to compete late into the season and is ready for the challenge that DI brings. Joining Carey in the move from DII to DI ware Castleford and Hansen.
The Castleford Wolves are young and working on building their program. New Head Coach Buck Taylor takes over a team that went 2-18 in the ’21-22 season. Coach Taylor is focused on “building from the ground up with basic fundamentals” and “learning to compete.” Freshman Reata Severe will lead as the point guard, as they “learn the artistry of the game,” says Taylor. The Wolves only have three returning players and a lot of new faces, and Taylor says the team “needs a little seasoning before we can make an impact.”
Valley joins the SRC after a quick stay at the 2A level. The Vikings are in a rebuilding phase as well and have a new coach, Holly Hall. Valley graduated six seniors, which left some holes in the roster, but Lexi Huetting and Stephanie are up to the task. Coach Hall wants to use her team’s “speed, energy and attitude” to apply pressure to their opponents.
Rounding out a strong conference, loaded with talent and teams will be Lighthouse Christian, who returns All-Conference players and seniors, Jordan Wolverton and Bele Rogers. Murtaugh, Glenns Ferry, Hansen and Shoshone will all continue to grow and develop their programs. Shoshone will look to All-Conference selection and senior, Karlie Chapman to lead the Indians.