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Basketball preview: Washington boys

Coach Rick Sloan’s Central Valley Bears are favored to win the Greater Spokane League this season. (File)
Coach Rick Sloan’s Central Valley Bears are favored to win the Greater Spokane League this season. (File)

Greater Spokane League

Outlook

Seemingly like it is every year, things should be competitive from start to finish. Central Valley is held in such high regard that despite the fact the Bears return zero starters, they’re given the nod to capture the league championship. The challengers could be many. Mead, Shadle Park, Lewis and Clark and Gonzaga Prep are in the mix. There’s a discernable divide between the upper half and lower half. … Ask CV coach Rick Sloan who are his potential starters and there’s a long pause. “Too early to know,” he said. Certainly 6-foot-4 Cameron Tucker (jr., g/f) will be in the lineup. He saw the most minutes off the bench last year. CV was dealt a big blow when wide body 6-6 junior Scott Peck had to have surgery to repair a broken bone in his ankle that’s nagged him for two years. He’s lost for the season. Sloan said he would have been the best post in the league. Sloan figures teams put the target on the Bears based on their summer play. The Bears will go as far as their defense takes them. “We could be a really good defensive team,” Sloan said. “We have some nice pieces and pretty good depth.” … Shadle Park brings back two starters in George Pilimai (sr., w) and Andreas Brown (so., g). Coach Tim Gaebe said any of his top eight could start. “We’ve got a good blend of old and young,” Gaebe said. “We have postseason experience and length. If we can just figure out how to play together and play for each other we’ll have a good season.” … Mead returns three starters. They are: Brandon Pettersen (sr., w), Max Hess (sr., g) and Will McPhee (sr., w). “Our overall athleticism is good which correlates well with our up-tempo, pressing style,” said Mead coach Glenn Williams, who begins his 17th season at Mead. “We want our defense to create offense. Based on what we have returning, we should be considered one of the favorites.” … A team that could surprise is Lewis and Clark. Jim Redmon, the Tigers’ longtime girls coach, takes over. LC returns three starters in Dom Oliveri (jr., p), Isaiah Hernandez (jr., g) and Malik Dixon (sr., g). Freshman Naje Smith (6-5, f) is considered the best freshman in the league. “On any night, anybody can get a win,” Redmon said. “You must bring it. The league is very balanced.” … Gonzaga Prep isn’t mentioned in the top three because the Bullpups return zero starters. Logan Adams (sr., g) and Nick Wood (sr., f) saw time off the bench. Braden Morse, a 6-7 junior transfer from Canada, helps give the Bullpups length. “This team will drastically change from Day One to the end of the season,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “There is a huge upside once it all comes together.” … Ferris also graduated all of its starters and brings back just two lettermen. Coach Don Van Lierop lists three sophomores and two freshmen among his key newcomers. “Season-long improvement as a team gains experience,” Van Lierop said. … Rogers returns three starters. They are: Robert Rucker (sr., g), KJ Hassett (jr., g) and Melik Hampton (sr., p). The Pirates have big goals and league coaches expect the Pirates to be much improved. “We are returning the majority of our players from last year,” Rogers coach Joel Soter said. “Speed and athleticism will be key to our success.” … University, which moves up to 4A, brings back two starters in Robert Little (sr., g) and Garrett Schmerer (sr., g). “It’s a pretty athletic group with good size,” Titans coach Garrick Phillips said. “Lots of new varsity players with the loss of a big senior class. The (junior varsity) was 17-1 with lots of lopsided wins. Will see if that success can carry over to the varsity.” … Mt. Spokane graduated four starters. Jacob Krantz (sr., w) is the lone returner and will miss part of the season recovering from an ankle injury, coach Dan Smith reports. Still, Smith is optimistic. “I expect us to be competitive and should be a factor in the 3As,” he said.

Great Northern League

Outlook

While two-time State 2A champion Pullman lost much to graduation, the Greyhounds are still expected to be in the mix. Clarkston and West Valley will make it a three-team tug of war. All of the all-league first team picks from a year ago graduated. … Four starters return at WV. They are: Brandon Ray (sr., w), Brennen Folkins (jr., w), Alex Hall, (jr., g) and Martin Herford (sr., g). “We have the potential to beat anyone in the league or lose to anyone in the league,” Eagles coach Jay Humphrey said. “It will entirely depend on the cohesiveness of our guys and if they want to put team success ahead of individual achievement.” … Clarkton, which took fourth at state, brings back two starters in CJ Johnson (sr., f) and Trevor Sperry (sr., f) along with four other lettermen. “The success and experience that we gained from last year’s season will help us,” Clarkston coach Justin Jones said. “We feel like we have six to seven starter-quality players, which allows us to fill positions effectively.” … Jason Wilson takes over for longtime coach Drew Vanderpool at East Valley. The Knights return three starters in Gabe Bancroft (sr., f), Tanner Jacobs (jr., g) and Terron Standifer (sr., g). “The kids really like and care about each other and that should serve us well as we discover who we are and what we can be considering our lack of experience,” Wilson said.

Northeast A League

Outlook

Can the NEA duplicate the depth of competitiveness in basketball that it saw in football? Coaches could only hope. Riverside and Lakeside shared the league title last year. Lakeside’s depth and athleticism has it tabbed the favorite this year. … Riverside brings back three starters. They are: Tyler Axtell (sr., g), a first team all-league selection, Andrew Kramer (sr., f) and Kevin Huggins (sr., p) along with four other lettermen. “We return four players that led us in scoring on different nights last year,” Riverside coach KC Ahrens said. “Last year we had a taste of success and the kids are hungry for more.” … Ryan Quigley (sr., w) and Cameron Gay (jr., g) were first team all-league picks for Lakeside last year. … Marty Jessett takes over at Freeman. The Scotties return three starters. They are: Jake Phipps (sr., g), Jack Paukert (jr., g) and Ryan Maine (so., g). “We are hoping to build on the momentum built at the end of last season when we beat the top two teams in the league,” Jessett said. … Newport graduated four starters and returns senior John Lyon along with five other letter winners. “We have a very balanced team,” Newport coach Steven Bryant said. “We played a lot of summer games and developed great team chemistry.” … Medical Lake brings back two starters – Cory Wagner (jr., g) and Tellas Johnson (sr., g), a first team all-league pick. Coach Arnold Brown said defense and athleticism will be the Cardinals’ strengths.

Northeast 2B

Outlook

With 11 teams after the additions of Wilbur-Creston, Kettle Falls and the newly combined Tekoa-Rosalia, the NE 2B decided to divide into two divisions, North and South. The North will have six teams – Northwest Christian, Davenport, W-C, Kettle Falls, Springdale and Reardan. The South will have five teams – Colfax, St. George’s, Liberty, Tekoa-Rosalia and Lind-Ritzville/Sprague. Each team will play teams in their respective division twice and each team in the other division once with all games counting in the league standings. District, which will be held at Reardan, will match up the top four teams from each division. … Interestingly, the way the shaping of the divisions shook out, the South will be the most competitive top to bottom. Liberty is picked to be the top team overall in the league, and the Lancers will be chased in the South by Colfax, St. George’s and LRS. In the North, NWC is tabbed as the runaway favorite. … W-C brings back four starters. They are: Colton Magers (sr., g/f), Nick Densely (sr., g/f), Dorian Jaeger (jr., g) and Garet Townsend (sr., p). Magers was a first team pick in the NE 1B last year. Coach Tom Johnson returns after taking eight years off. … NWC, with no seniors, returns one starter, Ryan Ricks (so., g). David Olds (jr., g) started nine games last year before an ankle injury cut short his season. Coach Ray Ricks says 3-point shooting, ability to penetrate and some experience will be the Crusaders’ strengths. … St. George’s, state champ two years ago and runner-up last year (29-1), brings back one starter in Cody Peplinski (sr., g). That doesn’t mean the Dragons don’t have some talent. Coach Ryan Peplinski listed seven potential starters including two freshmen. “We will have very good size and good depth,” Peplinski said. “I expect we will challenge late in the season if we stay healthy.” … Liberty returns league MVP Match Burnham (sr., g) and two others starters, Clay Fleming (sr., g) and Chase Burnham (so., g). … LRS has one starter back in Cort Ruzicka (sr., p) to go with five other lettermen. That gives the Broncos experience off a 25-5 team that placed fourth at state. They bring up a good core from an 18-1 junior varsity team, too. “We have quick guards and strong outside shooting,” LRS coach Dustan Arlt said. … Colfax returns all five starters. They are: Kasey Johnson (sr., g), Brent Becker (sr., f), Mark Webber (sr., g), Keith Gfeller (jr., g) and Danny Robinson (so., g). They also have six other lettermen. “We are bringing back five starters who went through some growing pains,” Colfax coach Reece Jenkin said. “We will compete hard.” … Reardan returns two starters in Daniel Peone and Brandan Reubon. The Indians welcome a new coach, Mark Bjerkestrand. He said Reardan will get out in transition.

Northeast 1B North

Outlook

Cusick is picked to defend its division title while Curlew and Selkirk figure to jockey for second and third. … Cusick returns four starters off a 12-0 league and 19-4 overall team. They are: Alec Bluff (sr., g/f), Chad Browneagle (sr., g/f), Tyson Shanholtzer (jr., g/f) and Cameron Bauer (sr., g). Browneagle was the MVP last year and Bluff a first team all-league pick. “We are very quick,” Cusick coach JR Bluff said. “Our returners are very knowledgeable about the game.” … Selkirk brings back three starters. They are: Dominic Cain (sr., w), a first team all-league pick, Cole Dawson (jr., p) and Logan Miller (jr., p). “We have the potential to have a very competitive team,” Selkirk coach Kelly Cain said. “We have a solid group of starters.”

Northeast 1B South

Outlook

Odessa-Harrington is favored to defend its division title in what is expected to be a competitive division. … O-H returns three starters. They are: Sam Schafer (sr., g), a first team all-league pick last year, and Caresen Weber (sr., g) and Shane Whitaker (sr., g) to go with five other lettermen. “We will struggle with some of our nonleague games against 2B teams, but it will make us better when we get to the playoffs,” Titans coach Travis Schuh said.

Southeast 1B

Outlook

Garfield-Palouse and Pomeroy finished tied atop the league last year and the Vikings are given the nod to edge the Pirates this season. The rest of the league figures to duke it out for district seeding. … Gar-Pal returns four starters. They are: Hunter Woltering (sr., p), Matt Holbrook (jr., g), Tyler Thurman (sr., g/w) and Mitch Jamison (sr., p). Holbrook and Thurman were first team all-league picks last year. The Vikings also return four other lettermen. “We have good team speed, good shooters and penetrators,” said Vikings coach Tim Coles, who begins his 27th season. “We have great depth and a lot of experience.” Coles said the question is will his team work hard to improve or relay on its present talent.

Compiled by Greg Lee, staff writer

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