2A Central Idaho League
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. St. Maries
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Eli Gibson, Junior, St. Maries
Tristan Nelson, Sophomore, St. Maries
Jose Barajas, Senior, Orofino
Joe Sparano, Junior, Orofino
Kyle Frei, Senior, Grangeville
Aiden Anderson, Senior, Grangeville
Written by: Will Hoenike
The St. Maries Lumberjacks were a single bucket away from winning their first state basketball title since 1960. They beat the top seed out of District V (West Side) and District VI (Ririe) before squaring off against North Fremont in the 2A State Championship game at the Idaho Center, taking the game to overtime before falling in the extra session in the title contest.
Head coach Bryan Chase lost five seniors off of that team, but welcomes back junior point guard Eli Gibson and sophomore post player Tristan Nelson to headline a young team coming off a 19-win season.
“We will be a young group with not a lot of game experience,” Chase said. “Maturing quickly will be a big key.”
Senior guard Grant Peet will compete for an expanded role for St. Maries, as will juniors Randie Becktel and Zack Olson in the post. Sophomore Coleman Ross will join the varsity after playing junior varsity last season and should factor into Chase’s rotation on the perimeter.
Orofino, led by third-year head coach Justin Haag, is coming off an eight-win season but returns its backcourt in seniors Jose Barajas and Joe Sparano. Haag will look to newcomers Reid Thomas, a sophomore, and Jarom Scott, a senior who is new to Orofino after moving from Utah, to anchor the team’s frontcourt.
“We will need to improve in all aspects of our game but one thing we have going is our intelligence and willingness to get better,” Haag said of his team. “This year’s kids are also fearless and ready to take on any challenge.”
The third team in the CIL, Grangeville, has a new head coach. Larson Anderson takes over a program that also has a strong returning backcourt in seniors Kyle Frei and Aiden Anderson. The Bulldogs won 18 games last season and had a strong junior varsity program to help the team fill in the gaps this season. The team did lose talented Trey Dreadfulwater, who transferred to Clarkston (WA) this season, which opens the door for other players to step in to larger roles in Grangeville.
The gap between the three teams is slim and the difference may be in the unknown. All three have holes to fill – which team fills those holes the best could be the team that claims the district title and advances to the 2A state tournament in March.
“St. Maries graduated many seniors but they are always able to rebuild and develop young guys very quickly,” Haag noted. “They’ll be tough.”
Chase likes his group but knows there is work to be done if the Lumberjacks want to finish ahead of the Maniacs and Bulldogs in the CIL standings.
“The key with this group will be sharing the ball. Depth may not be as strong as year’s past,” he summarized. “We will need to be able to knock down open jumpers and improve at the free throw line.”
The 2A Boys State Tournament will open at Capital High School in Boise on March 5. The title game will be played on March 7 at the Idaho Center in Nampa. The league’s representative has won its first-round game eight consecutive times, putting a team in the 2A semifinals every year since 2012. Grangeville won the state title in 2013, with St. Maries (2019) and Kamiah (2012, now a 1A Division 1 school) also reaching the championship game.