The 4A Southern Idaho Conference has produced state powerhouses for a decade, and this season should feature more of the same.
Kuna is off to a 4-0 start.
Longtime defensive stalwart Middleton is 4-0 against four 5A teams.
And Bishop Kelly returns the conference’s player of the year and a bevy of guards to fill its always dangerous press.
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Those three teams finished first through third in a preseason coaches’ poll with two points separating Kuna in first from Middleton in third. And that top three doesn’t even include Skyview, which has reached the state championship game in back-to-back years.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Gabi Harrington, sr., G, Bishop Kelly
The reigning conference player of the year, first-team All-Idaho pick and Montana signee has improved her averages each season. She averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.9 steals last season, often scoring off quick steals for easy layups. Expect more of the same. Harrington has also shown the ability to create scoring opportunities off the dribble, making her a true two-way threat. “Gabi can do it all,” Mountain Home coach Brent Keener said. “She can score, pass and defend. She’s a nightmare for any coach to try to stop.”
BISHOP KELLY KNIGHTS
Coach: Derek McCormick, ninth season
Last year: 19-5, 8-2 4A SIC
Returning starters: Gabi Harrington, sr., G; Sophia Adams, sr., P
Breakdown: The defending district champ returns seven varsity members, which McCormick said gives the team a strong grasp on what it’s trying to do. The Knights figure to be strong in the backcourt, led by Harrington, and with their press again. “Hopefully, we can use that to create turnovers and easy baskets on offense,” McCormick said. He said the Knights need to find a consistent second and third scorer for balance.
Coach: William Rodgers, second season
Last year: 7-17, 2-8
Returning starters: Koralee Bower, sr., G; Lissette Saenz, sr., G; Lita Forse, jr., P; Jasmine Martinez, sr., F
Breakdown: Caldwell returns the most experience in the conference, and Rodgers hopes that translates into a move up the standings. The Cougars will rely on Forse and Martinez in the post. And if Bower and Saenz can help Caldwell cut down on its turnovers, it can start turning narrow losses into victories. “Our philosophy is our posts will keep us in the game, and our guards will win the game,” Rodgers said.
Coach: Alex Jensen, fourth season
Last year: 16-9, 7-3
Returning starters: Allison Law, sr., P; Meghan Holloman, so., PG, Ashlyn VanCampen, jr., P
Breakdown: Kuna had a breakout season last year, reaching the state tournament for the first time since 1995. They went two-and-out, and Jensen has set a goal of bringing home a trophy this year. With Law, a first-team all-conference and second-team All-Idaho pick who averaged 15.8 points last year, Kuna should have plenty to build around. “We have the ability to move much faster in our teaching this year because we have so many returning players,” Jensen said.
Coach: Andy Jones, 14th season
Last year: 16-7, 7-3
Returning starters: Mackenzie Royce, sr., G; Brooke Davis, sr., F
Breakdown: The perennial powerhouse missed state last year for the first time since 2006. As with any team led by Jones, the Vikings will focus on defense. And with size and quickness Jones likes, that should be a unit Middleton can rely on to jumpstart an offense that struggled at times in summer ball. “This should make us a more dangerous team in transition and improve our ability to pick up full court defensively,” Jones said of his team’s speed.
MOUNTAIN HOME TIGERS
Coach: Brent Keener, ninth season
Last year: 0-22, 0-10
Returning starter: Jacey Carr, jr., C
Breakdown: The Tigers are looking to snap a 28-game losing streak that included a winless 2014-15 campaign. Mountain Home averaged 26.9 points per game last year, but Keener said that should go up this season behind an improved group of shooters. “We’ve got to find ways to score the basketball and take care of the ball,” he said.
Coach: Cindy Pasta, 20th season
Last year: 20-9, 6-4
Returning starters: Natalie Bailey, sr., F; Natalie Robison, jr., PG
Breakdown: The Hawks reached the state championship game last year for the second year in a row, finishing second. But with only two returning starters and loads of players new to varsity, Pasta envisions moving away from the inside game that Skyview has relied on heavily the past two years. “We will be so different than last year, but we do add speed and quickness,” she said.
Preseason coaches’ poll
Team (1st-place votes)
1. Kuna (2)
2. Bishop Kelly (2)
3. Middleton (2)
6. Mountain Home