There won’t be any trips to Spokane — at least not for state basketball purposes — on the calendar for local 2B basketball teams. Thanks to the pandemic, Lewis County’s teams will have to adjust their sights to focus on the District 4 tournament, and even that should prove to be tough sledding this year with a handful of powerful teams residing in the Lewis County-heavy Central 2B League but outside of county lines.
Toutle Lake, for starters, is coming off a 21-6 season and runner-up finish at the District 4 tournament and a sixth-place finish at state, with freshman Zach Swanson leading the way. Swanson, son of longtime Ducks coach Eric Swanson, earned an all-league second-team nod for his work at guard last year.
Wahkiakum is in a similar boat. The Mules went 17-7 last year and lost on Day 1 in Spokane but graduated just one senior and boast high-scoring 6-foot-3 forward Jake Leitz, one of just two all-league first-team players back in action this year.
The other first-teamer is dynamic guard-forward Jackson Esary from Kalama. The 6-foot-3 junior averaged 17.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game as a sophomore and leads a Chinook team that brings back its full starting lineup after a first-round district exit last season.
Here’s how Lewis County’s teams stack up heading into the 2021 campaign.
The Pirates finished fifth in the C2BL last year, going 13-11 overall and 6-4 in league play under sixth-year coach Luke Salme.
Gone is All-Area pick Braden Thomas, the county’s second-leading scorer last year, who averaged 20.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Returning starters include senior Tyler Minkoff (5-foot-10), who averaged 5.8 points, three rebounds and two steals per game, as well as junior Chase Collins (5-foot-11), who averaged 12.5 points a game and was a third-team all-league pick.
A couple newcomers who could start immediately are senior speedster Zach Berg and junior Aaron Aselton
The Timberwolves finished third in the C2BL, going 12-11 overall and qualifying for the district playoffs.
Gone are second-team all-league selection Hayden Young and now-sophomore Josh Salguero, a third-team all-league pick, who moved to Chehalis.
Starters have yet to be determined, third-year coach Chad Cramer said, but he has a solid group of newcomers who will be in the fold.
Tye Chhour, Conner Dill, Tyler Blake, sophomore Carter Dantinne, Gary Dotson (6-foot-4) and Kysen Collette all figure to be in the mix for big minutes.
The Tigers could be one of the top teams in the league this season after returning four starters from a team that went 12-9 a year ago.
All four returning starters are all-around athletes and have stayed in-shape after coming off football and baseball seasons recently.
Seniors Laythan Demarest (8 points per game) and Cade Evander (6-foot-2), along with juniors Keith Olson (6-foot-6) (second-team all-league) and Gavin Parker, should create fits for opposing teams this year.
Onalaska had perhaps the most exciting and unexpected season of all boys basketball teams in the area.
The Loggers finished fourth in the Central 2B League before losing to state runner-up Life Christian in the opening round of districts. Onalaska proceeded to reel off three straight do-or-die victories, all 15-40 point blowout wins in the district tourney, followed by a 19-point rout of Wahkiakum to finish third in districts and claim a berth to the state tournament in Spokane.
Ony (20-8) would end up falling to Willapa Valley in the opening round at state, a team that would go on to shock the tourney and place fifth.
The Loggers have now lost five seniors, including All-Area pick Carter Whitehead, who averaged 16.7 points per game. Also gone is coach Wayne Nelson, who relinquished his coaching duties to first-year coach Todd Dalsted.
The Loggers return just one starter in senior Danny Dalsted, who was the Loggers’ quarterback this year. A few players who figure to make their way into the starting rotation are juniors Mason Ulery and Aiden Readman, Todd Dalsted said.
Onalaska opens its season at Adna at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The Indians had a down year in 2020, finishing 7-14 overall under sixth-year coach Grady Fallon. Luckily, Fallon brings back four starters and a capable newcomer to help create a resurgence this year.
Returning starters include senior Carlo Arceo-Hansen (5-foot-11), a third-team all-league selection, as well as senior Ryan Bloomstrom (5-foot-11), sophomore Jake Cournyer and sophomore Carson Gould. Joining the starting rotation is 6-foot-4 sophomore Carson Olmstead.
The Mountaineers lost out in the second round of districts last season after going 11-12 overall and 4-6 in league under fourth-year coach Jeremy Landram.
Rainier brings back four returning starters, including all-league honorable-mention sophomore Jake Jeske, along with Ian Sprouffske, Curtis Keller and Logan Bowers.
Newcomers who could also see starting roles are Thomas Ronne and David Cano.
Gone from last year’s team that went 17-7, finished second in league and lost out in the district semifinals is one of Winlock’s all-time leading scorers in All-Area MVP Bryce Cline, as well as honorable-mention selection Noah Patching.
Returning are three starters, which include Landon Tiemens, Joe Welch and post Nolan Swofford.
Newcomers Abraham Mohsin and Payton Sickles are two guys who could earn starting roles this season, seventh-year coach Nick Bamer said.
The Vikings will look to improve on a 2-18 season in 2020 under second-year coach Adam Deck.
Fortunately Mossyrock returns four starters, which includes junior Gunner Mulligan, sophomore Keegan Kolb and seniors Ryan Bellino and Aiden Weist.
Some newcomers figuring to make noise are freshman Zack Munos and eighth grader Easton Kolb.
The Trojans went 5-15 in the 1B ranks last season under coach Clayburn Lusk.
Back are two returning starters, seniors Joey McCalden and Kollin Jurek. Five others will vie for the remaining starting roles in Jackson Lusk, freshman Blake Howard, Aidan Lee, Thomas Justice and Jesse Zard.
“We are going to be very inexperienced,” Lusk said. “We have a lot of work to do to compete in our league.”