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Kerns Gets Nod As Iel’s, State’s Mvp

North Idaho high school girls basketball teams provided many special moments this season.

The teams that qualified for state - and some that didn’t - did the area proud. So we say farewell with our season-ending awards, by league:

Inland Empire

Most Valuable Player: I have to agree with the coaches’ selection, Lake City senior point guard Jennifer Kerns. Her presence on the court and ball-handling skills against pressure are things that aren’t reflected in statistics - unless you look at the win column.

Timberwolves senior post Melissa Dodge finishes close to Kerns as MVP. Somebody had to get the rebounds to start LC’s transition game and somebody had to provide the last line of defense in LC’s fullcourt press. Dodge did both in dominating fashion.

If we selected a “most valuable to team” honor, Sandpoint junior post Alli Nieman, who’ll be the most heavily recruited player since Heather Owen next fall, wins easily.

Most improved player: Post Falls junior wing-guard Heidi Umthun, who finished as the second leading scorer in the league at 16.3 points per game.

Rookie of the year: Easy choice here. The runaway winner is T-Wolves freshman Lindsay Herbert, who already has college coaches drooling after finishing as LC’s third-leading scorer (7.5 ppg).

Tough luck award: Lewiston was good enough to win a trophy at the State A-1 tournament. Nampa, the team that defeated the Bengals in a playoff, captured the consolation title. Lewiston will contend for the league crown next year and would have been considered a slight preseason favorite had it qualified for state. You can’t overrate state experience.

Coach of the year. Make that coaches of the year: LC’s Dave Fealko and assistant Dave Stockwell, who runs the offseason program so Fealko can fish.

Intermountain League

MVP: Not even a hesitation here, Bonners Ferry senior wing Jana Nearing. I found the selection by the coaches - Moscow junior post Angie Sorbel - questionable. Sorbel had an outstanding season on an offensively weak team (she averaged 11.2 ppg), but Nearing led the league at 17.8 ppg. After watching the state A-2 tournament, I’d cast a vote for Nearing as the A-2 player of the year. She should make an immediate contribution at North Idaho College. She’s high on NIC coach Greg Crimp’s wish list.

MIP: Lakeland senior guard Teresa Viebrock was everything on a victory-challenged team.

Rookie of the year: Moscow’s Sorbel. Tough luck award: Moscow, for dropping a 41-40 state opener to eventual champion Shelley. It was a game Moscow should have won. Coach of the year: Tie, Moscow’s Sally Greene and first-year Bonners Ferry coach Jim Nash. Greene essentially took her junior varsity team and claimed league and district titles. Nash did a marvelous job with a team expected to return and place high at state. To step into a situation with such high expectations is often difficult.

North Star

MVP: Tie between Falls Christian junior guard Sarah Peterson and Clark Fork senior guard Rachel Royster.

MIP: Lakeside sophomore Margaret SiJohn, who had a hot second half of the season to lead the Knights to league and district titles.

Coach of the year: Lakeside’s Ron Miller, who returned his team to the NSL and picked up where it left off before a three-year stay in the A-3 ranks.

All-tournament teams

For what they’re worth, here are my A-1 and A-2 state all-tournament teams:

A-1 - Kerns, Dodge, Lake City senior post Shannon Riggs, Centennial senior forward Lynne Overly and Pocatello senior guard Ann Radmall. MVP, Kerns.

A-2 - Nearing, Sorbel, Sugar-Salem junior post Cady Williams, Preston senior post Jaynee Paskins, Shelley point guard Emily Shumway and Shelley junior post Melanie McCabe. MVP, Nearing.

Putting teams in perspective

It’s difficult for Lake City coach Dave Fealko to compare his state title teams. But he does allow this: Three of the five teams were dominant the years they won.

Those three are the 1990-91 Coeur d’Alene team (which featured Keri Schwenke and Corissa Yasen among six very talented players), last year’s 25-0 CdA team and his first Lake City team.

The 17-year coach grew very attached to LC’s four seniors Dodge, Kerns, Riggs and Nicole Nipp.

Had CdA not split into two schools this year, Dodge and Kerns would have obliterated CdA scoring, rebound and assist records.

About his LC team, Fealko said: “This is the most confident, most focused group I’ve had. Losing is not a part of their vocabulary.”

Will Fealko retire and hand the reigns to assistant Dave Stockwell?

Fealko will decide soon if he’ll return or step down.

The guess here is he’ll return. After all, he’s got the best job in Idaho. He coaches during the season and Stockwell directs all the offseason development.

Though Fealko and Stockwell will have to fill big holes left by the four seniors and develop some depth, the pipeline is far from dry.So there’s no reason for Fealko to walk away.