With one week left in the boys basketball regular season, it looks like the 4A District 6 race is shaping up like last season.
Idaho Falls is unbeaten in conference and playing well down the stretch. Coach Howard Hart said it’s always a challenge to play teams a second time around, and even harder playing a team a third time in the postseason.
“They’re going to try something different,” he said. “If they tried something different the second time around, they’re going to try something different the third time around. You just have to be ready for that.”
Idaho Falls will also have to overcome a slight jinx of playing on Saturdays. Three of the Tigers’ four losses have come in Saturday games, although two of those were to 5A Rigby and Madison.
A win over Skyline on Wednesday would clinch the top seed in the district tournament and a bye in the first round, which starts Feb. 18. Wednesday’s Blackfoot-Hillcrest game will likely determine the No. 2 seed, which also earns a first-round bye.
Trojans and Bobcats on course for repeat
Rigby and Madison seemed primed for another epic 5A District 5-6 tournament. Last year the teams played three times in the tournament, with Madison claiming the title 46-41.
Both teams still have to take care of business with two games remaining in the regular season, but Rigby already has the edge with last week’s 57-53 victory over Madison.
Rigby has plenty of weapons for the postseason, but the most overlooked may the passing of Tanoa Togiai. The 6-6 senior is adept at finding the open player near the basket if teams double-team him in the paint.
Sorenson following his future team
When Jaxon Sorenson committed last year to play baseball at Gonzaga, the Idaho Falls junior noted he’d always been a fan of the Bulldogs basketball program and admired the success the team has achieved. That success played a part in his decision to commit early to play baseball in Spokane.
Sorenson continues to be a huge fan and said he watches Gonzaga on television every chance he gets. He’s also closely following the baseball team.
Following Friday’s basketball game, Sorenson was quick to note that the Bulldogs were picked as the favorite in the West Coast Conference.
Skyline girls reach 4A District 6 semis again
A little more than a year ago, then No. 4 seeded Skyline knocked off No. 1 seeded and previously undefeated Bonneville in round two of the 4A District 6 girls basketball tournament.
The Grizzlies, seeded No. 3 this year, took down another higher-seeded team in the second round Thursday, defeating No. 2 Blackfoot 59-53 on the road.
Skyline head coach Ty Keck said the Grizz acknowledge the similarities to a year ago, but are drawing on the experience they gained.
“We have talked about that quite a bit, but not in terms of ‘We’ve gotta go make that happen again,’” Keck said. “We’ve been there. We know what to expect. We have five or six girls that were in these situations a year ago.”
Keck said shortly after strategizing for Thursday’s game, he checked his game plan for last year’s district tournament game versus Blackfoot, which was an elimination game. He did not notice much difference between his plan from a year ago to now.
He told the Grizzlies they needed to eliminate 10 points from Blackfoot’s Tenleigh Smith and Hadley Humpherys. Both of them ended the night with double-digit scoring totals, as did Isabelle Arave, but what propelled Skyline in a tight game was hitting 10 3-pointers. Half of those were in the first quarter.
“We spend a lot of time in practice working on our 3-point shot,” Keck said. “If I had been a fan, that would have been an exciting game to watch. I think the biggest lead was seven points.”
The win over Blackfoot sends Skyline (11-10) to Monday’s semifinal versus No. 1 Bonneville at Hillcrest High School. Like last year, the Bees are undefeated.
“As of right now, this is the most important game we’ve ever played,” Keck said of the Grizzlies’ mantra for each district game. “We’ve competed really well.”
Sugar-Salem girls in position to add to district title haul
Teton and Sugar-Salem meet in Monday’s 3A District 6 championship game at Madison High School for the third time in the last four years. The Diggers have won 10 of the last 12 district titles. Idaho’s two-time defending 3A state champion, Sugar-Salem has not lost to a conference opponent since January 2017. Furthermore, they have not lost to a 3A team since the 2017 state championship game. Teton’s last district title was in 2016 over Shelley, believed to be the school’s first girls basketball district title.
Sugar-Salem football players Thurber and Nead sign
Ever since Sugar-Salem alum Dylan Pope committed to the University of Montana Western two years ago, Digger safety Riley Thurber has felt connected to Montana Western. Despite their difference in age, Thurber and Pope bonded on the field and became good friends before Pope graduated and headed out to UMW.
“When I was a freshman, him and I got the chance to play with each other and he taught me about how to become a better player,” Thurber said. “Not only that, but how to become a better student at Sugar-Salem.”
Thurber joined Pope at UMW, signing his letter of intent on Wednesday.
He wasn’t the only Sugar-Salem player to sign.
Keayen Nead signed his letter of intent with Weber State.
He plans to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before he plays at Weber.
“Honestly, it’s taken a big weight off of my shoulders,” he said. “I know that I have a solidified future for the next six years planned out and I’m ready to go. I just have to get back on the grind and put in work and when I get back become the best student and player I can be.”
-Koster Kennard, Standard Journal