The Post Falls boys basketball team has qualified for state six times in the past 20 years.
Second-year coach Mike McLean, a Post Falls graduate, doesn’t think the frequency of qualifying for state is enough. Once every four years or so isn’t a good ratio in McLean’s eyes.
The Trojans are making their first trip to state under McLean, first since 2005 and first since moving to the 5A ranks.
“We need to get to state more often,” McLean said.
Post Falls is making its second trip to the Idaho Center. The Trojans attended back in 1997 when they were in the A-1 classification. It was the first year state was held in the Nampa arena.
The Trojans (17-5), who knocked off Lewiston in the Region I championship game, will meet District III fourth-place finisher Borah (15-9) when the tourney begins Thursday. Tipoff is at 5:15 PST.
Lewiston (19-4) bounced back to capture a state berth with a 69-49 win over Mountain View in a play-in game. The Bengals will face defending state and District III champ Vallivue (17-6).
The Trojans’ success has come in surges this season. They opened the year with eight straight wins, and they’ve had two other stretches that consisted of four consecutive victories including their most recent play.
The most difficult stretch, which included three straight losses, came when a pair of starters missed two games because of suspensions and when two other starters were battling injuries.
The Trojans’ biggest win came in a 69-62 decision at Lewiston in the regional final.
“We’re definitely playing our best basketball right now,” McLean said.
Although senior wing Justin Carter and junior wing Shawn Reid have had big games, the Trojans have had balance top to bottom in their lineup. Reid is averaging a team-leading 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds, while Carter is averaging 13.0 ppg. The other starters are averaging 7.1 points or more.
It’s easy for McLean to pinpoint what his team’s problems have been in defeats.
“It’s a very common theme – lack of effort and focus,” McLean said. “There’s been just one game where I thought a team just beat us.”
That happened in a 72-47 league loss at Lewiston on Feb. 29, PF’s last loss.
“Ever since we won the (regional title), people have come up and said some very flattering things,” McLean said. “But it was our goal all along to get to state. We feel like we have more to prove.”
Sandpoint (9-14) takes the worst record to state among the 4A teams, but that doesn’t alarm coach Tyler Haynes.
“These guys play harder than any team I’ve ever coached and I’ve had some teams that have played hard,” said Haynes, who is taking his third team to state in his third stint as head coach.
The Bulldogs, who upended No. 1 seed Moscow twice to capture the regional title, face play-in qualifier Bishop Kelly (11-12) when the tourney begins Thursday at Borah High School in Boise.
Sandpoint had to win three straight loser-out games to qualify for state after the Bulldogs lost to Lakeland in a regional opener.
Haynes said playing in the 5A-dominated Inland Empire League was the best state preparation for the Bulldogs.
“We learned a lot from playing the 5A schools and we got better,” Haynes said. “The competition and the progression we made showed when we got into the (regional) tournament.”
Just how well prepared for state Intermountain League qualifiers Priest River and St. Maries are remains to be seen.
The IML, as a whole, was considered down this year, and IML teams, historically, have struggled at state.
District I runner-up St. Maries (17-4) takes on Sugar-Salem (22-3) at 2 p.m. and District I champ Priest River (18-1) opens against Filer (16-7) at 7 when the tourney begins Thursday at Meridian High School.
Priest River takes a young team to state. The Spartans start two sophomores, two juniors and one senior.
“We’re not content just getting to state,” PR coach Ryan Bodecker said. “We can look back at the season after the season is over. We’re not just going to state to hang out. It’s not a vacation from school. We want to do something.”
1A Division I
Wallace lost five of its first seven games, and returning senior starters Jared Bilaski and Nick Arthun missed the Miners’ first six games.
But when they returned, things took off. Wallace (15-6) has won 13 of its past 14 games.
Wallace meets Hagerman (21-4), the state runner-up last year, at 12:15 p.m. when the tourney starts Thursday at Vallivue High School in Caldwell.
Bilaski and Arthun both suffered injuries in football. Bilaski broke a wrist in the Miners’ state playoff game and Arthun tore an anterior cruciate ligament.
Bilaski was expected back; Arthun, a four-year starter, wasn’t.
“It’s a miracle that he’s back,” Wallace coach Bruce Bailey said. “He’s only at about 70 percent. The knee could go at any time. But the doctor approved his return.”
Bilaski has averaged a team-leading 27.5 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots and three assists. He had 31 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots in Wallace’s 59-55 overtime victory over Clearwater Valley in a play-in game Saturday.
Wallace took fourth last season before the classification was split into two divisions this year.