Northern Idaho teams used to rule girls basketball in Idaho, winning eight straight 5A state championships from 2007-14.
But no one can question that the Southern Idaho Conference has overthrown the north after Mountain View won back-to-back championships and the conference held a monopoly on all four state semifinal berths last season.
The conference outlook changes with Mountain View’s Destiny Slocum graduating, and now starting at the University of Maryland. But the 5A SIC still features plenty of talent with three Division I signees in the class of 2017, and more on the way for 2018.
Here are scouting reports on all 12 teams:
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PLAYER TO WATCH
Mandy Simpson, SR., F, Boise
The 6-1 Simpson dominated the paint last season, averaging a double-double of 17.0 points and 11.4 rebounds to lead the Braves to a third-place finish at state. And that was on a team where she shared the paint with Issy Hadden, who averaged 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds and now suits up for Idaho.
With Hadden graduated, the show is all Simpson’s, who’s no one-trick pony. She owns the vision to average 2.5 assists and instincts to grab 1.5 steals. That well-rounded game allowed her to sign with Oklahoma two weeks ago.
“(She) is the one who I think will give teams the most problems,” Meridian coach Matthew Creech said. “She’s got size and athleticism. She’s basically automatic from inside the paint and has greatly improved her shooting range.”
Coach: Kim Brydges, 12th season
Last year: 19-7, 12-4 5A SIC
Returning starters: Mandy Simpson, sr., F; Audrey Dingel, sr., G
Outlook: Graduation leaves the Braves with two seniors and three juniors, so consistency will be a struggle early. “Our biggest challenge will be to push young talent to grow up quickly,” Brydges said. Brydges said the roster around Simpson, who signed with Oklahoma, is deeper than in years past, allowing Boise to mix defenses and press more often.
Coach: Jason Willer, fifth season
Last year: 18-11, 10-6 5A SIC
Returning starters: Kiana Corpus, sr., PG; Maddie Geritz, jr., F; Alyssa Bolt, jr., F; Alesia Jones, jr., G
Outlook: The Lions snapped an eight-year drought by qualifying for state last season. And with an experienced and tall lineup — three players over 6-foot, three more at 5-11 — they look to more than qualify for state. Borah is battling its way through the first month of the season with Bolt nursing a knee injury, and Jones sidelined until mid-December, also with a knee injury.
Coach: Blas Telleria Jr., 10th season
Last year: 14-11, 10-6 5A SIC
Returning starters: Belle Lewis, sr., PG; Yesenya Bendinelli, jr., G; Elly Johnson, jr., F; Beverly Slater, jr., G
Outlook: Capital brings back nine varsity members from last year, including eight who were freshmen or sophomores. The Eagles are ready to cash in on a youth movement started in 2013-14 with Lewis entering her fourth year as a starter and Bendinelli and Johnson their third. “We fully expect to go to state and bring home hardware,” Telleria Jr. said.
Coach: Candace Thornton, first season
Last year: 23-4, 15-1 5A SIC
Returning starters: Tori Williams, sr., G; Lauren Brocke, sr., G/F; Ayana Amaechi, sr., PG
Outlook: Thornton follows coach Cassie Bro, who led the Patriots to a 75-25 record in four years. Thornton inherits a pair of Division I signees in Williams (Utah) — the No. 22 guard in her class nationwide, according to ESPN — and Brocke (Wichita State). The Patriots will continue to push the ball, but Thornton said they are rebuilding their inside game after the graduation of Dominique Williams (Weber State).
Coach: Laurie Kiester, second season
Last year: 6-16, 4-12 5A SIC
Returning starters: Tianna Williams, sr., G; Cally Harper, sr., G
Outlook: The Wildcats took a step forward last season in their second year in 5A, winning four league games after winning none in 2014-15. But Columbia lost five seniors and returns just three players with varsity experience. Kiester said the Wildcats are stronger inside, but they’ve lost some speed around the perimeter.
Coach: Cody Pickett, fourth season
Last year: 21-6, 13-3 5A SIC
Returning starters: Cassidy Tiegs, sr., PG; Abby Mangum, sr., G; Janie King, jr., G; Kate Murray, jr., F
Outlook: With four returning starters and nine varsity players back from a team that reached the state semifinals, Eagle begins the year as the favorite. Tiegs, a second-team All-Idaho pick, and Mangum are the only seniors on the roster. But they are four-year starters who can rely on two juniors drawing college offers in Murray (Utah Valley, Portland, Weber State) and King (Utah Valley).
Coach: Alex Jensen, fifth season
Last year: 16-7, 8-2 4A SIC
Returning starters: Meghan Holloman, jr., PG; Madi Thurston, sr., W; Ivy Hommel, sr., W; Natalie Rose, sr., F
Outlook: The Kavemen make the move up to 5A with nearly their entire lineup coming back, except for one obvious exception — post Allison Law, a first-team 4A All-Idaho member. Her graduation leaves big shoes to fill in the paint, but Kuna fields a roster more than ready to compete at the 5A level. “Our goal is to find our place and make some waves,” Jensen said.
Coach: Matthew Creech, first season
Last year: 3-16, 3-13 5A SIC
Returning starters: Jaynee Taufoou, sr., F; Kaitlynn Lee, sr., F; Brittney Hansen, so., PG
Outlook: Creech takes over for Amos Lee after a five-year reign, and he said he inherited an athletic squad that will allow the Warriors to run and pressure opponents. But after going 11-50 the past three years and with little size inside, Creech knows Meridian has a ways to go. “We’ve had a few down years,” he said. “But these girls are hungry and willing to do what it takes to get back to being a force in the SIC.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW MAVERICKS
Coach: Connie Skogrand, 14th season
Last year: 23-4, 15-1 5A SIC
Returning starters: Abby Kreiser, sr., G; Adriana Vickery, sr., F; Kayla Anderson, sr., G; Taeli Carrillo, sr., G
Outlook: The post-Destiny Slocum era begins as the reigning All-Idaho Player of the Year is now starting as a freshman at national power Maryland. But don’t overlook the Mavericks. They still return a loaded lineup that can wear teams down with their pace and outside shooting. Skogrand said to expect a more balanced unit with as many as four players averaging double digits.
Coach: Nichole Schutte, second season
Last year: 2-20, 1-15 5A SIC
Returning starters: Sabrina Castaneda, sr., PG; Taylor Roberts, sr., G; CJ Hancock, sr., G; Katherine Tiffany, sr., G
Outlook: Nampa took its lumps last year with a young lineup, getting outscored by an average of 23.4 points per game. But the Bulldogs return four starters from their youth movement, including Castaneda, who will lead their transition attack. Schutte said Nampa will try to stay out of the halfcourt as much as possible with limited size.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRIZZLIES
Coach: Emery Roy, fifth season
Last year: 10-14, 7-9 5A SIC
Returning starters: None
Outlook: The Grizzlies missed the state tournament last year for the first time under Roy as they battled injuries all season. This year is off to a similar start as the only returning starter, Regan Widner, broke her leg at the state soccer tournament. Roy said the Grizzlies are young and don’t field much size, but they are staying positive and are receptive to coaching.
Coach: Todd Simpson, fifth season
Last year: 7-17, 5-11 5A SIC
Returning starters: Elena McHargue, so., PG; Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil, so., G; Jordan Adams, jr., G
Outlook: A pair of then-freshmen in McHargue (10 ppg) and Ascuena-Mercil (8 ppg) helped the Wolves raise their scoring average by 9.4 points last season. Add that experience to a stronger post game led by 6-4 freshman Emma Ellinghouse, and Timberline looks to continue climbing the SIC standings.
5A SIC coaches’ poll
Team (1st-place votes)
1. Eagle (9)
2. Mountain View (1)
3. Centennial (2)
9. Rocky Mountain