Inland Empire League makes a significant change to conference


Connor Bird

Juniors Aspen Larson (left) and Jordie Breeden (right) look to score against Lake City on senior night earlier this school year.

After a meeting between all 4A and 5A schools in the Inland Empire League (IEL), 6 out of the 7 athletic directors decided, once again, to combine 4A and 5A for league play.

The IEL used to combine the league games over a decade ago, but decided to split into 4A and 5A divisions for unknown reasons.

Sandpoint Athletic Director Kris Knowles explained, “When the state decided to divide up 4A and 5A, the Inland Empire League was still one conference so we have decided to go back to that. It doesn’t have any effect on who qualifies for state. All it means is that the 5A schools has to now play 4A [schools] and vice versa.”

Essentially, all Sandpoint sports teams will play all four 5A schools at least once during the course of the regular season, except for football and possibly wrestling due to logistical reasons.

The games between 4A and 5A schools will count as league games, so it impacts the standings of the conference and the seeding in the district tournament. 

Knowles exemplified this by stating, “Coach Love’s team will play all the 5As twice during the regular season, but then we will go ahead and have 4A district tournament to determine who goes to state.”

If there’s a tie in the standings between any of the 4A schools, their record against the 5A league opponents and point differential will be the tie-breakers.

Girls varsity basketball head coach Will Love expressed his delight with the IEL’s decision.

“I think it’s a benefit for the basketball programs,” said Love. “[It’s] giving the athletes the opportunity to know they are going to be competing at a high level. We know we are going to be competing game in and game out.”

Sophomore baseball player Auggie Lehman commented on the opportunity to play more 5A teams in the future after only playing two games versus North Idaho’s big schools his freshman year. “I think this will give us better competition during the season which will help prepare us for the playoffs and state.”

Not all teams will have a major schedule impact like baseball. Basketball and soccer are two examples, as they already play roughly six games each against 5A schools.

One of the returning girls soccer players, junior Jordie Breeden, brought up her team’s mentality and experience versus the bigger schools.

“I don’t think our mentality is going to be different going into those games. For soccer we are strong and have beat 5A teams so I think mentally, we are going to play the same like we would in any other season,” replied Breeden.

There could potentially be more changes to IEL.

Knowles mentioned that schools in the IEL are talking about implementing a combined district tournament, although nothing has been finalized.

“In future years, we’re talking about doing a combined 4A/5A tournament which would be a 7 team tournament which I think would be super cool,” remarked Knowles.