Inland Empire League
In 5A, Coeur d’Alene won the league title last year under first-year coach and alum Kurt Lundblad, but Lake City captured the regional championship and Post Falls earned the other state berth. … Coeur d’Alene is favored to repeat as league champ and earn a state berth this year. In 4A, Lakeland and Sandpoint figure to challenge for the lone state berth. … CdA returns three starters – Tony Naccarato (sr., p/f), Colby Daniels (sr., g/f) and Devin Kluss (sr., g/f). Naccarato was a first team all-league pick last year. The Vikings will be short-handed at first with Daniels (ankle) and Kluss (knee) dealing with injuries. “The seniors coming back are a huge plus,” Lundblad said. “Once we get them healthy they should be the strength of this team. We have hard-working players who have great potential and should get better as the season goes on.” Lundblad expects his team’s perimeter shooting to be much improved. … Post Falls brings back two starters in Dalton Thompson (sr., g), a first team all-league selection, and Max McCullough (jr., g). Coach Mike McLean listed his team’s strengths as versatility, depth, speed, ability to defend and score. “We can play at a variety of speeds,” McLean said. “Our team is as deep as we’ve had since 2010.” … Lake City, which placed third at state last year, graduated all starters. A pair of 6-foot-6 posts, Quinn Mitchell and Nick Hancock, both seniors, are expected to anchor the tallest team coach Jim Winger has had in 18 years as a head coach. The Timberwolves will have just one player under 6-0. “We should be a strong rebounding team and half-court team,” Winger said. “We should improve as the year goes on.” … Lakeland brings back three starters. They are: Tyrel Derrick (sr., g), the MVP a year ago, Jake Ram (sr., g) and Jay Plunkett (sr., p). “We expect a very strong year,” Lakeland coach Dave Stockwell said. “We hope this is the year we get over the hump and make a trip to state, which hasn’t happened since 2004.” … Former CdA coach Kent Leiss takes over at Sandpoint. It is Leiss’ 25th year as a head coach. He spent 10 at CdA. Sandpoint’s top returners are Matt Timothy (sr., g), Cooper Spalding (sr., p), Dylan Kuzmich (sr., g) and Carlos Collado (sr., f). “Sometime during our season we will be a pretty good defensive team that gets up and down the floor and plays very hard,” Leiss said. “We should be able to wear teams down with our pressure and depth. Our expectation is to get to the state tournament and bring home a trophy.”
Kellogg is tabbed to capture the league championship in what could be a tightly contested season among the four teams. … Kellogg brings back three starters – Gus Colburn (sr., g), Tucker Gust (sr., f) and Heath Waechter (sr., f). Five other returners will battle for starting jobs. “We will play aggressive defense and run the floor,” Kellogg coach Jeff Lambert said. … Defending champ Timberlake graduated four starters. The Tigers return Vance Kistler (sr., g). “Our team is full of solid basketball players who are willing to do what is best for the team,” coach Tony Hanna said. “Although we don’t have much size, our team runs well at every position.” … Priest River returns zero starters. The Spartans lost one starter to transfer and another to injury. Nick Ivie takes over as head coach. “We have a talented young group of multisport athletes that can play a variety of positions,” Ivie said. “We definitely expect to be in the hunt for a state berth.” … Andy Rice takes over as head coach at Bonners Ferry. The Badgers return one starter in Wyatt Nelson (sr., p). “We do not have a lot of depth and we are young,” Rice said. “We can be very competitive, especially towards the end of the year, if we stay healthy and survive the long haul of the season.”
North Star League
Lakeside and Wallace finished one-two last year and a repeat of that finish could occur again. … Mullan returns three starters. They are: T.J. Placencio (sr., g), Dakota Dykes (sr., f) and Cody Johnson (sr., f). “Experience is strength. We have four guys that have played a lot of basketball the past couple of seasons,” Mullan coach Dan Fritz said. “We also have one of the top players, if not the top player, in the league in T.J. Placencio. We are lacking a true center so height will be a concern.”
Central Idaho League
Grangeville is favored to repeat but St. Maries hopes to challenge. … Coeur d’Alene Charter, after a 1-21 season and with a young team, has chosen to play a half varsity and half junior varsity schedule and won’t be part of the league. … St. Maries returns one starter in Logan Feasline (sr., p). Bryan Chase, the head girls coach for 10 years at St. Maries and an assistant previously with the boys, takes over as head coach. “We have a good blend of seniors and sophomores,” Chase said. “We will be able to press and run with certain lineups.”
Compiled by Greg Lee, staff writer
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