The first two weeks of the 2018-19 Idaho high school boys basketball season have come and gone. The Post Register looks at each classification in District 6 — including teams and players to watch this upcoming winter.
The largest conference in District 6 sees two classic, historically well-known rivals lead at the top: Rigby and Madison.
A year after finishing as the number one seed out of 5A District 5-6, Madison returns with a 10-man rotation and solid senior class looking to help one of east Idaho’s best programs return to its fourth-straight state tournament appearance.
Under second-year coach Travis Schwab, the Bobcats return most from their 5A consolation championship team last season. Players like Spencer Hathaway, Jordan Porter, Jaden Schwab, Mason McWhorter, Bohlder Murray and Kyle Jackson will look to improve on a Bobcat offense that averaged 63 points per game and won 11-straight games at one point last winter.
“Dude, if you told me by the end of the weekend, we would be 3-0, I would of been like, ‘No,’” said Schwab, smiling, last Saturday.
Schwab’s coached the Bobcats to a 4-0 start — including a three-game sweep of three Boise teams — as of Thursday evening.
In Madison’s way is resurgent Rigby. Coming off a six-win season, the Trojans have already reached half of last season's win total.
The Trojans will use skilled juniors and varsity veterans like Wyatt Taylor, Tanoa Togiai, Tagg Olaveson, Keegan Thompson, Britton Berrett and Brycen Uffens to reach their first state tournament since 2016 and first at the 5A level.
With Togiai and Brycen Uffens controlling the paint, the Trojans have a variety of shooters who can beat teams from beyond the 3-point line.
“The positive vibe from the group,” Rigby coach Justin Jones said Tuesday after the program beat Skyline, 60-45. “They’re hungry. They want to go out and win and they work hard in practice and like I said earlier, that team chemistry is there. They’re fighting for each other.”
Thunder Ridge — like in all sports this year — will look to create consistency and culture in its inaugural season.
Players like Kaysen Toldson, Dalton Cook and Lloyer Driggs will look to give stability to first-year coach Lee Toldson.
The Titans (0-3) have averaged 48 points per game so far this season.
5A District 6 players to watch:
Spencer Hathaway, Madison
Tanoa Togiai, Rigby
Lloyer Driggs, Thunder Ridge
With Bonneville and Hillcrest moving down to the 4A classification and Shelley moving up, 4A District 6 has quickly become one of the most competitive and most difficult conferences to analyze.
Bonneville — while losing All-Area player Dillon Sorenson and two years removed from its 2017 5A state consolation championship — will have players like Jamison Trane, Randon Hostert and Riley Judy return to help keep it competitive.
The Bees won just five games a season ago, but the consensus is that they will improve from last winter.
While Bonneville looks to improve with a solid core back from last year's team, Hillcrest loses a plethora of seniors that helped the Knights reach last year’s 5A state title game.
Derek Marlowe, Jaxon Weatherly and Trey Johnson graduated.
Hillcrest coach Dave Austin said the Knights' one returning starter, Kyle Austin, will look to get the Knights back to the state tournament.
Alongside Austin: Parker Boyle and Bryce Cook, who received some varsity playing time a year ago.
“For us, it’s a completely different group, maybe not as athletic as a year ago, so it will boil down to communication and effort,” Austin said. “I think we got a good group who gets along with each other, but it will just be about communicating and how much effort we give.”
The Knights are 1-3 as of Thursday evening.
For the 4A teams that stayed put during the new classification cycle, local coaches say Idaho Falls may be the team to beat.
The Tigers return All-Area point guard Kalvin Bowen and multiple seniors like Andrew Gregersen, Paul Wilson and Cam Conrad.
The Tigers (1-1) will look to hold off D-91 rival Skyline, which returns Jo Bates and Cruz Taylor from its 10-13 team a winter ago.
“We’re super unknown,” Skyline coach Clint Cornish said. “We wanna get as good on defense as we possibly can. I think coaches say that, but we’ve been working on it since day one. I don’t think we’ve spent more than an hour on offense. We’re really are trying to work hard on defense because a lot of offensive stuff is known and we’ve ran for a long time — yeah, we run tweaks and stuff and wrinkles sometimes so we’re a little bit illusive that way — but man, we really want to defend. ... We’re athletic and long.”
The Grizzlies (0-1) will pride themselves on defense this upcoming winter in hopes of improving on a 10-13 record a year ago.
“I think if you took a straw poll right now, you have to say I.F.,” Cornish said. “Because Century left … they bring a lot of guys back. They’re going to be tough.”
Blackfoot returns two starters from a year ago, the Idaho State Journal reported.
With Dexter Hale, Reece Robinson and a nine-player rotation, the Broncos (1-1) will look to improve on a 7-16 record a year ago.
Finally, for Shelley, the 3A-to-4A upgrade will see one of the smallest schools in 4A join one the toughest conferences.
The Russets, coach Wally Foster said, will be playing small ball.
In a mostly drive-and-kick, guard-oriented offense that will see players like Wyatt Remington, Jake Wray and Corey Killpack try to get Shelley into the 4A state tournament, Foster said he expects his team to still be in the mix late in the season.
“No question, we have our hands full,” Foster said after Shelley lost to Preston at home to open the season. “It’s going to be a learning curve — little bit more physical and higher above the rim, I honestly think we got a pretty good shoot. I don’t think any team is going to dominate.”
4A District 6 players to watch:
Kalvin Bowen, Idaho Falls
Jo Bates, Skyline
Jamison Trane, Bonneville
Wyatt Remington, Shelley
Dexter Hale, Blackfoot
Kyle Austin, Hillcrest
With Shelley gone, 3A District 6 becomes a three-way race for one state tournament spot.
Sugar-Salem has recent history on its side — the Diggers have reached back-to-back 3A state tournaments — and with Shelley gone, a new district champion will emerge for the first time since 2017.
“We’re just trying to get everybody in their role and to accept those roles,” Sugar-Salem coach Shawn Freeman said Wednesday. “You know, just try and keep kids to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves."
The Diggers (3-1) return multiple players from from last year’s 3A consolation championship team, including Curtis Drake, Hadley Miller, Sam Parkinson and Kyler Handy. They added Gerohm Rihari — who transferred from Bonneville after his junior year. The Diggers have been voted by coaches and media as one of the best 3A teams in the state.
Sugar-Salem will utilize close to a 10-man rotation, similar to years prior.
“Teton is going to be tough,” Freeman said. “South is huge, as we’re all built different. We’re probably the smallest out of the three. Teton has some good bigs and tough kids.”
For South Fremont, the Cougars will look to improve upon a 6-16 season a year ago in hopes of making their first state tournament appearance since 2016.
The Cougars are on a 0-2 start, but play a variety of 2A teams — Firth, Salmon, West Jefferson, Ririe — to keep competition fresh.
Players like Kyler Yancey, Tagg Bair and Nick Hammond return. Bair had 23 points during Tuesday’s loss to Ririe.
Finally for Teton, it will see returns like Fletcher Wartig, Luke Thompson, Dusty Hess, Satchel Heinen and Hyrum Heuseveldt come back to help it improve on a 4-20 record a season ago.
Teton was voted second the 3A Mountain Rivers Conference coaches poll, sandwiched between Sugar-Salem (first) and South (third).
“It’s always a learning experiences and you just gotta compute all that comes your way and do the best you can,” Freeman said.
3A District 6 Players to watch:
Hadley Miller, Sugar-Salem
Tagg Bair, South Fremont
Kyler Yancey, South Fremont
Luke Thompson, Teton
Ririe has one of the best players in the region — if not, the state — with center Michael Ure.
A 6-foot-7 sharpshooter who has helped the Bulldogs reach back-to-back state title games the last two seasons, Ure will look to help Ririe win its first boys basketball state title since 1990.
The Bulldogs (4-0) have looked the part early on, beating Aberdeen by 30-plus points and 3A Teton by three.
Ure has scored 22, 36, 34 and 18 points during the Bulldogs’ first three games this season.
“We’ve played for the state championship — that all elusive state championship — and I think we would feel let down, myself included, if we don’t win the state title,” Ririe coach Eric Torgerson said.
Competing against Ririe in a stacked Nuclear Conference are North Fremont and Firth teams loaded with talent.
Garrett Hawkes and the Huskies, with new coach Shannon Hill, have started the season 1-1 (as of Thursday evening) and as one of the preseason favorites in the Nuke. The Huskies return every starter from last year’s 2A state tournament qualifying team.
Firth, meanwhile, starts the season 2-1 and return six players from last year’s 12-win team, like Grayson Nelson, Colton Mecham and Ben Park.
“I think we have a legitimate chance to do really well,” coach Art Polson told Michael Guise at the Idaho State Journal.
As in most sports, the Nuclear Conference remains one of the most competitive, parity-filled conferences in the state.
Salmon, with new coach Ray Wood, and West Jefferson should be in the mix, too. Salmon is 1-2 to start the season, the first time it has recorded a win within its first two games since 2015.
Dave Hadley returns in Terreton to coach a Panthers team that went 10-13 a year ago. Seniors Dalton Robins and Dillon Jacobs return to a Panther team looking to return to state for the first time since 2016.
“I don’t think you can look past West or Firth or anyone,” Torgerson said. “Anyone could knock us out — anyone can knock you out if you’re aren’t on your ‘A’ game.”
1A — regardless of conference — sees some new faces this year in a competitive classification.
First-year Watersprings coach Scott Moe takes over a Warriors team led by senior Landon Bowman.
Bowman is coming off a 20-point performance Wednesday for the Warriors, who will look to keep up with a crowded Rocky Mountain Conference that includes Mackay (picked first in the preseason coaches poll), Rockland, North Gem, Leadore, Grace Lutheran, Sho-Ban and Clark County.
"I’m just the new guy on the block, as I'm learning as we go, but I think Mackay is the top team,” Moe said Wednesday after Watersprings beat Butte County, 49-40.
“He's our floor leader, our floor general,” Moe said of Bowman.
Leadore was picked fifth in the Rocky Mountain coaches’ poll while Clark County was picked eighth.
Jakoda Whitworth and Caleb Green are among those who return to the mix for the Miners, who are 2-1 as of Thursday evening.
The Miners return all their starters from last year's state tournament team.
"We're looking pretty good right now," Mackay coach Kelvin Krosch said Thursday.
Butte County, which rejoins 1A Division I this season after two years in 1ADII, also has a new coach at the helm in Radley Gamett.
Gamett takes over a Pirates crew that went 18-7 a year ago and is trying to win its first state title since 2013.
Gamett said Wednesday that this year will be a work in progress for a Butte County team that returns two players from last year: Bridger Hansen and Brady McAfee.
Butte County will look to gain one state tournament seed in a conference that includes Grace, Challis and new program Taylor’s Crossing.
Challis returns seven seniors from last year’s team, including Mitch Cotant, Ross Sheppeard, Parker May and Garrett Millick.
Taylor’s Crossing’s athletic department could not be reached by press time.
“In our conference, it’s going to be a dog fight for that one state berth,” Challis coach Jerrod Farr said. “There’s a good bunch of teams in our conference.”