GRANGEVILLE — The GHS girls won a state tournament game last February for the first time since 2015, and have nearly the full roster back for this season. In addition to the state tournament experience — and their first district title since 2016 — the Bulldogs logged a lot of “competitive, high level games” during the summer, coach Michelle Barger told the Free Press.
Having graduated top player Paige Lindsley last spring, and with standout Jakaili Norman set to skip the season and graduate early, Grangeville has two big varsity vacancies.
Junior Zoe Lutz was named the 2A state tournament’s “sixth man” — the award for the best backup — having played major minutes during the Bulldogs’ comeback win over Ririe.
Camden Barger and Bailey Vanderwall return having started all three tournament games as freshmen, and having played about 60 games more between club ball and team functions over the summer.
Their coach sees nine of the 11 varsity players as potential starters — and sees the team as a whole as very strong.
“I think we’ll be good this year,” Michelle Barger said. “We’ve got a lot of starting players coming back. We’ve got a lot of returning players coming back. I’m really excited. The girls look good. They’re excited about basketball.”
During the summer, Lutz, Barger, Vanderwall, Talia Brown, Megan Bashaw, Kim Kaschmitter and “a bunch of sophomores,” took team camps, chiefly an 11-gamer at Ocean Shores, Wash., where the Grangeville girls won 10 games.
“I think we ended up going 26 games in all,” Barger said. “At Ocean Shores we had a lot of Oregon and Washington teams — some really, really good teams that had placed at state the previous year — that we beat. It was a really good show of Grangeville there. That wasn’t with a shot clock because it was in a bunch of different gyms, but Colton was there.”
Barger said the team is capable of running a similar system to last year’s, but may also go with a “four-out, one-in” offense at times.
“We have a lot of guards and not very many posts, but we can go four-out, one-in, which is great,” Barger said. “We’re really fast, we can pressure the ball and do a lot of exciting things.”
Replacing the contributions Lindsley made last year — beyond the scoring, rebounding and defense — includes handling in the backcourt.
“We will have to have another ball-handler, and Bailey is right there,” Barger said. “She played a lot of 1- and 2-guard this summer. She can handle well. Macy Smith can handle well. Hayden Hill can handle well. Makayla Roberts can handle well. We didn’t get pressed — hardly at all — this summer, because we can handle the ball well. They’re not all as confident as Camden, but I really do have a lot of confidence in them.”
Inside, Grangeville has high hopes for Colby Canaday.
“I really want to see Colby thrive,” Barger said. “She is already taking really great advice from our new coach, Brittany Ebert, who is working with her in the post. She gets really good position and she’s just got to finish.”
Barger also noted Canaday’s outside shooting.
“You wouldn’t think it of one of our posts, but Colby is actually one of the best shooters on our team,” she said. “I expect big minutes from her, and she expects a lot of herself. She has got herself in pretty good shape. She was out early on last year with a concussion and never quite got into basketball shape, She’s really going to be a factor this year.”
Canaday had been among Grangeville’s most effective players during the 2018 district tournament.
Brown and Lutz — both quick and athletic — will also be key players inside, where Barger is looking for their rebounding to make up for what Lindsley and Norman did last year.
When Norman got into foul trouble during Grangeville’s state tournament win against Ririe, Lutz covered most of her minutes; Lutz wound up shooting 4-for-4 in addition to seven rebounds.
“She needs to own the key this season,” Barger said.
Barger anticipates Cole Valley, Melba and Soda Springs will be top 2A teams again this season.
GHS will see top non-league competition at the Nyssa Tournament in Ontario, Ore., Dec. 19-21, in addition to familiar foes like Colton (Dec. 10, Jan. 14), and Lapwai (Dec. 16, Jan. 11).