Since returning to the 4A ranks for competition in 2017, the Emmett girls basketball team has been knocking on the door of the top level of the Southern Idaho Conference but have been unable to break through.
If the team that first-year coach Amos Lee puts on the court this winter is able to get over the hump and earn a State 4A tournament berth, it will be because the work ethic his three seniors have exhibited will have infected an otherwise youthful roster.
“We don’t have a lot of seniors to build around,” Lee said. “But the three we do have are really setting an example about what it takes to get better.”
The Huskies have been noted for the past four seasons for a terrific outside shooting threat — in either or both Gemma LaVergne and Jazzy Jenkins. LaVergne graduated two seasons ago and Jenkins, an All-SIC first team selection graduated this past May. Jenkins unseated LaVergne as the Emmett career three-point shooter.
That could leave a major hole to fill but Lee sees a team chemistry developing that might just create a broader array of weapons, both inside and out.
“I think basketball has become a two position game any more,” Lee said. “Basically two guards and three stretch forwards. Pretty rare to find a true center anymore.”
To that formula Lee is able to apply his three seniors.
Kamryn Alder is back at a point guard position. She has terrific quickness, can push the pace at the offensive end of the court and torment opposing guards on the defensive end.
“Kamryn really embraced the shooting challenge I gave them this summer,: Lee said. “She logged over 20,000 shots in the 100-day off season and it really shows.”
Fellow seniors Layci Andrews and Trinity Sammons also took up the challenge, each pushing past the 15,000 shot marker. Sammons will likely play off guard and Andrews, an All-SICS honorable mention last year, will be a contributor outside the arc and in the paint.
Lee brings 25 years of coaching experience into this first year with the Huskies. He coached in Cascade last year while commuting from his home in Eagle. “Needed to get closer to the family,” he said about the decision to change teams.
He has coached varsity teams in Nevada and at Meridian High in the past. His philosophy is uptempo pushing the basketball on offense and harassing on defense. He’s a stickler for fundamentals of the game with an emphasis on “blocking out, holding body position without reaching on defense and using the glass.”
Beyond his seniors Lee has a junior transfer from Oregon — Hailey Stevenson — and returning sophomore Kylie Brown. The pair could become a true double threat in the paint but both also have an outside shot that can’t be ignored.
That’s the depth of varsity experience to start with. The balance of the team is all sophomores and freshman which is both a challenge and a promise.
“The rest of the team has good size, quite athletic, very quick and very coachable,” Lee said. “If they can continue to develop their fundamentals and their on-court saavy we could have a lot more depth in the second half of the season.”
That depth will be vital if the Huskies want to break through the seeming glass ceiling in the 4A ranks. Middleton and Columbia took the District III seats at the State tournament. Second-seeded and perennial power Bishop Kelly was eliminated by Emmett in the third-round at Districts.
The Huskies have consistently been in the middle of the pack during the season the last few years and have threatened to steal one of the State berths or reach a play-in game three seasons in a row.
Lee sees Middleton and BK the top threats again but he feels that most of the rest of the teams have one or two very talented players and then a possible lack of depth.
“Most of the teams will be like us,” Lee said. “Who improves week after week as a team unit will be who gets a chance to break through in February.”
The Huskies start the season at home in non-league match up with Homedale on Tuesday. Then they travel to Parma on Thursday before hosting Canyon Ridge of Twin Falls in a Saturday matinee to conclude their pre-Thanksgiving schedule. SIC play will hope at home against Columbia on Nov. 30.