Before we jump into all the fun predictions, comparisons and stats that were more relevant six months ago than they will be Friday, let’s get one thing out in the open:

Don’t put too much stock into the results of Friday’s game between St. Maries and Lapwai’s boys basketball teams.

The fact is, one good team is going to lose. That’s just how it goes.

And that one loss could end up being a blip in what turns out to be an incredibly-successful season for either school.

In truth, these two teams will be significantly-more polished come February when they meet again.

• • •

Okay, now we can jump into the fun stuff, because this matchup has plenty of it.

Friday will be St. Maries’ first home game since winning its state title.

The game will be Lapwai’s season opener, while the Lumberjacks will have one game (Nov. 30 @ Priest River) under their belts.

The two will meet again at Lapwai Feb. 8, roughly two weeks before post season play starts.

They split games last season, both winning on their respective home courts.

The loss for St. Maries at Lapwai ended up as its only red mark in an otherwise remarkable run to a 2A title.

• • •

For Lapwai, its loss to the Lumberjacks was one of four, the other three coming to eventual state champion Garden Valley (1AD2 tournament winner), 4A Lakeland and league opponent Genesee.

But the Wildcats made up for those losses in the 1AD1 tournament, where they outscored their three opponents 232-142.

• • •

Tristan Nelson, the 2021, 2A tournament MVP, returns for his senior season, while the reigning 1AD1 tournament MVP, Kase Wynott enters his sophomore season with Lapwai.

Core players return for both teams. The Lumberjacks have guard Coleman Ross back, named to last seaosn’s All-2A tournament second team. Also returning is Colby Renner, who was briefly trending on Twitter after hitting a last-second shot to send St. Maries to the title game last March. Colby earned the 2A tournament’s sixth man award.

Greyson Sands is a quick, scrappy defender who has grown into a leadership role with St. Maries. He can score, too. The junior recorded double-digit outings seven times last season, and was a big part of St. Maries’ early-season win over the then-reigning 1AD2 champions from Plummer. He was a big part of the Jacks’ tournament run, too, but that pair of four-point plays in the first half against Lakeside is tough to forget.

• • •

Lapwai welcomes the return of Titus Yearout, who will likely be the best player on the floor Friday night. Titus will leave the Wildcats and head to Moscow next year, where he has committed to play basketball for the Vandals.

Kross Taylor was named to the 1AD1 All-tournament second team. The 6’3” senior returns to the experience-heavy Wildcats, who will be led by five seniors in 2021-22.

Collin Scheel is the sports reporter at the Gazette Record.

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