This season’s all-area coach of the year selection could have gone several ways.
Sugar-Salem and North Fremont won back-to-back state titles in 3A and 2A, respectively; meaning Shawn Freeman and Shannon Hill are obviously doing something right.
After an historic run to a 4A state title last season, Howard Hart had a new-look Idaho Falls team that breezed through the 4A District 6 regular season unbeaten and earned a return trip to the state tournament.
Rigby’s Justin Jones had the best team in the area, and despite a loss in the state tournament opener, still finished the season with an impressive 25-2 record.
Scott Moe had just five players at Watersprings – he dubbed them the Fab 5 – and yet the Warriors finished with a winning record and made a run in the district tournament.
This year’s Post Register All-Area Coach of the Year however is Cody Shelley of Blackfoot.
With a month left in the season, Blackfoot might have been under the radar as teams started to position themselves for the postseason, but the Broncos finished strong and beat defending champion Idaho Falls twice in the district tournament to win their first tournament title since 1991 and earn a state berth for the first time since 2009.
“He pushed all the right buttons,” Bonneville coach John Tucker said.
Area coaches noted a change in the Broncos’ four-guard system freed up Reece Robinson on the wing and allowed Jett Shelley and Isiah Thomas do be more productive. Forwards Jayden Wistisen and Carter Layton did their parts as forwards.
“What he did was he was able to navigate that ship even when it was headed into rocky waters,” Madison coach Travis Schwab said, noting the Broncos had a losing record midway through the season. “He kept it going. He righted the ship.”
“I think he got them playing at the right time,” Thunder Ridge coach Lee Toldson added. “You tell your team it doesn’t matter what you do at the beginning, it’s what you do at the end and who’s playing the best at the end.”
Toldson also mentioned the importance of chemistry. Shelley noted that several players were on the football team that made a run to the state championship game, so it might have taken more time for everyone to get in basketball mode.
“Once the kids realized nothing is handed to them and even though you might be a senior-laden team with expectations, you still have to go out and prove it,” Shelley said. “Once the kids bought into that and got their legs under them they were tough after the new year and the last three weeks of the season.”