Posted On: 11/27/17 8:00 AM
photo credit: Chris Bronson, Idaho Press-Tribune
When it comes to basketball in the Gem state, nothing is more sacred and cherished than a state championship. The crowning moment of the year is a thrilling tournament for each level found in the state, full of surprises and dominating performances. It is a time when top prospects demonstrate their abilities and also when undiscovered names can suddenly appear. With no question, it is what every single player and team thinks about entering each and every season. So, who are the favorites to repeat from a season ago? Which teams will look to restock the firepower that helped guide them to their respective state titles? Prep Hoops Idaho tackles those questions and more as we highlight what each team will be looking for in terms of repeating upon last season’s great success.
Rocky Mountain – 5A – Chance To Repeat = Likely
With their dominant trio of seniors from a season ago which consisted of Kolby Lee, Jacob Erickson, and Kobe Terashima, the Grizzlies ran through the state tournament last season and finished off an incredible year winning 25 games in a row. Entering the state tournament the team had dropped just one game, it was the best record in the school’s history. Two of the three aforementioned players were first and second on the team in scoring while Erickson led the Grizzlies in three point field goals. To say that they will be missed is an understatement.
So who’s got next for Rocky Mountain? Well, a program of this stature finds ways to replenish and they certainly have the pieces to lift themselves to another state title game birth, despite last season being the program’s first state championship on the hardwood. The squad this upcoming season will boast names such as Tyler O’Donnell and Hunter Ranstorm, two players that will be seniors and will likely be leaders in a number of statistical categories for the Grizzlies. O’Donnell averaged double-digits in scoring last season (10.5 points) while also adding 3.0 rebounds per game. Ranstorm put up 7.1 points per game and pulled down 3.2 rebounds a contest.
Preston – 4A – Chance To Repeat = Likely
Despite Preston narrowly escaping on multiple occasions last season for their second straight state title, the odds still remain in their favor to make it a three peat as the Indians bring back a stellar duo with battle tested experience. Reigning 4A Player of the Year Brayden Parker returns for his senior season as well as his running mate Derek Wadsworth, both of whom played key roles in their 2016-2017 title run. This team’s coaching staff led by Tyler Jones, a member of the Jones family which have won 10 first place state trophies will also help the three peat cause.
Four seniors from last season won’t return in 17-18, but the Indians have some familiar names to go along with Parker and Wadsworth including Chance Hart. It was Hart who had a pair of what were thought to be game clinching free throws when Vallivue knocked home a game tying three pointer to send the game into overtime. Look for Hart to once again play a pivotal role for Preston as this team gears up to defend their state title once again.
Update: Preston is now 1-0 after this past weekend as both Wadsworth and Parker led the team in scoring with 18 and 15 points respectively over Burley 64-56.
Sugar-Salem – 3A – Chance To Repeat = Not Likely
A 23 year championship drought was ended last season when Sugar-Salem took home the 3A state championship. It will be tough for Sugar-Salem to repeat as they lose seven seniors from last year including four starters (Hayden Wood, Luke Holt, Parker Miller and Junior Gonzalez). The Diggers brought in a 17-5 record into their state title run, and defeated a very tough Shelley team twice en route for their district title.
The team in which Sugar-Salem defeated, Snake River will stand to be a favorite entering 2017-2018 as they lost only three seniors from a year ago and roster one of the best players in the state, Clancy Thomas. There is no doubt that Sugar-Salem deserves plenty of praise for their incredible run last year in Nampa, Idaho, but to say that they will be able to double that feat is difficult to say at this point in time. However, one never knows when it comes to prep hoops in Idaho.
Bear Lake – 2A – Likely
A squad that boasted six juniors last year, led by 2A Player of the Year Avery Carlsen, the Bears will look to return back to the form which led to their title on the back of a 23-4 record. The school had not experienced a state title since it was in 3A classification, but now in 2A, the Bears have become a threat for the title yet again. Two other impact seniors who will be alongside Carlsen for their upcoming title defense, Hayden Peterson and Houston Peterson.
The Peterson duo played solid defense in their final game of 2016-2017 against a tough Ririe team, something the Bears prided themselves on all season. Bear Lake will look to make it a much sooner occurrence than nearly 20 years (1996 was their last state title in basketball before last season), and come back with a solid lineup and confidence galore.
Lapwai – 1A DI – Somewhat Likely
It was a third consecutive trip to the big game for the Lapwai Wildcats, and after dropping their last two chances at a state title before last season, the one loss team made the most of their opportunity. A gap in which the Wildcats will need to fill will be the loss of their star guard/wing Ivory Miles-Williams, whom now plays for The College of Idaho. Miles-Willams led the team in nearly every statistical category and earned 1A DI Player of the Year honors.
However, the firepower lost in Miles-Williams has a sufficient backup plan in the team’s leading scorer from last year, Emmitt Taylor, who averaged 20 points per game during their impressive run a year ago. Another player to look out for and who is returning to help with the title defense will be Payton Sobotta, a junior this upcoming season.
Genesis Prep – 1A DII – Very Likely
In what could be the start of an Idaho prep dynasty, the Genesis Prep Jaguars punched their ticket to a state championship in only it’s second season as a sanctioned program since opening up shop in 2006. The private Christian school in northern Idaho looked dominant against a very good Dietrich team last year in the title game and will return a handful of impact players including 1A DII Player of the Year, Mr. Do-It-All Jonny Hillman. The team finished 21-4 and will look to repeat with Hillman and company.
The team will lose a big man from Rwanda, Stephane Manzi (6’9), but will bring back Junior Williams, an excellent second addition in their lineup behind Hillman in both the scoring department and assists, but helped with staunch defense on the perimeter averaging 2.9 steals per game. At this level, a rematch between Genesis Prep and Dietrich is very possible, nonetheless, look for the Jaguars to make sure their name is at least one half of the finale come March.