Ready to defend, contend

GRANGEVILLE — After the Christmas break last year, a few Whitepine League squads got the better of the Bulldogs. Amid that tough stretch, a couple of Central Idaho League squads — St. Maries and Coeur d’Alene Charter — each picked up a win over the Grangeville boys.

And then it all came together for GHS, as the Bulldogs strung together an unbeaten streak that covered the district and state tournaments — a serendipitous six-game run that culminated in a 15-point victory in the 2A title game.

Coming together is an early-season priority this year, one made more urgent by the graduation of several multi-year starters. The first step for coach Skip Hall’s Bulldogs is to “build some continuity,” he said last Monday, Dec. 2. “We need to get used to each other, and they need to get used to me.”

They graduated a group of multi-year starters, but return a ton of talent — especially to the backcourt, where senior guard Josh Dame packs tremendous scoring punch into a 5-8 frame.

Dame was deadly in transition last year, and Hall hopes Grangeville will be able to get out and run at least as much this year. “We’d like to get every team into a full-court game,” he said.

In the half-court, the Bulldogs are “going to be able to shoot the ball,” Hall said.

The Bulldogs will adapt the high-energy flex offense they ran last year to create shots for perimeter players Dame, Layton Harris, Jake Stokes and Quaid Blankenship as well as post Jasper Sabatino. They’re also drilling motion sets.

One of the guys Grangeville leaned on most heavily last year — physical junior Michael Wilson — is out injured to start the season, Hall said. “We don’t know if or when we’ll get him back,” he said.

Interior defense will be a key for Grangeville, and that makes 6-7 center Wyatt Thanstrom a key defender for the Bulldogs.

Grangeville’s graduates will be missed, especially inside, where tall teams with multiple posts will challenge GHS. “We’re going to miss those guys a ton — they were smart and they have long arms,” Hall said. “But our kids are tough. I think we’ll be good. If we can defend our opponents, we’ll be very good.”

Grangeville, 17-8 with a 4-2 CIL record a year ago, will host its season opener this Friday against McCall.

The varsity is set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 at GHS.

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