Travis Fulton described his ideal State A-2 championship game as if he’d had a Back to the Future experience.
The state title game would be an all-Intermountain League finale, featuring his team, Kellogg, vs. Bonners Ferry.
Both teams would play their best games of the season, and it wouldn’t be decided until the final seconds.
As the clock wound down, Fulton, a three-year starting point guard, would be dribbling the ball with the option of taking the winning shot or passing to an open teammate.
Result? Kellogg wins.
“If our teams get out of district I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams in the (state) final,” Fulton said. “And that would be a game to watch.”
Fulton isn’t taking anything for granted, though. Not after last year.
Kellogg had just clinched the league championship and the No. 1 seed in the district tournament with a 90-88 win over Priest River a year ago this week.
Having come into the season with high expectations after qualifying for state the year before, Kellogg fell apart at the district tournament. The Wildcats were upset by Priest River, and league runner-up Bonners Ferry eliminated the Wildcats in the runner-up-to-state game.
Fulton didn’t like the taste the district tournament left in his mouth.
“There’s really no words to describe the feeling of not qualifying for state when you felt you should have,” Fulton said. “I’ve had to live with it the past year.”
Kellogg and Bonners Ferry most likely will finish the regular season this week as co-champions. In the final Associated Press poll released Wednesday, Kellogg was ranked No. 1, Bonners Ferry third.
If there’s a year that an IML team could win a state championship, this would appear to be it.
“That’s why the hopes are high around here,” Fulton said.
If Kellogg earns the opportunity to shoot for gold, Fulton is sure to have a hand in it.
He’s a dash of waiter and a pinch of chauffeur. And when called upon Fulton can carry the team, too.
He’d much rather put his teammates in position to excel, though.
“As the point guard, it’s my job to get everybody involved,” the heady 6-foot-3 Fulton said. “If my teammates get off to a good start, they’ll be there in the fourth quarter when we need them.”
Fulton ranks fifth in the IML in scoring at 14.8 points per game. Kellogg coach David Roberts believes Fulton could lead the league in scoring.
That’s not important to Fulton, though. The team comes first with him.
“It doesn’t matter to me who scores; everybody that steps on the floor for us can score,” Fulton said. “I’d rather have about 15 points, five to six rebounds and eight to nine assists. That’s more important than scoring a lot of points.”
His season high is 27 points, and he’s scored 26 twice.
In a recent win over A-1 Lake City, for example, Fulton didn’t score in the first half, choosing to involve his teammates more in the game. But he made the game-winning free throws in the final minute.
“He’s very, very unselfish,” Roberts said. “If he were on a less talented team, people would probably notice him more. He does so many things from the point guard position that probably a coach notices more than the layman would notice.”
Though the statistics probably wouldn’t show it, Roberts said, Fulton is improved over last season.
“Travis Fulton, in what he means to the Kellogg basketball team, is the best player in the league in the past three years,” Roberts said.
One statistic that reinforces Fulton’s value to the Wildcats is in minutes played. Fulton leads the team with 488 minutes in 18 games, an average of 27.1 per game out of a maximum 32.
Though he loves basketball, Fulton’s best sport is golf. He finished fourth in medalist play at the State B tournament last year and wants nothing less than an individual championship this spring.
Fulton, who carries a 2 handicap, is leaning toward playing at Idaho State University. He expects to receive a golf scholarship in the next week from the Pocatello school.
But Fulton’s attention is focused on the business at hand. And that’s earning a berth to state at district next week.
He likes his team’s chance of qualifying for state and enjoying success because Kellogg has yet to peak this season.
“We’ve played well at times, but we’re no where near where we can play,” he said. “Last year, we played great in the regular season. This year, we haven’t come close to peaking.”
Fulton doesn’t think Bonners Ferry has peaked yet either.
So if both teams qualify for state and ultimately meet in the state championship, which team would win?
“I’d like to say that it would be our experience, with four seniors starting, but they’ve got experience too,” Fulton said. “I guess I’d say we would win. It’s just a gut feeling. But I’m sure if you asked the Bonners Ferry players, they’d tell you they’d win.
“I just hope that we play our best next week and can get to state. It (state) really has been the goal of our team for a long time. Seven of us have played together in AAU and summer tournaments since the fourth grade. Now we just have to do it.”
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