A final frontier is on Wood River’s
Girls shoot for first state berth
By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer
Like starship troopers on a mission, Wood
River High girls’ basketball players will be trying this winter to boldly go
where no Wood River team has gone before—to the State 3A basketball tournament.
It’s a final frontier that Wolverine girls
have never visited.
Wood River, setting several school records
last winter, did everything except finish the job. The Wolverines logged the
best record in school annals (16-7). They were the best playing at home (9-1)
and soared to the top scoring mark (58.0 ppg).
But, after posting the fourth consecutive
winning season for a Wood River girls’ team, the Hailey girls dropped a notch
and placed a disappointing fourth in the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference
Only the top two SCIC teams qualified for
state—district champ Filer and Buhl last year—and that’s the same situation this
winter. In other words, you have to make it to the SCIC title game to keep
playing in Boise next February.
Wood River plans to be there, for the
Fourth-year head coach Brent Carnduff
(43-26) said, "The last few years we’ve had more and more wins. It’s been great,
but we’ve been disappointed in the district tournament.
"This year we’ve beefed up our schedule.
We might not end up with as good an overall record as we’ve had in recent years,
but hopefully we’ll be tougher playing in February."
This winter, the Wolverines with their
deep group of eight seniors hope to finish the job and make it to the state
tournament for the first time in 29 years of Hailey girls basketball.
It’s a good omen that Wood River will host
the state-qualifying SCIC tournament in January. But it’s also Wood River’s
final shot in the SCIC 3A ranks because the school is moving up a level to the
tougher 4A next year.
"We’re real excited. We have lots of
experience and depth. This is going to be a special year," said Carnduff, who
started the current strong group of seniors back in the fifth grade with the Sun
Valley Storm club team.
The seniors on the 10-player varsity are
Natalie Green, Emily Smith, Liz Rippon, Jessica King, Tiffany Wheeler, Dawn
Bird, Maddie Thies and Nikki Calzacorta. The juniors are Syringa Stark and Alexa
Playing together in the summer, the Wood
River players enjoyed a good tournament at Seaside, Ore. last June and also
played local tourneys.
The main Wood River threat will be 5-11
senior Natalie Green, who has already set the career scoring record for the
Hailey school in three years of varsity action. Green (17.5 ppg) became the
first player over 400 points last year and has 728 for her career.
Listed as a post, Green developed her
three-point shot into a nasty weapon, making 38 of the team’s 75 from behind the
arc. She is coming off a volleyball season in which she made the All-State
tournament second team.
Carnduff said, "Natalie is a great scorer
for us—she’ll be our main option. She works hard on the defensive end as well,
and is just a great all-around player."
Although Green is a dominant player,
Carnduff said Wood River’s strength is likely to be its balanced scoring this
season. The Hailey girls will be quick, although not the quickest. They have
decent overall height.
He said, "We’re a strong shooting team. We
relied on the outside shot last year but we’ll try to pull out of our fast break
and really push the ball inside this season."
Wood River’s shooting went south in the
district tournament last year and the team didn’t have the inside toughness
needed to succeed in the post-season. "The intensity increases so much at
district," Carnduff said.
To reverse that trend, Wood River needs to
improve close to the hoop on both ends of the floor, Carnduff said. "We’ll need
to take it inside. On defense last year, we pressed a lot and weren’t as strong
as I would have liked in our half-court defense," he said.
All-Conference Jessica King (7.7 ppg and
the team’s top rebounder) will provide much of the toughness that Wood River
requires to become a dangerous inside-outside threat.
"I think Jessica will have a huge year,"
said Carnduff. "When we get our outside shooting going, it should leave Jess and
Natalie one-on-one inside. It will work the other way, too, with our inside
scoring opening up our outside shots."
Watch free throw shooting to see how Wood
River is doing with its inside game. The Wolverines were outscored 289-232 and
out-shot 469-396 at the charity stripe last winter—and important late-season
losses to Filer and Buhl were mainly because of lopsided free throw
Wood River’s "X" factor might be newcomer
Nikki Calzacorta, who started for the Gooding Senators last season. "I’ve been
really impressed with Nikki’s intensity. She’s a strong defensive player and a
strong rebounder," said Carnduff.
Senior wing Liz Rippon (3.9 ppg) is a
deceptively quick defensive player who adds so much to Wood River’s effort with
her sound anticipation. The back-up post is Dawn Bird, and Maddie Thies is a
post and wing.
"Liz has a great all-around game. And Dawn
had a great summer for us. She is so structurally and fundamentally sound within
our defense," Carnduff said.
With so much talent up front, Carnduff
also has depth in the guard position as he tries to replace Kelly Haisley (7.0
ppg), who distributed the ball well for the Wolverines last year.
It remains to be seen whether Wood River
will have the penetrating kind of guard needed to create some of that inside
action, but the Wolverines have tall, talented ballhandlers in Emily Smith and
Lefthander Smith (9.4 ppg) was Wood
River’s second leading scorer last year but she also quietly led the team in
assists (85) and steals (77) while placing second in rebounds (129, 8 ahead of
Green). Stark averaged 6.1 ppg as a sophomore.
Smith and Stark, who will alternate
between the #1 and #2 guard spots, have good size and speed, are solid ball
handlers and can shoot form the outside, according to Carnduff.
Tiffany Wheeler, an off-guard and wing,
brings intensity off the bench and Alexa Alberdi has great speed.
"We have a lot of depth. It will be a big
bonus for us. But we’ll still be asking our three All-Conference players (Green,
Smith and King) to carry quite a load for us," said Carnduff.
Speaking of All-Conference players, the
defending SCIC tournament champion Filer Wildcats have one of the best in 5-8
junior Jennica Mecham (17.9 ppg, 5.0 rebounds). And Filer has plenty to prove
after an early 0-2 exit in the 2003 State 3A tournament.
"I think it will come down to Filer and us
in the district," Carnduff said. "Filer’s speed is always a threat."
But the Declo Hornets, with a new coach
and plenty of height, might have something to say about that. Like Wood River,
Declo returns a bunch of seniors led by Meagan and Melissa Webb. And the Gooding
Senators will be much improved in 2003-04.
The SCIC runner-up Buhl Tribe, always
tough at the state tournament, might be a little down after losing 6-0 Sherry
King, now playing for the College of Southern Idaho. The Kimberly Bulldogs are
the SCIC dark horse.
On the 20-game regular-season schedule,
Wood River has dropped a handful of 2A schools and upgraded to a much tougher
schedule with four new 4A opponents. "We’ll start off with hard opponents," the
Before November is done, Wood River will
have played Vallivue of Caldwell (this Saturday’s road opener), Bonneville of
Idaho Falls (next Tuesday’s home debut), Mountain Home and Hillcrest of Idaho
Returning to coach the Wood River junior
varsity is Mark Sauvageau.
Juniors on the JV are Laura Johnson and
Sydney Leopold. Sophomores are Charlene Fields, April Levasseur, Jamie Stone,
Cassie Rushton, Jackie Safran and Hannah Richards. The freshmen on junior
varsity are Kristen Miniard and Kelsey Lidstrom.
Head coach Carnduff said the Wood River
junior varsity team should be the strongest in many years.
The new Wolverine freshman coach is
Jennifer Boatwright, wife of Wood River’s boys’ basketball assistant coach Jim