The league saw the graduation of four of the five first-team all-GSL picks including the two best post players, league most valuable player Ryan Nicholas and Aaron Dunn of Mead. So the league has to be down a tad this year, doesn’t it?
“I’m a little bit hesitant to say the league will be down,” said Gonzaga Prep coach Matty McIntyre, whose team is the reigning champ. “Quite frankly, I don’t know if we have the type of bodies that Ryan Nicholas and Dunn presented. They were special. But there are still some very good players.”
Ferris coach Don Van Lierop summarized his team’s hopes in one word. “Promising,” he said.
In a poll of the coaches, Ferris, tied for fifth a year ago, got the nod by one point over G-Prep as the favorite. After those two, the coaches see Shadle Park a distant third. The Highlanders were third last year. Fourth, fifth and sixth could be tight, the coaches say, between Mead, North Central and Rogers.
“If we can play defense, rebound and take care of the ball … we’ll have a chance,” said SP coach Tim Gaebe, whose team graduated four starters but returns eight lettermen.
Mead returns no starters.
“The league is down a bit this year,” Mead coach Glenn Williams said. “You can’t lose two studs like (Nicholas) and Aaron Dunn and not be down a bit. There are no players in the league now who can assume a low-post presence like those two did.”
What other coaches think
Perhaps a sleeper could be University, which dropped to 3A after advancing to the 4A regionals last year by winning back-to-back loser-out games.
“The underclassmen have had lots of success,” U-Hi coach Garrick Phillips said, noting they were 18-0 on the junior varsity.
CV hopes to improve after finishing 10th last year.
“We are a pretty deep and athletic team, and I’m anxious to start so I can see who’s going to step up and provide our scoring,” CV coach Rick Sloan said.
“A very strong league again this year,” NC coach Jay Webber said. “A real dogfight for the lone 3A berth (to state).”
“Lots of parity,” LC coach Jeff Norton said. “The most consistent team, possession by possession, will have the most success, but that consistency is tough to develop.”
Returning all-league players
G-Prep senior point guard Chris Sarbaugh is the lone first-team all-league selection back. Returning second-team picks are junior wing Brett Boese of Shadle, G-Prep senior wing Parker Kelly and Ferris senior wing Riley Stockton.
Road to new regional state
League play takes on more significance considering teams qualify for state from the district tournament now because the old regional format was eliminated with the new regional state concept.
Five of the six 4A teams qualify for district with No. 5 and No. 4 meeting in a loser-out opener. The district champ earns a state berth and the runner-up will meet the Columbia Basin Big Nine runner-up to decide a second berth to state.
In 3A, three of the four teams qualify for a brief district tourney. The second and third seeds meet in a loser-out opener with the winner meeting the No. 1 seed to decide one state berth.
Odds ’n’ ends
League play begins Tuesday. In an interesting opener, Rogers is at Shadle at 7. … Each team will play 18 league contests (each team twice) and each has two nonleague games. … Ferris will be without its players still involved with football and has rescheduled three games. … Five nonleague games are scheduled for Saturday at Lewis and Clark in what is being called the TipOff Classic. Admission is $5 and is good for all the games.
|Predicted finish||4. North Central||8. Central Valley|
|1. Ferris||5. Mead||9. Lewis and Clark|
|2. Gonzaga Prep||6. Rogers||10. Mt. Spokane|
|3. Shadle Park||7. University|