Boys High School Basketball

5A boys basketball preview: Rocky Mountain the early favorite in tight SIC race

Rocky Mountain’s Kolby Lee rises over a Madison defender during the first round of the 5A state tournament last year at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
Rocky Mountain’s Kolby Lee rises over a Madison defender during the first round of the 5A state tournament last year at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

The 5A Southern Idaho Conference suffered a pair of heartbreaks last season, with Borah and Centennial losing in the state semifinals on last-second shots, keeping the championship outside the Treasure Valley for the second year in a row.

State runner-up Madison returns a formidable squad. But the 5A SIC also fields a crop of teams capable of reclaiming the title, with Rocky Mountain the early and heavy favorite.

Below is a breakdown of all 12 5A SIC teams.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Kolby Lee, sr., F, Rocky Mountain

A lingering foot injury limited the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Lee last season. He still averaged 14.8 points and 8.9 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies to the state consolation title.

With the paperwork signed for a full-ride to BYU, the three-year starter can turn his attention to anchoring Rocky Mountain’s run for another state trophy.

He’s shown the strength to overpower defenders. He’s also flashed the agility and soft hands to become a four-star recruit, according to ESPN, and to attend the NBPA Top 100 High School Camp in Virginia last summer.

“Not only does he demand your attention, but he has a great feel for the game and gets his teammates involved,” Borah coach Jeremy Dennis said.

TEAM CAPSULES

BOISE BRAVES

Coach: Manny Varela, second season

Last year: 15-7, 11-5 5A SIC

Returning starters: Paul Pennington, jr., G; Lucas Centeno, jr., W

Outlook: Varela, a former Borah assistant, said the Braves are picking up his defensive scheme and their effort, making that a unit they will rely on all season. Pennington (10.5 points, 4.2 assists per game last year) remains a dangerous weapon on offense. A lack of size inside makes rebounding a concern for a team trying to make it to state for the first time since 1996-97.

BORAH LIONS

Coach: Jeremy Dennis, first season

Last year: 23-3, 14-2 5A SIC

Returning starters: Max Reitman, sr., G

Outlook: Dennis takes over the program after the retirement of Cary Cada, who led the Lions to a 366-166 record in 22 years. Dennis, entering his 20th year in the program, inherits a squad thin on experience with Reitman out until January with a broken foot. The Lions will field more size than in years past, especially with the transfer of Caldwell’s George Tarlas, a second-team 4A All-Idaho pick last year.

CAPITAL EAGLES

Coach: Scott Moore, second season

Last year: 14-14, 9-7 5A SIC

Returning starters: Justin Saunders, sr., G; Harrison Ashby, sr., W/P; Alex Lindsey, sr., G

Outlook: The Eagles return four starters, nine seniors and seven players with significant varsity experience from a team that made it to state for the fourth straight year. Cameron Godeny will pair with Ashby to form an athletic and formidable front court. Look for a breakout year from Saunders, a returning second-team all-conference pick.

CENTENNIAL PATRIOTS

Coach: Josh Aipperspach, second season

Last year: 21-6, 14-2 5A SIC

Returning starters: Delveion Jackson, sr., G; Brooks King, sr., G

Outlook: Aipperspach said the Patriots are a different team this year, looking to spread the floor and attack with dribble penetration. Centennial graduated all of its size and a first-team All-Idaho point guard, but they can lean on Jackson, a 6-6 high-flying, second-team All-Idaho pick. Jackson (10.8 ppg, 5.9 rebounds) committed to UC Davis in September, then reopened his recruitment.

COLUMBIA WILDCATS

Coach: Tennison Tripple, first season

Last year: 0-22, 0-16 5A SIC

Returning starters: Jake Poulton, so., PG; Michael Davis, jr., F

Outlook: Tripple takes over a rebuilding project as Columbia entered Tuesday on a 52-game losing streak. Since joining the 5A classification two years ago, it has yet to win a game, going 0-46 and losing by an average of 34.7 points. Tripple said the Wildcats are older and more mature than in the past. “(We) can’t go anywhere but up,” Tripple said. “Hopefully, they will stick together as a team and play for each other.”

EAGLE MUSTANGS

Coach: Alex Wells, third season

Last year: 7-15, 5-11 5A SIC

Returning starters: Cole Lake, so., G

Outlook: The Mustangs start with little varsity experience, but Wells said his team features a nice mix of size and perimeter shooters to stretch defenses. That has boosted an offense that scored 46.1 points per game last year, 10th in the 12-team conference. The Mustangs have averaged 63 points through their first four games this season.

KUNA KAVEMEN

Coach: Peter Longgood, first season

Last year: 9-13, 5-5 4A SIC

Returning starters: Tyson Fuss, sr., G

Outlook: Longgood, a former Vallivue assistant and coach in Alaska, takes over the Kavemen as they make the jump to 5A for the first time in program history. He’s starting from scratch as Kuna returns two players from last season’s team. “The challenge is having a new coaching staff with very few returning players,” he said. “There is a lot to teach and learn still.”

MERIDIAN WARRIORS

Coach: Mike Chatterton, second season

Last year: 8-14, 5-11 5A SIC

Returning starters: None

Outlook: The Warriors start over after the loss of seven seniors to graduation. Chatterton said the incoming class features quickness, depth and shooting ability. But rebounding and defense remain his focus early in the season. Meridian allowed 55.7 points per game last year, second most in the 5A SIC.

MOUNTAIN VIEW MAVERICKS

Coach: Jon Nettleton, 12th season

Last year: 14-12, 8-8 5A SIC

Returning starters: Cam Howard, sr., G; Tyler Brotherson, sr., G; Juan Aguilar, sr., W; Jalen Galloway, jr., W

Outlook: The Mavericks qualified for state last year with a young squad. With all those veterans returning, Mountain View is no longer looking to just make it to the Ford Idaho Center. Nettleton said the experience has bred a tough defense that knows his system inside and out. Howard (11.5 ppg, 45 percent 3-point shooter) gives the Mavs a dead-eye shooter to build around.

NAMPA BULLDOGS

Coach: Trevor Morris, third season

Last year: 9-13, 5-11 5A SIC

Returning starters: None

Outlook: The Bulldogs start the year as a mystery. The only thing known about them is they will be young after losing 10 seniors and only two varsity players returning. Morris said it’s more important how you finish the year than how you start it. “It will take us some time to get the feel for the varsity level,” he said. “But our young guys are eager to learn and grow.”

ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRIZZLIES

Coach: Dane Roy, sixth season

Last year: 19-7, 12-4 5A SIC

Returning starters: Kobe Terashima, sr., PG; Kolby Lee, sr., F

Outlook: The Grizzlies start the year as the clear favorite with the return of Lee, a BYU signee, and Terashima, a first-team 5A SIC point guard who averaged 10 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Roy said the experience doesn’t stop there as his bench will go 10 deep, and that depth features more quickness and improved perimeter shooting.

TIMBERLINE WOLVES

Coach: Bruce Logsdon, fourth season

Last year: 12-14, 6-10 5A SIC

Returning starters: Zac Zenner, jr., PG

Outlook: The Wolves move on from the Brock Rice era after he led the SIC with 18.4 points a game last season. Timberline doesn’t return much experience. Zenner will lead the team from the point and draw the toughest defensive assignment each night. Logsdon said the Wolves will have to stress rebounding every day until they get up to varsity speed.

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

5A SIC preseason coaches’ poll

Team (1st-place votes)

Last year

Pts.

1. Rocky Mountain (11)

19-7

142

2. Capital

14-14

127

3. Centennial (1)

21-6

111

4. Borah

23-3

105

5. Boise

15-7

104

6. Mountain View

14-12

87

7. Timberline

12-14

64

8. Eagle

7-15

57

9. Meridian

8-14

56

10. Kuna

9-13

36

11. Nampa

9-13

34

12. Columbia

0-22

12

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