2A Central Idaho League
Written by Jake Caccavaro
Players to Watch
Camden Barger, Grangeville
Bailey Vanderwall, Grangeville
Zoe Lutz, Grangeville
Grace Beardin, Orofino
Sakey Green, Orofino
Jenna Holder, St. Maries
Mackenzie Hammond, St. Maries
In the small 2A Central Idaho League, the pecking order remains the same from last year; defending champion Grangeville sits at the top of the standings as heavy favorite to win the league again, while Orofino is a solid second with state playoff aspirations and St. Maries will have an uphill battle to qualify for the playoffs.
Led by reigning 2A Central Idaho League MVP Camden Barger, Grangeville returns three first team all-league players. Junior guard Bailey Vanderwall is back to fill out the other half of the Bulldogs’ elite backcourt duo, and senior center Zoe Lutz will once again be a nearly unstoppable force down low.
An 18-6 regular season propelled Grangeville into the state playoffs in 2019-20, but a disappointing 56-43 first-round loss to Melba put an end to a promising season that saw the Bulldogs open the season with a 75-6 win and a 16-3 start.
Grangeville will get a chance for revenge against Melba, though, as the Bulldogs will face off against the Mustangs at home in their season opener.
The Bulldogs’ chemistry is readily apparent when watching, especially that of the backcourt duo of Barger and Vanderwall. Head Coach Michelle Barger is hopeful that that chemistry will stay true and spill over to defense as well.
“Our team has great chemistry,” Barger said. “These girls know how to work hard and get the job done on and off the court. I hope our team continues to push the ball and apply lots of pressure on defense. These girls are fun to watch and I love coaching them.”
A lack of late-season competition hurt the Bulldogs in the state tournament last year; Grangeville’s final four games were against its relatively weak CIL competition, and this year Barger wants to make sure the Bulldogs’ competition is ramped up as the season progresses.
“I think we peaked early in the season,” Barger said. “I hope to keep getting better and working on our defense and offensive strategies throughout the season so that we peak at the state tournament. I scheduled some harder games at the end of our season so when we go to state we will play at a higher level and be successful.”
For Orofino, it’s once again going to be another season of using Grangeville as a measuring stick to see where the Maniacs line up with the best of state’s 2A competition.
Last year, Orofino qualified for the 2A state tournament play-in game, earning a bid against Declo. But the Maniacs were overmatched against their south Idaho foes, losing 52-34 and cementing the fact that Orofino is close but not there yet.
This year, though, Orofino has a shot at not just making one of the 2A play-in games, but winning one and potentially making some noise in the tournament.
Star sophomore Grace Beardin is back after an incredible freshman season, and with a high-profile transfer in Sakey Green from Lapwai, the Maniacs could have something they haven’t had in recent years: scoring depth.
“Orofino could surprise some people,” Barger said. “They play with a lot of grit and determination. They got better and better as the season went on. They will return all their players and they will have bonus players that transferred in with Sakey Green she will be a game changer.”
On its fourth head coach in four seasons, it could be a rough season for St. Maries, which closed out last season by winning only three of its final 12 games after a promising 3-5 start for a final record of 6-14.
Under first-year Head Coach Gary Krumheuer, the Lumberjacks have an extremely difficult schedule; they’ll face their CIL opponents twice each in addition to a nonconference schedule that includes two games each against Lapwai, Bonners Ferry, Kellogg and 3A powerhouse Timberlake.
Even if St. Maries improved on its 8-14 season from last year, those signs of improvement will likely be from the eye test, as the Lumberjacks’ record could be even worse than last season when they got to face Genesis Prep twice and Potlatch once.
All-CIL selection Jenna Holder is back for a veteran Lumberjacks squad that returns all but one player from last season, including four other key seniors: wings Mackenzie Hammond and Maci Rimel, center Kirsten Miller and guard Sami Badgett.
An experienced starting lineup should help St. Maries be more competitive against superior opponents, and even pull off a potential upset or two.