Everybody is gunning for Richfield this winter in the Idaho 1A girls' basketball ranks but that's okay with Tiger coach Steve Kent because Richfield (26-1) is the defending state champion. And the Tigers hail from a very tough girls' conference, the Northside.
Carey High School and The Community School of Sun Valley are card-carrying members of the Northside and they take their lumps each year against the likes of Richfield, 2005 state champion Shoshone and 1999 state winner Dietrich. But the Blaine County girls become better players along the way.
The 2007-08 prep girls' basketball season kicked off in the last few days for Idaho schools—Carey debuting Tuesday at Oakley and The Community School getting started Saturday at Hansen. Here's a preview of the two local teams:
Second-year coach Lane Durtschi and junior varsity coach Vee Peterson have welcomed 16 players on the varsity and JV teams. Last year's Panthers were 11-10 and won two games in the six-school Northside tournament at Dietrich.
One senior graduated from Carey and she was a good one, leading scorer Allison Shaffer (14.3 ppg with 300 of Carey's 977 points). The rangy 5-11 forward was a force on the boards and in the scorebook. She tallied a school record 38 points last Jan. 19 against Camas County.
"We'll miss Allison," said Durtschi. "But if the girls will go in, box out and get a little physical, I think they can be a good team. I know they're athletic and willing to put forth the effort. By the end of the year I expect our inside game will be one of our strengths."
Very young last winter, the Panthers return a pair of All-Conference first teamers in senior Jennifer Cenarrusa and sophomore Jessica Parke.
Cenarrusa (6.8 ppg) has been voted co-captain along with the team's other senior, Kendra Olson. Last year Parke (9.6) was the second-high scorer for Carey (46.5 ppg).
Sophomore Amy Ellsworth (3.0 ppg) is a promising player who gained experience on last year's varsity and also on the Carey JV team that won the Northside Conference tourney 29-25 over Shoshone.
She capably handles the ball and 5-6 Parke is also versatile inside-and-outside threat.
Durtschi said, "Jess has no fear. She'll go in there and get rebounds. She's a real hustler. I expect good things from Amy, too. She makes good decisions. And Kayla (Bailey) will be one of the tallest players in the conference this year."
Bailey (2.9 ppg) is a 5-11 junior. Other juniors are Kelsey Green (6.1 with 15 3-pointers), Shelby Hansen, Emilee Butcher, Chelsey Hunt and Ashley Harshbarger. The other Panther sophomores are Jennifer Murphy and Taylor Whitby.
Community School Cutthroats
Cutthroat 11th-year coach Ryan Waterfield (58-95) and her third-year assistant Willy Felton have 14 players on this year's team with five seniors.
It would have been six seniors, only last year's leading scorer Cody Curran (9.5 ppg) is out for the season with a knee injury she suffered in soccer. And senior Amaya Ingram (8.2 ppg) isn't on the 2007-08 roster.
Waterfield said, "We're sad and disappointed about the loss of Cody, but she's still coming to every practice (unless she's at rehab) to support the team."
Still, the Cutthroats (3-12) have quite a bit of experience.
The seniors are 5-5 guard/forward Jessie Curran (5.7 ppg), 5-7 guard/forward Emily Eshman (3.8), 5-10 center Caroline Fairchild (6.3), 5-5 forward Jean Montgomery and 5-8 forward Hannah Hennessy (out with a broken wrist).
"We have some strong senior leadership. They have set a good, intense tone in practices so far," said Waterfield.
5-5 junior guard Marin Shepardson and 5-7 sophomore guard/forward Erica Eshman will provide speed. Also swinging between varsity and JV are 5-10 sophomore center Kayla Cloud and 5-8 freshman forward/center Natalie Goddard.
Waterfield said, "Junior Marin Shepardson is going to be a major contributor—her defense is looking great."
Junior varsity players include 5-10 junior forward Sylvie Krekow, 5-9 sophomore forward Austin Nalen, 5-7 sophomore forward Maggie Flood, 5-7 freshman forward Chelsea Cloud and 5-1 freshman guard/forward Freya Dickey.
The coach said, "I'm proud of the work these young ladies have put in. They are excited for the season and so are Willy and I."