Editor's Note: This story is included in The Chronicle's 2022-23 Prep Basketball Preview, which is published in the Thursday edition.
In football, it was Napavine who lost to Kalama in the state title game last year, then came into this season the heavy favorite and proceeded to dominate from wire to wire en route to its own crown. In boys basketball, the story will be whether Morton-White Pass can do things similarly.
The T-Wolves, who lost to Kalama in the district championship game, then again in Spokane in the third-place matchup, look like they’ve only improved coming into this year. Josh Salguero, MWP’s 6-7 all-league center, is back for his senior year. So is Jace Peters, and Carter Dantinne, the latter of which has moved out of the starting lineup to the sixth-man spot due to the influx of talent coming in.
That influx starts with Hunter Hazen, who only played four games last season but has already hit 36 points in a night this year. And it continues with Jake Cournyer, who transferred in after playing three years at Toledo, and has taken on a prominent role on the perimeter.
That’s not to say the rest of the league is going to hand the T-Wolves the crown. The same group that just won Napavine the state football title has traded in its pads for basketball shoes, and while the Tigers have to replace Keith Olson down low, they’ve gotten off to a blazing fast start this winter. James Grose started his season off with a 42-point effort against Winlock, with Karsen Dennault adding 21 points of his own.
Adna returns a first-team all-league feature in Braeden Salme, and the Pirates once again look to be a fast, high-flying side that won’t hesitate to shoot from any spot on the floor. Rainier brings not one, not two, but three Meldrums — Josh, Jimmy, and Jake — to the party, a trio they’ll hope can lead them to a fair few wins.
Down south, Wahkiakum has already earned itself a couple of eye-catching wins, with a senior core that’s come up together through the years. And Toutle Lake can’t ever be counted out so long as the Ducks have Zach Swanson, though the question will remain whether they can find a supporting cast for him enough to make a return to the state tournament.
So far, Morton-White Pass hasn’t looked vulnerable at all, with big win after big win. But it’s one thing to do it for a week or two, and quite another to keep it up a full season, with a district tournament and possible state run after that, and there are plenty of teams that will be happy to be the one the T-Wolves slip up against.
Central 2B League at a Glance
Coach: Cole Doughty (first)
2021-22 record: 1-19
Returning starters: Payton Sickles, Chase Scofield
Newcomer(s) to watch: Landon Cline
Quotable: “If there was one word I hope people take away from watching us, it would be gritty and tough. No matter what the score is, our kids play hard and are always competing.” — Cole Doughty
Coach: Grady Fallon (ninth)
2021-22 record: 13-8 (districts)
Returning starters: Conner Olmstead, Rogan Stanley, Kaven Winters
Newcomer(s) to watch: Trevin Gale, Cooper Fallon
Quotable: “They include them and encourage them. I don’t think they’re selfish, no one thinks they’re better than anyone else, they’re all working hard in practice and pushing each other and those younger guys are hungry and want it and are pushing the younger guys. It’s a great mixture.” — Grady Fallon
Coach: Ben Sheaffer (second)
2021-22 record: 13-8 (districts)
Returning starters: Jake Meldrum, Josh Meldrum
Newcomer(s) to watch: Jared Sprouffske, Hunter Howell, Jimmy Meldrum
Quotable: “That’s our identity is being scrappy and gritty and getting after it. We’re going to be undersized this year and so we have to play that way. Shots aren’t always going to fall but energy travels.” — Ben Sheaffer
Coach: Brent Wood (first)
2021-22 record: 4-16 (districts)
Returning starters: Ben Russon, Rylan McGraw
Newcomer(s) to watch: CJ Davis, Nick Rushton, Blaze Underhill, Case McGraw, Cooper Lawrence
Coach: Rex Stanley (24th)
2021-22 record: 17-7 (state)
Returning starters: James Grose, Cael Stanley, Jarin Prather
Newcomer(s) to watch: Karsen Denault, Cayle Kelly, Jack Nelson, Ashton Demarest, Brody Landram
Coach: Chad Cramer (fifth)
2021-22 record: 18-9 (fifth at state)
Returning starters: Josh Salguero, Carter Dantinne
Newcomer(s) to watch: Jake Cournyer, Tony Belgiorno
Quotable: “Staying balanced is how we can win … We have to be able to win in a fast tempo game and a slow tempo game. Through our bigs and guards, be able to win with our defense, and our shooting. If we can be balanced in that way it will lead to success. It’s making sure we’re not one-dimensional.” — Chad Cramer
Coach: Luke Salme (seventh)
2021-22 record: 20-7 (state)
Returning starters: Braeden Salme, Eli Smith, Lane Johnson
Newcomer(s) to watch: Seth Meister
Quotable: “We’re going to play fast. We’re going to shoot threes, but we’re also going to attack. We’re going to push the ball as fast as we can.” — Luke Salme