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Loper leaves Post Falls with smile

It’s too bad that Spokane girls basketball followers have had just a brief glimpse of someone Inland Empire League fans have watched and respected for four years.

Outside of the state of Idaho – most specifically, North Idaho – Post Falls senior Katelyn Loper isn’t well known. She made enough of an impression on coaches from Hofstra University (Hempstead, N.Y.) at a summer tournament last year, though, to merit a scholarship offer. Loper will take her game to the East Coast Division I school next year.

The 5-foot-10 wing, a four-year starter, has left her mark at Post Falls. I will remember her smile as much, if not more, than her skills.

I’m not sure if it was Loper’s infectious grin or her ability to make 3-pointers in bunches that struck me first when she was a freshman.

She surely goes to bed with a smile on her face and wakes up with a smile on her face. And I wouldn’t doubt that smile stays on her face as she slumbers.

Last week, Loper broke Post Falls’ all-time scoring record, eclipsing the record (1,334) set by another four-year starter, Aubree Johnson, who graduated in 2003 and went on to play at Arizona State after leading Post Falls to back-to-back state championships. Loper and Johnson rank in the top five players I’ve had the pleasure of following the past 25 years.

Others in their class are Alli Nieman of Sandpoint (University of Idaho), Lindsay Herbert of Lake City (Utah) and Corissa Yasen of Coeur d’Alene (Purdue).

As a sophomore, Loper led Post Falls to third at state. In the trophy game, she scored 33 points on 14-of-20 shooting, including 4 of 5 3-pointers.

From coaches to teammates to classmates to teachers, all have nothing but glowing things to say about Loper. She has immersed herself in the high school experience. From being a student athletic trainer to serving as the student body president this year, there aren’t many high school things she’s missed out on.

Winning is important, but it hasn’t been the only thing to Loper. She’s been about the experience.

Loper became the face of Post Falls High, and it’s one the community should be proud of. The school ought to emboss her face over the Trojan mascot that adorns the gym wall.

She shot early and she shot often in games, no doubt. And she had an unorthodox shooting form – one her coach, Chris Johnson, was struck by when he first saw her play in junior high. When she shoots she’s rarely squared up, but rather drifts to the left and releases the ball seemingly back across her body as a counteractive measure.

Not even Spokane Stars coach Ron Adams, known for his ability to refine and improve shooting touches, dared mess with Loper’s shot. After all, she’s made more than she’s missed over the years.

She was the IEL’s newcomer of the year as a freshman. As a first-team all-league pick as a sophomore and junior she averaged 15.6 points a game. This year she averaged 22 per game.

Loper had just eight points in her final prep game Tuesday when the Trojans were eliminated by Lake City 48-40 in a loser-out regional game. She injured her shoulder in the first half. Although she tried to come back, she didn’t play the final 5 minutes.

At times, Loper piled up as many smiles as points during games. So for all the memories she’s provided on the court, this smile is for you, Katelyn.