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Idaho preps preview: Girls basketball

5A IEL will be tight

Had Coeur d’Alene lost not one returning starter but two potential starters to anterior cruciate ligament injuries, the Vikings would have been a no-brain selection to win a fourth straight 5A state championship.

Don’t count Coeur d’Alene out just yet. The Vikings have perhaps the best player in the state in 6-foot-3 senior post Carli Rosenthal, a force on the last three state title teams. Coach Dale Poffenroth will have to get big contributions from some unheralded players.

Sophomore forward Kendalyn Brainard averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds last year and played beyond her freshman age. Brainard along with sophomore guard Carli Williams suffered the ACL injuries. Both contend they will be back in early January. That would mean speedy recoveries, in about five months.

Poffenroth isn’t as optimistic. He would much rather see the girls extend their rehabilitation and come back sound for next year.

Before the injuries, Poffenroth saw his team play at a level this summer higher than any previous team.

Ambitious schedule

Poffenroth put together a difficult nonleague schedule to challenge his team. It was created long before the injuries.

Now he hopes the schedule doesn’t injure the psyche of a young team.

CdA will play in a tournament in Portland involving several of Oregon’s top teams.

The Vikings also have nonleague games against three Greater Spokane League teams that qualified for state – Mead (State 4A runner-up), Shadle Park (State 3A runner-up) and Lewis and Clark (State 4A qualifier).

And that’s not to overlook a league that will be as competitive as any in Idaho, if not the most competitive. Lewiston and CdA tied for the league title last year and the teams met in the state final. The Bengals, who knocked off the Vikings in the Region I final before CdA rallied to beat Lewiston in the title game, got stronger this year through addition. Chelsea Waters, a junior post who was a 4A all-IEL selection at Moscow last year, has transferred to Lewiston. The Bengals picked up two other transfers who will add depth to go along with two returning starters – senior 6-3 post Savannah Blinn and senior guard Tanis Fuller. Sophomore point guard Karlee Wilson was the league’s newcomer of the year.

All-league returners

Rosenthal and Lake City senior guard Sydney Butler return in 5A and senior Neena Buchmann of Lakeland and junior Taylor Anderson of Moscow return in 4A. Moscow junior Abigail Quinnett was the 4A IEL player of the year.

Rosenthal and Butler were All-North Idaho team picks.

Pick a team, any team

In the 4A IEL, teams could be young overall but quite competitive.

Sandpoint, with an influx of youth coupled with four returning starters, will be much improved. Lakeland, with one of the best coaches in the region in Steve Seymour, battled with eventual Region I champ Moscow last year.

Even though Moscow lost Waters to Lewiston, the Bears are favored to repeat. Robin Barnes, who had a previous stint as head coach at Moscow, returns.

Questions loom in IML

The team to win the IML title last year, Timberlake, didn’t even make it out of the district tournament. And then all that Priest River and Kellogg, the IML’s state qualifiers, did was go on to meet in the 3A state final in which Priest River prevailed.

Timberlake is heavily favored to repeat as league champ, but this year the Tigers should have no problem qualifying for state. They’re led by four-year starter Cassie Thompson, a 6-1 post who signed with the University of Portland on Wednesday.

Priest River senior post Melissa Hopkins, the IML’s player of the year and a 3A first team All-Idaho selection, tore an ACL in volleyball and is out for the season.

Timberlake also returns all-leaguers Caitlyn Nichols, a senior guard, and Kara Wenstrom, a junior guard.