1AD2 White Pine League
By: Will Hoenike
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
6. Summit Academy
Players to Watch:
Sydney Boyer, Nezperce
Caitlyn Cronce, Nezperce
Hannah Stapleton, Nezperce
Gracie Heath, Deary
Matteya Proctor, Deary
Lauren Morgan, Kendrick
Mya Brown, Kendrick
Bea Whitling, Logos
Shania Hughes, Logos
Alyssa Daw, Highland
Emma Grimes, Highland
Coming off of an appearance in last spring’s 1A Division 2 semifinals, most eyes in the White Pine seem to be on the Nezperce Indians, who return key contributors Sydney Boyer, Caitlyn Cronce and Hannah Stapleton this season. The trio combined for 40 points, 21 rebounds and three steals in the team’s first-round tourney win over Carey.
Veteran head coach Dave Snograss returns on the bench for the Indians, who also have sophomore forward Kadyn Horton, among others, returning to the squad this winter.
Nezperce’s lone White Pine loss last season came at Logos in mid-January. The Knights return All-League performer Bea Whitling for first-year head coach Patrick Lopez. The team also returns post player Shania Hughes, giving Lopez a good starting point coming into his first season as head coach. Sophomore Kirstin Wambeke should also fill a big role for the Knights when they take the floor.
“We are still figuring out what we can do well,” Lopez said. “We have size and we are learning to handle the ball well enough to take advantage of that size.”
Also in position to give Nezperce a challenge atop the White Pine are old rivals Deary and Kendrick. The Mustangs, coached by Kendra Keen, reached the 1A Division 2 State tournament last season and the team returns guard Gracie Heath and forward Matteya Proctor to the roster.
Keen will have to find players to pick up the slack for departed guard Bailee Swanson, who was an offensive catalyst for Deary last season.
In Kendrick, head coach Ron Ireland expects to have a quick team that should be in position to build on last season’s 11-win campaign.
“We didn’t lose anyone,” he said. “We should get better with age.”
For the Tigers, it starts with the 1-2 punch of Mya Brown and Lauren Morgan. The team opened its campaign with an impressive win over Division 1 Kamiah in mid-November, giving a glimpse of what could be possible.
A possible dark horse team in the White Pine could be the Highland (Craigmont) Huskies. Second-year head coach Brett Arnzen returns a solid nucleus of players, including guards Alyssa Daw and Emma Grimes along with post player Abby Davis. But possibly the most encouraging thing for the Husky program this winter – depth.
“We had seven girls out for basketball last year and, this year, we have 13,” Arnzen said. “We have a bunch of freshmen who are exciting to watch and we feel as though they give the varsity good looks in practice.”
The increase in numbers and ability to compete 5-on-5 in practice will pay big dividends over time for Highland, who wants to attack with speed and tempo when possible.
“I feel as though this group of ladies’ basketball IQ is much higher than last year’s squad,” Arnzen observed. “The team chemistry seems to be more unselfish and competitive.”
Another team to keep an eye on is Summit Academy in Cottonwood. The Patriots won eight games last season – including two wins over Logos, who defeated league champion Nezperce – and head coach James Frei will look to keep his team in the mix in the White Pine this winter behind the play of senior Taylor Lustig and junior Lexi Currier.
The Timberline Spartans are coming off of a trying, one-win campaign in 2017-18 but Jason Hunter’s team opened the season with a competitive loss against Division 1 Clearwater Valley in mid-November. The Spartans totaled 42 points in the five-point defeat, which is the most points the team had scored in a game since scoring 46 in January of 2015.
The league appears to have both strength and depth this season. The team that wins the district championship gets an automatic berth into the State tournament while the runner-up advances to a play-in game (last season, Deary defeated Salmon River of the Long Pin in dramatic style to earn a second spot for the White Pine at State).