STATE CHAMPIONS: Lapwai Wildcats boys basketball gets sweet revenge to win the Idaho Class 1A Division I state championship

Mar. 6—The latest chapter of the Lapwai boys basketball dynasty will be remembered for redemption.

The top-seeded Wildcats never trailed in a 67-54 win over Lakeside (Plummer) in the Idaho Class 1A Division I state championship game on Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.

It was a celebratory moment for Lapwai, which fell to the Knights in an 81-79 overtime thriller in last year's title tilt on March 4, 2023.

As the Wildcats were bestowed the first-place trophy, star player and Idaho's all-time high school career scoring leader, Kase Wynott (2,962 points), transferred the hardware to last year's seniors, who made the trip to Nampa to witness the team's redemption tour.

"It was awesome seeing pictures of them holding the trophy," Lapwai coach Zachary Eastman said. "It brought tears to our eyes for them, and to get that back for them was really cool to see. We promised we'd come back and win this game for them, and it's what we ended up accomplishing."

The senior guard recorded a game-high 46 points against Lakeside, three shy of an event record. He was the most dominant presence for the Wildcats this season, and instead of savoring the moment for himself, he shared it with his former teammates, a group that won back-to-back state championships and 62 consecutive games.

"It shows the kind of teammate that he is," Eastman said. "He really cares, and we say we're a family all the time, and I know some of the friendships he's built at Lapwai he'll have for the rest of his life. It also shows maturity; he cared more about other people in that moment than just himself, and that's really easy to do — just care about yourself and not the people around you in that moment."

Kase's dad, Jeremiah Wynott, got to experience his son's historic run from the sidelines as an assistant coach.

Kase Wynott, a 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 finished the season averaging 36 points, 13.9 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game.

"It's good to see that they accomplished the goal they set together, which was to win a state championship," Eastman said. "This is a special moment that they'll have for the rest of their lives."

Jeremiah Wynott has more than three decades of coaching experience and joined Eastman's staff last season.

"We play really well off of each other," Eastman said. "We see basketball differently, and we throw ideas off of each other and see what works and what doesn't."

The Wildcats began to lock in for their rematch against the Knights during the pregame shoot-around when they were making "shot after shot after shot."

"We had a lot of motivation, and when we got to the locker room, we tried to keep everything the same as we've done all year," Eastman said. "We did everything the same and tried to keep the same atmosphere. We never want to get too high or too low, and right before we go out, we do get hyped together, and that energy before we went out was different, and I could tell we were ready to go."

Lapwai's win on Saturday was an amalgamation of 364 days of consistent work and an obsession to get redemption against Lakeside.

The Wildcats were back in the gym almost immediately once they got back from the Ford Idaho Center, emphasizing the Knights' box-and-one defense.

"That was hard for us," Eastman said. "They were playing it well, and we weren't as prepared as we would've been. We played that style of defense numerous times, and it changed our coaching philosophy and how we move the ball."

Lapwai used and practiced against the box-and-one formation so much that Eastman and his staff discussed "doing a YouTube series" on how to run the single-man and box defense.

The Wildcats sought redemption on Lakeside during the regular season but filled that date with the Pro Image Sports Holiday Classic at Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian instead.

"We like to give the kids the feeling of the state tournament where you don't know who you're going to play the next day," Eastman said. "You have to be prepared for anything when you play so many different teams and styles. You learn to adapt."

Lapwai's championship win was its 13th in program history, which ties Borah for the most in the state.

"It's definitely an accomplishment," Eastman said. "It shows everybody just how great Lapwai's program is, and I'm glad I'm a part of it and that history. ... We set this path for our next kids; we don't rebuild, we reload, and we'll be ready to go for next year."

The Wildcats will be losing six seniors, a group special to Eastman as it is the first group of upperclassmen that have been under his tutelage their whole tenure.

"We've been here for their whole careers of high school basketball, so it was a little different with them and being with them for a long period of time," Eastman said. "Also, losing last year together and going through that together definitely helped bring the best out of all of us."

Ahlius Yearout, a senior wing, was Lapwai's second-leading scorer and averaged 16.7 points per outing.

He had always been a prominent defensive force for the Wildcats, but this year his scoring numbers saw a big jump.

"Since I've had Ahlius, every time he's on the court, he's had to guard the toughest player, every year since his freshman year," Eastman said. "That's what he was known for when I got him — his strong defense and his offense started to pick up at the end of the season, and that was awesome to see."

Lapwai's unsung hero on the hardwood the last two years has been senior forward Bohnee.

The 6-foot-3 forward has a high basketball IQ and "knows how to win a basketball game," according to Eastman.

"He's always been on a winning team, and I think that's because of him," Eastman said. "He's the person people forget about, and all of a sudden he has 15 points. He's a player we'll miss, and he's a really good teammate and one of the most unselfish big men that's played for us."

Although Lapwai will be losing several key pieces, it'll still probably be in the conversation for next year's title game, given its track record.

The Wildcats brought multiple underclassmen to State so they could witness the atmosphere and get ready for next year.

"I know they'll be ready to go next year," Eastman said. "When you lose players like we are, people might assume we might be down. But this has happened before when we lost Titus Yearout or when we had five sophomores on the floor during his sophomore year. I think we'll have a better team than people expect."

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