If last week’s district championship win over Grangeville was an indicator of how Coach Bryan Chase’s team will play in the state tournament, the Lumberjacks are in good shape.
St. Maries has the second-best record in a highly-competitive 2A bracket that could potentially feature the state’s top two teams in a semifinal matchup Friday evening, should the Lumberjacks and top-ranked North Fremont (20-0) get past their first-round opponents.
But even that is not a guarantee.
The Lumberjacks quarterfinal opponent Melba is fresh off a district-championship win over Ambrose, which was tied with St. Maries for second in the last state rankings.
“I think on paper Melba matches up with us better,” Coach Chase said. “They’re big and height-wise they’re about the same size as us.”
The Mustangs starting five includes two underclassmen, along with one junior and two seniors.
“We’re one of the most experienced teams going down there,” Coach Chase said. “Our kids have played in a lot of state games, and that is a big plus for us.”
Three of the state’s top five teams are in the top half of the bracket, with St. Maries meeting the winner of #1 North Fremont and #4 West Side in the semifinals, should it get past Melba. North Fremont has won 28 consecutive games dating back to last season, and has won the last two 2A state titles.
“A good team will get knocked out early with that West Side, North Fremont game,” Coach Chase said.
After defeating Grangeville by ten points in two regular-season meetings, St. Maries ran away with a 63-30 win Feb. 24 behind 17 points from Brett Stancil, who went 5-9 from three-point range.
The victory clinched a seventh consecutive state berth for St. Maries, which would have been forced to play an extra game with the Bulldogs had Grangeville won.
“I was so proud of the kids for the way they played on both sides of the ball,” Coach Chase said. “They were not going to mess around with a second game, and went in there and got it done.”
Tipoff Thursday between St. Maries and Melba is slated for 1 p.m. PST at Eagle High School.
St. Maries 63, Grangeville 30
SM 25 7 19 12 63
GHS 14 4 6 6 30
Stancil – 17 pts., 5-9 3PT; Nelson – 14 pts., 7 reb., 3 as.; Renner – 8 pts.; Becktel – 7 pts., 7 reb.; Ross – 6 pts.; Gibson – 5 pts., 3 as.; T. Renner – 2 pts.; C. Wicks – 2 pts.