Ririe High School
Conference: 2A Nuclear Conference
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Head Coach: Damien Smith
Years as Head Coach: 9th Season
Previous Experience: JV/Freshman boys coach at both Ririe/Shelley
Record Last Year: 9-19
Haddi Williams, Post, 12
Ashley Larsen, Post, 12
Kaylee Brown, Guard, 12
Cassidy Griffith, Guard, 12
Audrey Ulrich, Post, 12
Returning Players with Honors:
Haddi Williams: 1st Team All-Conference, 1st Team All-State
Key Players lost from last year:
Savanna Gamett, Guard
Incoming impact players:
Maddie Johnson, Point Guard, Sophomore
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
A stone cutter’s work isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of time. It takes a great deal of effort. And it takes many small, calculated, precise adjustments and cuts in order to achieve the desired outcome.
The Ririe girls basketball team is using a stone cutter’s work as an analogy to their season in 2016-17. They, too, want to achieve a desired outcome – one that has eluded them through four consecutive trips to the state tournament – a championship. The phrase “Pound The Rock” will echo throughout the Ririe gymnasium all season long.
The Bulldogs have become one of the most consistent teams in the consistently unpredictable Nuclear Conference. And for head coach Damien Smith, now in his ninth season leading the Bulldogs, he says he’s come to one conclusion about the wackiness of his conference:
“You either love to coach or you’re an idiot to coach in our conference,” he said with a chuckle. “Our conference is a nightmare night-in and night-out.”
That unpredictability is what makes watching Nuclear Conference girls basketball so much fun. It’s a high quality product while never feeling like one team is a clear favorite – ANYTHING can happen.
Smith anticipates his team being in the running once again this season. Ririe returns First Team All-State forward Haddi Williams to the team for her senior season, along with senior guards Cassidy Griffith and Kaylee Brown, and senior forwards Ashley Larsen and Audrey Ulrich. Sophomore point guard Maddi Johnson will also help in a supporting role.
The coach added that health is going to be a big factor for them this season. They’ve already been hit hard as Williams is sidelined until after Christmas with a broken wrist.
The Bulldogs will be without the services of the now-graduated Savanna Gamett, who was an integral part of Ririe’s success over the last four years.
“Savanna was a three-year starter and had played in four state tournaments and two state championship games,” Smith said. “We will greatly miss her experience and leadership.”
One thing that teams will see when facing Ririe this season (much like they have in previous seasons) is a lot of three-point shots. A LOT of them.
“I don’t know if it’s a strength for us, but we love to shoot the three!,” said Smith through a smile. “We have a lot of shooters… and we will wait and see if we have any makers.”
The coach noted that there were improvements needed for his crew on offense, including scoring per possession, offensive rebounding, and turnovers.
“Hopefully we don’t turn the ball over nearly as much this year,” he said.
Defensively, Smith said that his team would need to play with a better effort collectively as a team.
“We’re small at every position,” he said. “We’ll need to play great team defense this season. It will be a collective effort to try and put some wins together.”
Ririe will have a bit of time to come together and prepare for their conference schedule. Their first conference game is December 13th at home against defending state champion West Jefferson.
“We are focusing on our conference games this year. All of them will be tough,” said Smith. “Our non-conference schedule should help prepare us – it’s a dream or a nightmare depending on how you look at it with Sugar-Salem, Teton, and the tournament in Parma on the schedule.”
Smith added that he is excited to watch the growth of his team as a whole and as individuals.
“I enjoy watching athletes grow as people. I love to watch athletes compete and to put everything on the line for their teammates. I also enjoy watching them learn what it means to be a good person,” he said. “I’d also love to win some games along the way too.”