Take a look at Rigby’s girls basketball roster this season.
Look a little closer.
You’ll notice something unique: The team features nine seniors.
“I’ve never had that many,” head coach Troy Shippen said. “Ever.”
That represents tremendous news for the Trojans on its face, of course. They’ll have experience. Chemistry. Familiarity. Teams usually feel fortunate with four or five seniors a year. Rigby has nearly double that.
Still, for the Trojans, the best part about having nine seniors involves unfinished business. Last season, Rigby advanced to the 5A state tournament, only to drop two straight games.
For that reason, having nine seniors may benefit Rigby in a way the team hasn’t experienced before.
“They’ve been playing a lot of basketball this summer,” Shippen said. “Even though we had covid, they’ve been trying to find places to play. They’re anxious to get back and see if they can get back there again.”
Unfortunately for Shippen and the Trojans, that comment proved prescient. On Thursday, Rigby postponed its season opener, a Saturday road matchup with Skyline, because of COVID-related issues. Officials are working to find a replacement date.
Instead, if all else goes to plan, Rigby will open the season Thursday on the road against Hillcrest.
The good news for the Trojans is that they figure to have the roster to survive missed dates like these.
The three key cogs will be Tylie Jones, Brooke Donnelly and Hallie Boone, three seniors who offer versatility and experience. They’re competitors, Shippen said, which is important because they’re tasked with replacing one of the team’s best players in Ruby Murdoch. She graduated in May and joined the women's team at Wenatchee Valley in Washington, leaving leadership responsibilities at the feet of that trio.
We can learn more about them by examining their recent experience.
Last season, Jones returned from a knee injury in time for Rigby’s first game of the 5A District 5-6 tournament, a win over Madison. She tallied 11 points.
Donnelly fashions herself more as a marksman. In the Trojans’ opening game of last year’s 5A tournament, a loss to Rocky Mountain, Donnelly connected on three triples in a three-minute span, kicking off a 13-0 run that helped her team capture an early lead.
Boone’s story is a tad different. A point guard, Boone underwent offseason knee surgery, but she’s back practicing now.
“Hopefully she’ll get it 100% soon,” Shippen said.
If so, everyone involved with the Trojans’ operation likes their chances of returning to the state tournament, especially considering the way their two games went last season.
Their opponents, Shippen said, shot something like 70% from distance.
“We had some bad breaks there,” Shippen said. “The girls are anxious to get back.
“A big part of our team is going to be learning our roles and learning how to play with each other, because we do have a lot of girls. A big challenge is going to be having everybody play their roles, play team basketball.”
For Rigby, the challenge resides in doing so against what Shippen called a “loaded” 5A District 5-6.
He complimented league rivals Thunder Ridge, Highland and Madison, calling the league “open” and insisting several teams will compete for the league crown.
Does that make things more fun? More intriguing?
“Depends on who you talk to,” Shippen said with a laugh. “If you want to win, it makes you nervous, you know? It makes it a more interesting league. Anybody can win it, so it makes it a lot more interesting.”