Kendrick seeks to defend state title

Feb. 29—As another Idaho Class 1A DII boys basketball tournament takes shape, one thing remains the same, and that's the Kendrick Tigers being among the favorites.

No. 2 Kendrick (19-4) looks to defend its state title and opens tournament play against a Whitepine League Division II foe, No. 7 Deary, at 4 p.m. Pacific today at Caldwell High School.

Potlatch (Class 1A DI) and Lapwai (also 1A DI) will also represent the area at State today at Vallivue High School.

"I think the biggest driving force was defending that state title," Kendrick coach Tim Silflow said. "We're trying to come back and prove that last year wasn't a fluke and we can make a run at it."

The Tigers notched their first boys basketball crown since 1985 with a 59-57 win over Richfield on March 4, 2023.

Kendrick was paced by tournament MVP Nathan Tweit, who scored 57 points throughout the three games, and Ty Koepp and Hunter Taylor were key contributors.

All three players are back for this year's run.

Tweit (18.1 points per game), Taylor (12.6), sophomore Ralli Roetcisoender (10.9) and Koepp (10.6) all average double figures for the Tigers and received all-league honors.

"We have a lot of experience," Silflow said. "This is Koepp and Taylor's third state tournament that they've played in, and Nate was the tournament MVP last year. They know how to handle the pressure, and the state tournament is crazy, and there's a lot that goes on, and they're seasoned."

Kendrick had the second-highest scoring offense in the 1A DII at 66 points per game, trailing just No. 1 seed Camas County.

The Mushers and Tigers met in the state football championship on Jan. 28, and the Tigers won 68-0.

"Honestly, they're pretty similar to us," Silflow said. "They have four guys on the floor that can score, and they play really good man-to-man defense, and when you watch them play, by the time the defense gets a chance to turn around, they're past half court, so I think if we have the opportunity to see them, it can be a bit of a track meet and it could be a high-scoring affair."

A win will give Kendrick High School its third blue trophy in 43 days.

"It's amazing to be quite honest with you," Silflow said. "To see all the time and dedication that all these boys and girls have put into it is awesome. It's a great group of kids, and it's really spearheaded by this senior class."

Potlatch primed for placement

The No. 2 Loggers (18-5) opened the season on a 10-game win streak with victories over Kendrick (67-59, Jan. 3) and Kamiah (51-39, Jan. 5).

Potlatch dethroned the Kubs again 52-50 in an overtime thriller in a 1A Division I second-place game to earn its spot at the Big Dance.

The Loggers face No. 7 Valley of Hazelton, Idaho, in the opening round of State at 4 p.m. Pacific at Vallivue High School.

Potlatch has four players with the ability to rack up double figures, and it starts with its guards and cousins, Everett and Chase Lovell.

Everett Lovell, a junior, scored a season-high 24 points in a 78-59 win over Clearwater Valley on Feb. 16. Chase Lovell, a sophomore, also put up his season-best mark of 22 points in a win against the Rams (63-36, Dec. 9).

"Everett brings some toughness," Potlatch coach Ryan Ball said. "He does a good job on the defensive end, and he's a grinder on the offensive end. When we need a basket, he knows how to get it. Chase has played a lot of basketball, and he sets everything up with his ability to shoot the deep ball."

Jaxon Vowels, a 6-foot-5 forward, notched a season-high 23 points in a 68-33 win over Genesee on Jan. 23. But his work on the glass is what makes him really effective.

"He's been huge," Ball said. "He may have a tough time going against team's best defenders, but he's still getting eight, nine, 10 rebounds a night. His presence is ginormous for us. It's not all about the points, it's all the little things he does."

Potlatch finished No. 3 in the final state media poll, and three of its five losses came to No. 1 Lapwai.

"We lost some games late in the year," Ball said. "But we lost to Lapwai, Kendrick, Kamiah, and those aren't bad losses, and I don't think we played a bad game all year."

Mustangs made it at last

The last couple of years, Deary came just short of making it to the end-of-year tournament.

The Mustangs dropped consecutive 1A DII district championship bouts in 2021 and '22, and last season, they went 0-2 at the district tournament as the No. 2 seed.

That fueled the senior class, which is the first group that headman Jalen Kirk has coached their entire career to make it to State.

Deary (13-8) punched its ticket with a 49-31 win over Highland of Craigmont in a Class 1A DII second-place game on Friday.

This is the Mustangs' first trip to the Big Dance since 2018, and Kirk was a player on that team.

"I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world," Kirk said. "I've lived in Deary my whole life, and Deary is the best community in the world. It's filled with love and care, and they support everything that we do."

Deary had to overcome its share of adversity this season, having a different rotation in 10 of its first 15 games due to sickness.

A week before its second-place game against Highland, the Mustangs had only four players at practice due to the flu.

The players powered through and "played for each other" to finally make it to State.

"They wanted it more than the other team, and they prevailed and played hard for each other," Kirk said. "Every one of them took a step further this year, and I'm so proud of these guys for finding these ways to get things done."

The Mustangs' two leaders on the floor are senior guards Laithan Proctor and Blaine Clark.

"When it was win and go to State or lose and go home, they combined for 20 of our 48 points and shot the lights out of the gym," Kirk said. "If we don't have them, we're not standing here in Caldwell."

Wildcats look to return to title tilt

There aren't many teams more synonymous with the Idaho state boys basketball tournament than the Lapwai Wildcats.

Lapwai has the second-most championships (12) in the state, trailing Borah (13), and has taken top honors in the Class 1A DI two of the last three years.

The No. 1 Wildcats open tournament play against No. 8 Victory Charter at 1 p.m. Pacific today at Vallivue High School.

"We knew this year we were going to be different from losing a lot of seniors," Lapwai coach Zachary Eastman said. "We wanted to have as many games at tournaments as possible to get ready for the state championships, so we played in two different tournaments, and a lot of the times were similar to the state tournament times, which are earlier in the day.

"Right before Districts we were playing our best basketball, and they're starting to find their roles and win basketball games together."

Lapwai returns to the end-of-year tournament 361 days removed from its 81-79 overtime loss to Lakeside of Plummer in the Class 1A DI title game.

The defeat snapped a 62-game win streak and prevented the Wildcats from three-peating as the classification's champion.

"When you win a lot, you start losing some of your motivation," Eastman said. "That loss refueled us even more and made us even more hungry. You have to look at the positives, and it made us a lot more hungry than any team in the past."

There was hardly a hangover for Lapwai after the loss, and it finished the season 22-2 overall, only dropping games to Rocky Mountain of Meridian (5A) and Baker City of Oregon (4A).

The Wildcats are the second-highest-scoring team across all classifications, averaging 77.8 points per outing.

Lapwai's high-octane offense is typically among the Gem State's best scoring units, but this year in particular, it benefited from the video-game-like numbers produced by senior guard Kase Wynott.

The Utah State commit became the all-time high school points leader in Idaho in the first quarter of a 99-47 victory over Clearwater Valley of Kooskia on Jan. 25.

He scored his 2,590th career point off of a Chris Bohnee feed, which broke Kamiah alum Jared Mercer's mark of 2,589 set in 1993.

Five days prior, Wynott broke the Idaho single-game scoring record with a 68-point performance in a 105-43 win against Genesee.

He didn't slow down and averaged a triple-double in three games of a Class 1A DI district tournament.

"The statistics are expected from the hard work he puts in; that doesn't surprise me," Eastman said. "The thing that surprised me is the way he became one of our leaders on and off the court. He knew after that championship loss that he needed to elevate the team, and he did a really good job of holding them accountable. It's really helpful when your leader leads by example."

Senior guard Ahlius Yearout, who averages 17.7 points per game, has also been a weapon for the Wildcats.

"Ahlius has really been finding his shot," Eastman said. "He's been rebounding the basketball; when a shot goes up, he just uses his natural ability and gets the ball, and that's something special."

Bohnee has been an effective contributor on the glass and as a passer.

"With teams starting to figure out how to stop Kase, Chris is starting to use his ability, and Kase is starting to use Chris," Eastman said. "He knows with his basketball IQ how to get to the open spot, and he can finish from all three levels."

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, or on Twitter @TreebTalks.