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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Nov 28 - Dec 4, 2001


Things are looking up for Wood River boys

Basketball season starts Thursday

Third-year coach Jeff Larson is doing plenty of looking up and looking ahead as the Wood River High School basketball program kicks into gear with 33 players on three teams.

He’s looking up because the Wolverine varsity, despite its relative youth, has excellent size. And Larson is looking ahead with enthusiasm because the team is coachable and has a solid work ethic.

Translating all those promising signs into victories is another thing, as the 31-year-old Larson (11-35) knows too well.

Last winter’s Wolverines won only three of their 23 games and didn’t win a league game until the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference tourney.

But Larson made a lot of progress as a coach in 2000-01. Wood River kept its focus, beat Filer in the tournament and nearly upset Gooding in overtime. This year’s Wood River teams are the beneficiaries.

They’ll take things a step at a time. On defense for example.

He said, "We’ve played almost exclusively a man-to-man in the past, but we’ll play a lot more zone—a 1-3-1 trap and 3-2 match-up. But it will take us a while to learn how to play it.

"At the beginning we’ll work real hard on our man. When we’re satisfied with the intensity in the man-to-man, we’ll move more toward the zone."

Rebounding has been Wood River’s Achilles heel since the last time the Hailey basketball program posted a winning varsity season, back in 1992.

Larson said he hasn’t had a true post player in his time as Hailey coach, but he has three in 6-4, 270-pound Jeff Bolton, 6-6 sophomore Jason Hofman and 6-4 junior Max Dieffenbach.

Bolton, a senior, is a co-captain along with seniors Matt Beck and Cole Everman. The fact that Bolton hasn’t played basketball since he was a freshman doesn’t faze Larson.

"Jeff has very good hands and feet for his size. He played basketball all summer and has showed a willingness to learn post moves. But the big thing about Jeff is his leadership on and off the floor," said Larson.

Bolton’s post presence frees up the 6-2 Beck (8.2 ppg last season) to shift into more of a power forward role. An All-SCIC honorable mention pick in 2001, Beck can do many things and seems to play better when something fires him up.

Larson said, "Beck can score inside and also has decent range shooting outside. I think he’ll be stronger rebounding for us this year.

"We want to take advantage of our size and go inside to Matt and Jeff. And we want to get to the free throw line."

Certainly the lack of free throw shooting contributed to the 15.7 ppg losing margin of last year’s squad. Wood River averaged only 13 trips to the charity stripe, making only 7.

To win in the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference, however, you have to make free throws and clear the glass. Until its sophomore outside shooters gain confidence, Wood River will hammer it inside.

Larson said, "Right now, we’re very structured, running a lot of sets and setting a lot of screens. We have guys down low who can go get the ball. And we have decent speed.

"It’s the old flex motion offense. We know what we want to get and we’ll keep running it until we get it. Basically, we want to get the ball inside and when they collapse on us, we’ll get it back outside to McIlhenny, Paisley and Everman."

Everman (3.0 ppg) is a key swing player, a 6-1 forward. "Cole is real solid and has a lot of desire. He’s not afraid to go inside and has a knack for getting to the ball," said Larson.

Hofman is a 6-6 youngster who still seems to be growing. His primary role will be rebounding, Larson said, and Everman will go to the boards as well. The other power forward is 6-1 junior Paul Tinker.

Wood River’s youth will be predominantly displayed at the guard positions with four sophomores—6-1 Dylan McIlhenny and 5-9 Joe Paisley at the point, and 6-0 Matt Pruett and 5-11 Brian Ward as #2 guards/small forwards.

The Hailey squad will miss the outside shooting of All-SCIC guard Sky Wolfe, who tallied 633 points (9.3 ppg) in his 68-game varsity career.

This year, Wood River has added 4A schools Jerome and Burley to its schedule and has subtracted 3A Salmon, 3A Middleton and the two-day McCall Christmas tournament.

It will be the first time Wood River has played Jerome since 1998. Larson said, "We’ll eventually be in Jerome’s league and we want to start getting used to it right away."

The Declo Hornets entered last year’s State A-2 tournament with the SCIC title and a 23-0 record then bowed out with losses to eventual state champion Preston and state consolation winner Lakeland.

Larson expects Declo to be the clear SCIC favorite this season, with Kimberly not far behind. Declo nipped Kimberly 50-46 in the SCIC championship game last Feb. 21 in Twin Falls.

He said, "Another team that will be decent is Gooding (10-13). They have their big kids back. And Buhl always knows how to compete. Filer has a new head coach this year."

Declo and Kimberly are the favorites in the race for the SCIC’s two automatic berths to the State 3A tournament, but the other four teams in the league are very close, he added.

"Any of the rest of the teams in the league behind Declo and Kimberly could finish anywhere," Larson said.

Wood River opens its 20-game 2001-02 campaign Thursday, Nov. 29 with non-league games at Glenns Ferry.

On the junior varsity coached by Steve Anderson are Dylan Welcome, Kent Daniels, Christian Ostrom, Scott Bohrer, Jake Chaney, Luiz Ruiz, Tory Haavik, Jeremy Selcho, Riley Neff and Tyler Brown.

The "C" team coached by Sharon Castle features all freshmen—Brady Femling, Dylan Fullmer, Philip Bradshaw, Sam Rodriguez, Dustin Hollenbeck, Jonathan Dittmer, Craig Werley, Tyler Thiede, Mike Hess, Ted Dankanyin, Chris Santiago, Billy Kramer and Jess Matey.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.