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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 12 - 18, 2003


A final frontier is on Wood River’s horizon

Girls shoot for first state berth

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 tourney.

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 first time.

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 Alberdi.

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 discrepancies.

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 Syringa Stark.

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 coach said.

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 Falls.

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 Boatwright.




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