2A Central Idaho League
Written by: Jake Caccavaro
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Eli Gibson, St. Maries
Tristan Nelson, St. Maries
Randi Becktel, St. Maries
Brett Stancil, St. Maries
Coleman Ross, St. Maries
The 2A Central Idaho League will be a two-way race for dominance, with defending CIL champion St. Maries trying to fend off Grangeville for the top spot.
St. Maries should be a force again, just a year removed from placing third in the 2A state tournament. The Lumberjacks will return all five starters from last year in guards Eli Gibson, Brett Stancil and Coleman Ross, and posts Tristan Nelson and Randi Becktel.
Once again, the Lumberjacks will live up to their mascot; St. Maries is huge. Ross, Gibson and Stancil stand at 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3, respectively, and the twin towers down in the post are even bigger; Becktel checks in at 6-foot-4 and Nelson is an inch taller, standing 6-foot-5.
That size is going to be huge, literally, for a St. Maries team that can frustrate teams all game long with the length of its perimeter defenders and smother any potential inside scoring with the sheer size of its two big posts.
[Our] posts have decent outside range and ball handling skills,” said seventh-year head coach Bryan Chase. “Keys will be more spacing on offense … more of a four- or five-out offense.”
The Lumberjacks aren’t just returning their starters from last year, though. St. Maries also has five returners who will be coming off the bench. A veteran-laden team, 2020-21 could finally be the year St. Maries breaks through and wins the 2A state championship game.
“Full court pressure will be key,” Chase said. “Shooting the ball consistently will ultimately determine our fate. We had one bad shooting night at state last year where we really forced tough shots.”
For the last six years, St. Maries has been the living embodiment of the phrase “close but no cigar.” The Lumberjacks have reached the 2A state semifinals each of the last six years, even reaching the championship game in 2018-19 but falling short.
With a battle-tested starting five, size that would rival most 5A teams and rotation depth that will be key to staying fresh and keeping everyone healthy, St. Maries is the overwhelming favorite to win the CIL again and anything short of a state championship game appearance might wind up a disappointment.
Headlining the challenge to St. Maries in the CIL is Grangeville. Last year, the Bulldogs made it to the state tournament, easily dispatching Delco in the state play-in game before falling to North Fremont 45-35 in the first round.
Ultimately, though, mounting any serious challenge to St. Maries will be a tough ask. The Bulldogs lost five players to graduation from last year’s state tournament squad, and with the veteran leadership and experience of St. Maries, it might be too much.
If Grangeville is going to make some noise in the CIL and qualify for the state tournament again, it’s going to need to improve its lackluster offense, which ultimately doomed it last year.
The Bulldogs failed to crack 50 points in any of their final six games last year, with the low point being back-to-back 35- and 37-point outings in two state tournament losses to North Fremont and Malad.
Likely confined to the CIL basement again this year is Orofino. First-year head coach Rocky Barlow inherits a Maniacs team that went 8-15 last year, including closing out the season by losing eight of its final 11 games.
Similar to Grangeville, a lack of consistent scoring plagued Orofino last year as well. The Maniacs failed to crack the 40-point mark in their last four games, and broke 50 points just five times in 23 games.
If Orofino is going to be more competitive in the CIL and in nonconference play, it’s going to need to come up with consistent scoring for all 32 minutes. Same for Grangeville, which has hopes a bit higher than Orofino’s, but could still come up short without any threat of offense.