Two straight state titles and three straight years that a 5A IEL team has played for a state championship.
Not bad for a league that for years struggled to get one victory at state. Now the league can claim it’s one of the best, if not the best, in Idaho.
There won’t be a drop off anytime soon. In fact, to hear Coeur d’Alene coach Kent Leiss tell it, three of the four teams, including his team, could challenge for a state title.
“The top three teams in this league are pretty good,” Leiss said. “Each of these teams could win the league and the state title.”
Defending state champ Post Falls graduated two key starters who are playing in college (Shawn Reid and Malcolm Colbert), but Trojans coach Mike McLean said a repeat isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
“I think if we continue to work hard every day in practice and develop our roles within the team, we can be in the same spot as last season,” McLean said. “This is the highest-skilled team I have had at Post Falls yet. We can really score the basketball very quickly. We also have a really deep bench with all 11 players able to play at a high level.”
Lake City coach Jim Winger likes the foundation of his team, and it begins with defense. The Timberwolves knocked off Post Falls in the Region I championship last year, advancing to state for the first time since 2002 – Winger’s second-to-last year in his first go-around as coach.
“We’ve got seven quality seniors that are good players,” Winger said.
Lewiston is on the outside looking in, and the Bengals just don’t have the proven depth to challenge the others at this point.
• In 4A, Lakeland is given a slight edge over Moscow and Sandpoint. The overall quality among the three teams could be down as each lost key players to graduation.
Top returning players
In 5A, LC senior guard Chris Wheelock, CdA junior wing Deon Watson and Post Falls senior guard Conner Hill and junior guard Marcus Colbert are returning first-team all-IEL picks. Hill and Colbert are Post Falls’ two returning starters.
CdA senior guard Jake Matheson was the league’s newcomer of the year.
In 4A, just one returning first team all-IEL pick is back in Moscow senior guard Jake Helbling. Lakeland senior post Taylor Derrick was the newcomer of the year.
In addition to Wheelock, LC returns one other starter, senior wing Mark Smyly. LC’s quarterback in football, Smyly has recovered from a separated shoulder that cut short his season by three weeks.
In addition to Watson and Matheson, CdA returns one other starter in junior wing Chad Chalich. All three played key roles on the Vikings’ state championship football team. Chalich was the QB, Watson was a wide receiver/defensive end and Matheson, a two-way starter at WR and defensive back, was the league’s most valuable player.
A key loss for Lakeland was senior guard Kyle English, who transferred to Post Falls.
Moscow graduated four of five starters, and Sandpoint is rebuilding with a young, untested group.
|1. Post Falls||Lakeland|
|2. Lake City||Moscow|
|3. Coeur d’Alene||Sandpoint|