Photo By Omari Mitchell - Photo by Steve Conner
Players to Watch:
Grace Sobotta, Lapwai
Glory Sobotta, Lapwai
Madison Shears, Prairie
Ellea Uhlenkott, Prairie
Bailey Leseman, Genesee
Lucie Ranisate, Genesee
Claira Osborne, Genesee
Sydney Miller, Logos
Morgan Blazzard, Troy
Kadance Schilling, Clearwater Valley
Jordan Reynolds, Potlatch
Josie Larson, Potlatch
Jaylee Fry, Potlatch
Zayda Loewen, Kamiah
Imagine winning 18 games … and yet finishing in third place, fighting and clawing your way into the state tournament, and then seeing the two teams that finished ahead of you standing between your team and the state title.
You just read what happened to the Genesee Bulldogs in 2019. The team won nearly 20 games, reached the state semifinals, and has its top three scorers back in 2020 and still has its work cut out for them.
That’s because Lapwai and Prairie, who combined to go 44-6 last season and met in the state championship game, also play in the White Pine League along with Genesee. All three teams return all-state honorees from last year, including Prairie’s Madison Shears, who was selected as the 1A Division 1 Player of the Year as a junior.
“Can I list the entire Lapwai and Prairie rosters?” joked Brandon McIntosh, head coach of the Potlatch Loggers, when asked his opinion on players to watch in the White Pine this season.
Lapwai is the defending state champion at the 1A Division 1 level and returns the all-state tandem of junior Grace Sobotta (1st team) and senior Glory Sobotta (2nd team) this season. The tandem led the Wildcats to a 25-1 record and state-title victory over Prairie last spring, but that’s not all that head coach Ada Marks has coming back. Senior Omari Mitchell returns, as does sophomore guard Lauren Gould.
“They had great team chemistry (last season) and adjusted to a lot of new things that were changed and brought in last year that should get better this season,” Marks said of her team.
One of the things that could get better this season is rival Prairie, which returns Shears after she posted 17 points, four rebounds, three steals and three assists per game en route to her state-wide Player of the Year recognition. But, like Marks at Lapwai, head coach Lori Mader has more than Shears to lean on.
Senior Ellea Uhlenkott returns along with Hope Schwartz. The Pirates also have a pair of sophomores waiting in the wings with Tara Schlader and Kristin Wemhoff.
“Our pressure defense and our speed were keys (last season) and we hope to capitalize on that this year,” Mader said. “Lapwai and Genesee seem to push and bring out the most in our kids to compete.”
Oh yeah … Genesee. The nearly-forgotten team that won 18 games last season and reached the state semifinals. Head coach Greg Hardie returns all-state honoree (2nd team) Bailey Leseman and forward Claira Osborne, both seniors, and junior post standout Lucie Ranisate. Leseman has led the team in scoring each of the past two seasons and is surrounded by a strong team.
“You never quite know what to expect going into a new year, but I’m excited about our prospects,” Hardie said of his team. “Our top six players have a lot of experience, but we have a number of newcomers joining our varsity roster for the first time.”
It’s the newcomers in Kamiah that has a lot of coaches around the league paying attention.
“We have ten freshman girls on the team this year,” said Kamiah head coach Brandon Skinner. “I expect a few of them will have some meaningful time on varsity this year and have an impact toward the end of the season.”
The Kubs return senior forward Mya Barger and senior guard Jazzy Oatman to help ease the transition for the younger players.
Troy head coach Aaron Dail has two key juniors back this season, All-White Pine guard Morgan Blazzard along with Isabelle Raasch, while McIntosh at Potlatch will be replacing eight departed seniors off of last year’s team.
“Keep reducing turnovers, finding better shot selections, sharing the ball, keep improving,” McIntosh pointed out as key areas for his team to continue its improvement. “Looking forward to seeing how we battle each night with these teams (in the White Pine) as we grow.”
Sophomore Jordyn Reynolds was a second-team All-White Pine performer last season, with seniors Taylor Carpenter and Adriana Arciga helping to lead the Loggers on the court.
Logos moves up from 1A Division 2, where the Knights finished in third place in its league. Sydney Miller leads the returnees for head coach Patrick Lopez.
Darren Yocum is in his first season as the head coach at Clearwater Valley. The Rams are coming off a seven-win season and has depth returning in the backcourt with senior Martha Smith, junior Kadance Schilling, and sophomore Shada Edwards back for the Rams.
“Most of our players were on varsity last year, but I have high expectations for two emerging sophomores – Macy Morrow and Santana Simmons,” Yocum said. “Trinity Yocum, an incoming freshman, should also make an impact on our ability to shoot the basketball.”
It doesn’t seem like a stretch that the top three teams in the White Pine remain the same this year. It also doesn’t seem a stretch that those three each earn a spot in the state semifinals. It also seems clear that the rest of the White Pine is gaining ground, leading to a strong, deep league that will challenge all comers this season.