Last month it was the defending 1AD2 state champions.
This week, the highest-ranked team in the 1AD1 classification came to visit.
In big games, the Lumberjacks have been the more prepared team.
And they have the record to show.
Teams that typically put up big offensive numbers have been stifled by St. Maries’ defense, which has held opponents to 38 points per contest in eight wins this season.
Included among those teams have been Lakeside and Lapwai, both which average greater than 70 points per contest – and both held to well below that by Coach Bryan Chase’s defense.
The Jacks most recent win came Monday night, Jan. 11, against the 1AD1 classification’s top-ranked team from Lapwai.
The Wildcats, who score an average 78 points per contest, were held to their season-low, 58, and were put away by a shorthanded St. Maries team, which was missing high-scoring guard Greyson Sands and post Randie Becktel due to quarantine precautions.
Coach Chase said including Lakeside, Lapwai was one of the best teams his club has faced.
“If a game ever happens between Lakeside and Lapwai, I’ll be one of the first ones to tune in,” Coach Chase said. “I think that game would be pretty darn close.”
St. Maries, which now sits at 8-0 heading into a game with Kellogg Thursday and one with Grangeville Saturday, ran out to a 23-10 lead after one quarter of play Jan. 11.
Led by junior guard Titus Yearout, Lapwai mounted a comeback in the second quarter to cut St. Maries’ lead to two, capped by a three-pointer from Titus at the first-half buzzer.
“For the last three games Eli (Gibson) has been in charge of guarding opposing teams best player, and he’s done a great job,” Coach Chase said. “A lot of those shots you couldn’t have defended any better, and even though he (Titus) finished with 22 I thought we defended him really well.”
The two teams went into the final quarter separated by one point before the Lumberjacks increased their lead in the final minutes and held on for a 65-58 win. St. Maries was put on the free throw line 11 times in the fourth quarter and made nine attempts.
“I really think that was one of our best games in program history,” Coach Chase said. “You look on paper, and these big games like the ones against Lapwai, Lakeside, you have to think you need to play your best to beat them, and our kids have responded each time we’ve asked that of them. You can’t say enough about how well they played defensively.”
Eli finished with 18 points and six assists and Tristan Nelson put up 11 points to go with seven rebounds in the win. Sean Elliott came off the bench and made three shots from beyond the arc as he finished with nine points.
The team jumped on Kellogg Jan. 9 as they took a 30-12 halftime lead and went on to win the game 55-29.
“The last eight years or so they’ve been our Achille’s heel, and I think our kids kept that in mind and were ready to go when we got there,” Coach Chase said.
St. Maries held Kellogg to one basket in the first quarter, a three-point shot, and one free throw.
“We’ve had a couple games like that where our defense has really set the tone,” Coach Chase said.
Coleman Ross led the team in scoring with 15 and Greyson Sands added 13 points in the win.
St. Maries hosted Post Falls JV Jan. 6 and got another big game from Eli, who recorded a 16-point, 10 rebound double-double as his team earned a 66-47 win.
Coach Chase’s team went 16-21 from the free throw line and scored 19 points apiece in the third and fourth quarters.
“I gave the kids a pretty fiery halftime talk, and they came out in that second half ready to go,” Coach Chase said.
Upcoming: St. Maries (8-0) hosts Kellogg (2-3, 1-0 IML) Thursday at 7 p.m. and opens league play Saturday against Grangeville (4-2). Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m.
St. Maries 65, Lapwai 58
SM 23 10 10 22 65
LAP 10 21 11 16 58
Gibson – 18 pts., 6 as., 3 st.; Nelson – 11 pts., 7 reb., 3 as., 3 st.; Renner – 11 pts.; Elliott – 9 pts.; Stancil – 8 pts.; Ross – 8 pts.
St. Maries 55, Kellogg 29
SM 15 15 18 7 55
KEL 4 8 10 7 29
Ross – 15 pts.; Sands – 13 pts.; Nelson – 7 pts.; Stancil – 6 pts.; Renner – 6 pts.; Gibson – 4 pts., 2 as., 2 reb.; Becktel – 2 pts.; McMaster – 2 pts.
St. Maries 66, Post Falls JV 47
SM 20 8 19 19 66
PF JV 10 15 12 10 47
Gibson – 16 pts., 10 reb.; Renner – 13 pts., 5-5 FT; Ross – 12 pts.; Becktel – 8 pts.; Sands – 7 pts.; Stancil – 6 pts., 4 as.; Nelson – 2 pts.; Elliott – 2 pts.