Players to Watch:
Ellie Thorne, Ambrose
Haldey Fraas, Cole Valley Christian
Trinity Holsinger, Cole Valley Christian
Reanna Byers, Compass Charter
Emily Vanosdall, Marsing
Hallie Arnold, Melba
Kendall Clark, Melba
Brooklyn Dayley, Melba
Keylee Wilson, Melba
Written by: Will Hoenike
The Cole Valley Christian Chargers entered last season’s 2A state tournament as the no. 3 seed. They walked away with top honors after defeating Soda Springs, Melba, and Aberdeen over a three-day stretch to earn the state championship.
The Chargers were one of two teams in the Western Idaho Conference to win at least 20 games and one of five to finish above .500 in the win/loss column. Third-year head coach Matt Beglinger’s team will be sporting an almost entirely new look this season after graduating seven seniors, including four starters.
“This group is a bit more scrappy than last year’s group, and they’ll have to be with the length that we graduated,” Beglinger said. “There is really a sense of energy and excitement among the girls as we embark on a new season.”
CVC will have to replace dynamic Ellie Fraas, who was the conference’s player of the year last winter, and Lyndsie Krough. Junior Hadley Fraas leads the group of returners for Cole Valley Christian, which includes incoming freshmen Trinity Holsinger and Tessa Orcutt.
The other team from the WIC to advance to the state tournament is Melba who, like Cole Valley Christian, topped 20 wins last season. Head coach David Lenz returns four dynamic starters from that squad, led by seniors Kendall Clark, Keylee Wilson, and Hallie Arnold. Junior Brooklynn Dayley also returns for the Mustangs as they look to take a step forward to overtake Cole Valley Christian as the top team in the district. Early wins over 4A Columbia and perennial 1A powerhouse Lapwai make it look like Melba is ready to make that step.
The Ambrose Archers are coming off a 12-win campaign where the team’s leading scorer, Ellie Thome, was a freshman.
“Ellie has worked hard to make her offensive game more well-rounded, and it will be fun to watch her growth this year,” said Ambrose head coach Kelly Barbour. “We also have a good combination of size and perimeter skill, which should make us more balanced.”
Seniors Hannah Maiocca and Olivia Waitman will help provide that balance, as will junior guard Inara Ries.
Randy Brothers, who led the Nampa Christian boys’ program from 2012 to 2018, takes over as the new head coach for the girls’ program this season. He’ll have to replace departed seniors Olivia Irwin and Grace Reeve, each of whom were selected to all-conference teams in the Western Idaho Conference in a vote of the coaches.
New Plymouth is the fifth team from the conference that finished with more W’s than L’s in 2021-22. Head coach Mackenzie Radford will be looking to fill the roles of departed seniors Lexi Eager and Eboni Shaw this season as well as Jane Gibson, who changed schools during the summer. Radford’s roster lists three seniors – Bella Farley, Amaia Mendive, and Bailie Voile – so the Pilgrims will likely be looking for contributions from its younger players in order to challenge the conference’s top teams.
The two teams in the Western Idaho Conference that did not quite reach the break-even mark last season, Marsing and Compass Charter, will look to close the gap with their talented peers this winter.
“Our overall chemistry is going to be much better,” said Marsing head coach Michael Swanson. “We look forward to seeing Llee Loucks progression in the post this year with an expanded role within our offense.”
Loucks and senior Emily Vanosdall will create a 1-2 punch for the Huskies while Compass Charter will lean on a young core of players that includes sophomore Reanna Byers, junior Bailey Morris, and junior Kate Shaw.
“We are going to be very junior-heavy, with up to six seeing some important court time,” said first-year head coach Adam Mastalski. “Only two of those saw consistent time at the varsity level last year so the others will need to adjust to varsity basketball quickly.”
Early returns for the Aviators were good – the team opened the season with wins in two of its first three games.
The new kid on the block, the North Star Charter Huskies, makes the move up to 2A after competing at the 1A Division 1 level last season. Head coach Tiffany Doskeland’s roster includes a pair of seniors, Daniella Christensen and Isabelle Wright, and will look to improve upon last season’s four-win campaign.
The conference once again has the look of a deep, strong one as Melba, Ambrose, and Cole Valley Christian will look to hold off challenges from the rest of the eight-team Western Idaho Conference.