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Lady Eagles coach seeks steady play at West Valley

Sat., Jan. 4, 2014

Lorin Carlon is looking for a little consistency.

The West Valley girls basketball coach has gotten strong scoring performances from a number of his Lady Eagles, who placed sixth at last year’s Class 2A state tournament.

Maddy Wilhelm, Erin Higbie and Natalie Noble each have taken a turn leading the team in scoring as the Eagles opened the season with six wins in eight starts.

“We’re just not scoring with the kind of consistency we need,” Carlon said. “We get a lot of points one night and none the next.”

Part of the challenge, the coach said, is a product of youth. West Valley returns a pair of All-Great Northern League players from a year ago in juniors Noble and Higbie. But the supporting class is young.

“I have two seniors (Halie Gronenthal and Katelyn Sage) and the all-league players back,” Carlon said. “But after that we’re pretty young.”

The 5-11 Higbie earned first-team all-league honors a year ago, averaging 15.4 points per game and a dozen rebounds.

Against Moscow, Higbie scored 13 points and grabbed 18 rebounds; she scored a season-high 26 points against Lakeside.

“I’m hopeful we can get her back to the state tournament a couple more times,” Carlon said. “If we can do that, she has a shot at the state tournament rebounding record.

“Rebounding is about heart and she came to us with it. She came to us from Coeur d’Alene and she already had that desire to rebound. And she’s good at shooting free throws. When you can rebound and shoot free throws, you can score a lot of points.”

And, the coach said, she can shoot from the outside.

“She has a nice outside shot,” Carlon said. “She will step out and shoot from the perimeter and she can score from out there. It’s awfully hard for teams to cover a 6-foot player who can shoot from outside.”

The Eagles have depth inside. Freshman Kim Koppenstein, a 6-foot post, has earned increased playing time, as has 6-0 junior Rachel McGlothlen.

Noble was a second-team honoree a year ago after averaging just under 10 points, four steals and five assists per game as a sophomore. Already this season she scored 20 points in a win over Sandpoint – going 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, 19 in a win over Lakeland and 18 in a win over Timberlake.

“We lost her for part of the Post Falls game and all of the Lakeside game,” the coach said. West Valley’s two losses came in those games by a combined total of three points. “We’re not sure what it was, but I kind of think it was a virus. She’s over it, thankfully.”

Consistency will take on even more importance as the team heads into the regular season, opening with a game at Pullman on Thursday, facing last year’s league Most Valuable Player in junior guard Emily Drake.

The Greyhounds graduated a pair of all-GNL players from a year ago, however, in first-team guard Dakota Wickard and second-team guard Anna Guo.

“Pullman is always a tough place to go play, no matter who’s playing,” Carlon said. “That’s the thing about this league – you have to learn how to travel. That’s a challenge for a young team.”

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