3A Intermountain League
Written by: Sven Alskog
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
3. Bonners Ferry
4. Priest River
PLAYERS TO WATCH
McKeeley Tonkin, Senior, Timberlake
Brooke Jessen, Sophomore, Timberlake
Taryn Soumas, Sophomore, Timberlake
Holly Ansley, Sophomore, Bonners Ferry
Jerzie Pluid, Senior, Bonners Ferry
Jaron Figueroa, Junior, Kellogg
Cierra Brandt, Junior, Kellogg
Kat Rauenhorst, Senior, Kellogg
Timberlake basketball under head coach Matt Miller has been as successful as any program in the state of Idaho, with the Tigers entering this winter as the favorites again in the 3A IML coming off a 21-win season.
This edition of the Tigers returns All-League guards McKeeley Tonkin and Taryn Soumas to go along with Second Team All-State post Brooke Jessen, who made a major impact down-low as just a freshman.
While those pieces each bring their own unique skills and talents, Timberlake will have to find a way to deal with the loss of the quality trio of Lilly Kelley, Shelby Starr and Kaylee Jezek.
As is always the case though in Spirit Lake, the team welcomes in some promising young talent, with sophomore guards Olivia Hammond and Bernie Carhart some of the players the coaching staff highlighted to watch for.
“I’m excited to see if this team can reach its full potential this season,” said Miller. “Hopefully our team play is solid and tough. I think we should have a balanced inside-outside attack. We will need to get to the free-throw line more and make a higher percentage from the line.”
Both Kellogg and Bonners Ferry have enough pieces in place to make runs at a state appearance as well this season.
The Wildcats have a surplus of junior and senior leadership on-hand, something which should help in a big way in close games and early in the season.
“We have a great mix of veteran players and young fresh faces that will create excellent chemistry for us. We have two savvy point guards in Sammy Seymore and Jaron Figueroa who both set a fast-paced game and who both read and see the floor very well,” said Kellogg head coach Jana Nearing-Kothe. “We have a fast and athletic team with strong bigs on the inside and a very strong bench. Last year we were young with three starting sophomores and lots of kids out with illness and injury. I am excited to keep all of these girls healthy and see what we can do.”
One of the younger players that is expected to make a big impact for Kellogg is 6’0” tall freshman Hailey Cheney, who adds good size on the interior.
The biggest factor in success for the team this season may come down to keeping players as injury-free as possible and avoiding sickness, which caught the entire school bad last year.
“We need to stay healthy. We have a strong and fast team and a strong bench. We should be able to play up -empo the whole game. We should have a strong inside-out offense utilizing our size in the paint, and an aggressive defense. We need to drastically reduce our turnovers, which killed us last year,” said Nearing-Kothe.
Other coaches expect the Wildcats to be a tough matchup as well.
“They played well in districts last year and have some solid young players,” said Miller.
Bonners Ferry appears to be the primary challenger for a postseason berth, and will have to replace 60 percent of its scoring from last year following the graduations of Kadi Bateman, Miranda Wenk and Kassy Skeen. Each of those players were All-League selections last season.
Back for the Badgers is the inside-out combo of guard Holly Ansley and post Jerzie Pluid.
With Ansley, Pluid and incoming post Baylee Blackmore, the team should have some good talent to go along with a nice team chemistry.
“Fun group. High character, great work ethic and positive attitudes,” added Bonners Ferry head coach Travis Hinthorn.
While it is never easy to replace the offensive productivity that exited, an athletic group should allow the Badgers to remain tough.
“We are not as skilled as we were last year, but may be quicker and more athletic. If we can score consistently on offense, we will be ok,” said Hinthorn.
Priest River won just four games last season and will be hoping to get things turned in the right direction after winning no league games during the 2017/2018 campaign.