Cole Valley Christian vs Bear Lake Basketball

Cole Valley Christian guard Josh Cucchiari (3) looks to get by a Bear Lake defender during last year’s 2A state tournament.

The Idaho Press’ 2019-2020 boys basketball previews conclude with the 2A Western Idaho Conference.

It’s been a rough go-around for the league at the state level in recent years. Since it won back-to-back state championships in 2011 and 2012, no titles have followed and a team has only gotten out of the first round three times.

Can the conference reestablish itself?

Find out here.

COLE VALLEY CHRISTIAN CHARGERS

Coach: Brennan Koch

Last season: 17-8

State: Qualified.

Key players: Josh Cucchiari, sr., G; Hunter Gill, jr., G; Garrett Smith, jr., F

Notes: The Chargers are the last WIC team to win a state title, and have owned the league the last few years. They’ve won the last three conference championships and two district titles in a row. But if Cole Valley Christian is going to keep that impressive streak intact, it’s going to have to do so with an entirely new cast. It loses three All-WIC players, including last season’s Co-Player of the Year in Ricky Golenor, and six of its eight leading scorers. Cucchiari is the lone All-WIC holdover, but even he only averaged 4.8 points per game. The next best scorer back is Gill at just 3.3 ppg.

MARSING HUSKIES

Coach: Tim Little

Last season: 19-9

State: Qualified.

Key players: Jacob Ankeny, jr., C; Merreck Hall, sr., W; Joaquin Oliveros, sr., G

Notes: After years of being a bottom tier team, Marsing finally emerged in a big way last season. It qualified for state for the first time since former Chicago Bears and New England Patriots’ player Shea McLellin was there in 2007. It was also just the second time in 29 years the Huskies had been in the playoffs. And it doesn’t appear like it’s going to be another one off, either. While they do lose Co-Player of the Year in Enrique Quebrado, nine returners are back. The biggest of whom — figuratively and literally — is Ankeny, an All-WIC first-team selection from last season who stands at 6-foot-7.

MCCALL-DONNELLY VANDALS

Coach: Jason Tinney

Last season: 17-8

State: Did not qualify.

Key players: Peter Knudson, sr., G; Joel Meske, sr., C

Notes: The Vandals had the best season since 2011 last year. They finished second in the regular season. But McCall-Donnelly still missed out on the playoffs for the eighth straight season after losing a winner-to-state game to Marsing by one point. This came after the Vandals swept the Huskies during the regular season. So they should be plenty motivated this season. McCall-Donnelly will having Knudson, an All-WIC second-team selection last season, and Meske, a 7-footer, back.

MELBA MUSTANGS

Coach: Spencer Trappett

Last season: 11-13

State: Did not qualify.

Key players: Caleb Fong, sr., G; Joe Reiber, so., G; Henry Clark, jr., P

Notes: Following a run of five consecutive postseason appearances, including three straight district titles in a row, Melba has sat at home the last two years. But a resurgence could be coming in a big way for the Mustangs this season. They not only bring back their entire starting lineup, but nearly the entire team from a year ago as well. That group includes three All-WIC players in Fong (2nd), Reiber (HM) and Clark (HM), not to mention eight seniors. So it’s hard not to like Melba as the favorite this season.

NAMPA CHRISTIAN TROJANS

Coach: Nate Rex

Last season: 5-14

State: Did not qualify.

Key players: Rusty Vander Woude, sr., W; Joe Ihli, sr., P; Caden Yett, so., F

Notes: It was only a couple of seasons ago that the Trojans were perennial contenders year after year. They made four state tournament appearances and had at least 15 wins from 2014 to 18. Nampa Christian had its worst season in six years last season — and that was with nine seniors. The Trojans bring back just one starter and three returners overal. But their returning starter is a good one in Vander Woude, who was an All-WIC second-team pick a season ago. Ihli is a three-sport star who has been the Player of the Year in baseball and Yett, whose sister Megan is arguably the greatest volleyball player in school history, leads a talented sophomore group that includes six players.

NEW PLYMOUTH PILGRIMS

Coach: Jeff Lavender

Last season: 10-14

State: Did not qualify.

Key players: Jesus Valdez, sr., G; Derek Hampton, sr., F; Cooper Hicks, sr., F

Notes: The Pilgrims were the last team in the league to win a first-round playoff game in 2017. They haven’t been back since. New Plymouth has won a total of just 14 games in the last two years. But Lavender is optimistic his team can move out of the cellar this season. The Pilgrims are getting back a couple of key players who missed last year with torn ACLs in sophomore Casey Arritola and junior Tony Ray. They also have a good amount of experience coming back in Valdez, Hampton, Hicks and Charles Butler. Lavender know a thing or two about coaching, as well. He helped take the College of Idaho men’s basketball team to the NAIA Tournament as an assistant in 2017.

VISION CHARTER GOLDEN EAGLES

Coach: Kevin Cornwall

Last season: 9-9

State: Did not qualify.

Key players: Xzavier Perry, sr., G; Kaden Degner, sr., G; Erik Blair, sr., P

Notes: The Golden Eagles are league’s newest member this season. Before, they were an associate member of the IHSAA, meaning they couldn’t qualify for districts or state tournaments. Despite being a relatively new program, Vision Charter was a respectable 9-9 last season. And it does bring back a majority of those players this year. The Golden Eagles have six returners, but none of them are Xavier McDougall, their All-WIC player from a year ago who average more than 20 points per game.

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