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Outlook

Priest River had a magical season, capturing its first state championship – two weeks after the Spartans’ girls took home a state title. It’s doubtful the Spartans can repeat, but they are favored to capture the league title and they should get back to state and contend for a trophy.

The team that could challenge Priest River is St. Maries, which returns all of its starters. The Lumberjacks are one of three teams with a new coach as Craig Wicks takes over for Jeff Mercer. The other new coaches are Clint Arthur at Bonners Ferry (longtime coach Gordy Allured retired) and Jeff Lambert, who took the Kellogg girls to the state title game in his lone season as the girls coach, takes over as boys coach.

Looking around

The road to the league title goes through Priest River. Eleven of the 12 players on the Spartans’ roster are seniors.

“Will we compete every night,” Priest River coach Ryan Bodecker said. “We could be explosive. We need to really work on rebounding.”

Wicks has been pleased with early practices.

“We have some very athletic kids, good work ethic and willingness to learn new things,” Wicks said. “It will be a learning process for me and the team.”

Arthur likes the core of his team, especially some versatile seniors.

“If we can jell as a team and stay healthy, we could give teams problems with our versatility,” Arthur said. “We will have to improve our team defense and rebounding to compete with bigger teams, though.”

Lambert said Kellogg lacks experience, but he hopes it’s something that comes quickly through the season.

Timberlake returns two starters – senior Cooper Simpson (guard/wing) and junior Brian Cronnelly (wing/post). The Tigers are poised to move up from a last-place finish a year ago.

“I am very optimistic,” Timberlake coach Jim Simpson said. “We have quality upperclassmen and our younger kids are very good players. It will just be a matter of how long it takes for the younger kids to adjust to playing at the varsity level.”

Top players

Five first-team all-IML players return. They are seniors Eric Holbrook (point guard) and Max Salesky (guard) of Priest River, seniors Jake Mercer (guard) and Zach Lehman (forward) for St. Maries and senior Mat Evans (guard) of Bonners Ferry.

Priest River returns a third starter, senior Tyler Douglas (guard).

The other key returning starter at St. Maries is senior Ian Heath, a 6-foot-5 post.

Another team hoping to challenge for one of the league’s two state berths is Bonners Ferry, which returns three starters.

Predicted finish3. Bonners Ferry
1. Priest River 4. Timberlake
2. St. Maries 5. Kellogg