Players to Watch:
Hannah Duuck, Nezperce
Kadyn Horton, Nezperce
Erin Morgan, Kendrick
Hannah Tweit, Kendrick
Taylor Crea, Highland (Craigmont)
The Kendrick Tigers came into the 1A Division 2 state tournament on a roll. They had won seven straight, including a district-title victory over rival Nezperce. But then, Ron Ireland’s team ran into eventual state-champion Rockland in the first round.
The Tigers were felled in the opening round and could not bounce back in the consolation bracket the next day, going two-and-out to finish the season at 19-5, but without any hardware from the state tournament.
Kendrick will likely be one of the teams to beat again this season in the 1A Division 2 White Pine League, despite losing three quality players from last year’s team: Mya Brown, Lauren Morgan, and Megan Brocke. Helping to offset the loss is the return of Erin Morgan. The junior post player was first team All-White Pine as a sophomore and now steps into a starring role when the Tigers take the floor.
It is part of a strong junior class for Ireland, whose team also returns junior guard Hannah Tweit and junior post Drew Stacey. Sophomore Rose Stewart is also expected to contribute around the basket for Kendrick going into the season.
A key matchup in the White Pine this winter will, once again, be Kendrick and Nezperce.
“Nezperce is always a good matchup for us,” Ireland said. “It seems like it is always playing for the league title.”
Kendrick won both regular-season meetings leading up to the district-title victory on February 11, but the Indians have a strong returning group this season to compete with the Tigers. Veteran head coach Dave Snodgrass welcomes back experienced forward Hannah Duuck along with Kadyn Horton, another strong post player. The two seniors will team with junior guard Grace Tiegs to provide a solid core for Nezperce, looking to replace the production of departed leader Caitlyn Cronce.
Another team that Ireland has his eye on comes from the other end of the standings – a team that won just four games last season.
“Highland could be the team to watch this year,” Ireland said. “They have the most seniors and they did very well in volleyball.”
The Huskies’ spikers reached the district title game before shifting focus to basketball. Head coach Brett Arnzen, in his words, returns “the same team as last year,” but now with an additional year of experience. Senior guard Taylor Crea will team with a solid group of juniors, led by guard Emily Dau, wing Katie Goeckner, and post players Payton Crow and Hannah Miller.
“We really found out who we were later in the season. I hope that spills over into this year,” Arnzen said of his team that won its regular-season finale at Timberline (Weippe) before being ousted in the district tournament. “We have three freshmen (this season), I’m anxious to see what they bring to the table.”
Another team to watch will be Kendra Keen’s Deary Mustangs. The team won four of its final five games of the regular season before an upset loss in the district tournament to St. John Bosco. The Patriots nearly reached the state play-in game after winning just three regular-season games and now look to replace three departed seniors. Juniors Dani Sonnen and Jade Prigge return, along with sophomore Makayla Rose.
Will Snodgrass and Ireland again match wits in a district title game? Or will someone else surge to the top of the White Pine standings? Check back in February.