North Idaho was home to some of the top boys and girls basketball players in the state this winter, and it was confirmed again Saturday afternoon.
The North boys and girls ran away from the South in the eighth annual Idaho High School All-Star Games for seniors at North Idaho College.
Behind five players in double-figure scoring, the North boys cruised to a 138-95 win while the North girls led from start to finish in an 83-69 decision.
The North put on a shooting clinic – especially from 3-point range as it made 18 of 46.
Connor Hill of Post Falls led the way, making 4 of 7 3-pointers, 10 of 17 overall, to earn the most valuable player honor with 26 points. He also had seven rebounds and four assists.
“We got to play with all the best talent in the area and it was amazing,” said Hill, who is considering a walk-on opportunity at Washington State University and a scholarship offer from Idaho. “A lot of these guys are my friends so it was a lot of fun. To score 138 points is a good time.”
The other four North players to score in double figures were Jake Matheson of Coeur d’Alene (19, with four 3-pointers), Max Salesky of Priest River (18), Zach Lehman of St. Maries (14) and Mark Smyly of Lake City (11). Four other players scored eight or more points as all 12 players scored in the first half.
The North hoisted up 108 shots overall, making 51 while the South made 36 of 97.
Gonzaga University signee Kyle Dranginis of Skyview led the South with 26 points. The 6-foot-5 guard made 10 of 23 shots, 2 of 8 from 3-point range. “He’s an insane player,” Hill said of Dranginis.
Salesky and Jay Thomason of Lewiston led a 70-50 advantage on the boards with eight apiece.
The South led 40-36 when Dranginis scored on a layup with 8:35 remaining before halftime.
But the North caught fire, going on a 31-13 run to end the first half with a 67-53 lead.
The hot shooting continued the final 20 minutes as the North outscored the South 71-42. The North tied the record for the most points scored by a North team in the series.
Sydney Butler of Lake City had eight points in the opening 2:10, leading the North to a 10-2 lead – an advantage the North wouldn’t relinquish.
Butler, who was named the MVP, finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Teammates Tanis Fuller of Lewiston and Cassie Thompson of Timberlake had 12 and 10, respectively.
The South pulled within 49-45 when Madeline Lann of Middleton scored on a layup with 14:43 remaining, but that’s as close as it would get. The North used a 9-2 surge to build its biggest lead at 75-58 to put the game out of reach with 3:26 to go.
“I’ve been watching this game for so many years and I’ve just been waiting for my chance to play,” said Butler, who is leaning toward attending WSU and turning down offers to play elsewhere in college. “This game meant a lot to me. I figured leave it all on the floor and have fun. It was fun playing with a lot of girls with the same skill level who know what they’re doing. We meshed easily.”
The most difficult thing for Lakeland coach Steve Seymour, who coached the North, was balancing playing time. He was impressed with Butler and Thompson, who has signed to play at Portland.
“She’s one of those competitive kids who doesn’t care if it’s tiddlywinks or basketball. You probably want her on your side,” Seymour said. “She’s got a lot of fire and made things happen in the first half. If that’s the last game we watched her play then she had a fine high school career.”