On most nights, Central Valley’s second five is probably as good, if not better, than many of the other Greater Spokane League’s first teams.
What’s the old saying? It’s not bragging if you can back it up?
“In recent years it’s been like that,” CV senior wing Hailey Christopher said. “The other teams in the GSL maybe aren’t as strong as our bench players, or in some cases our JV players.”
Case in point: a league- and season-opening 63-18 win over Mead on Tuesday, including 26 points from 2016-17 Gatorade girls state player of the year Lexie Hull.
Still, CV’s veteran coach Freddie Rehkow doesn’t think his team deserves to be ranked first in state at this point, citing that they didn’t finish last season atop the chart.
“Honestly, I don’t think we should be No. 1,” Rehkow said. “At this point, we gotta earn that No. 1.”
Christopher wasn’t sure she agreed with her coach’s logic.
“(Coach) doesn’t think we deserve to be No. 1,” she said. “He knows we’re good, but we didn’t get first last year so why should we be (this year)?
“People know that we’re good so, why not put us No. 1? I kind of feel we should be No. 1. But again, we have to prove it.”
That chip on the collective shoulder of the Bears might stem from falling 56-55 in a State 4A quarterfinal to Bellarmine Prep last season – which ended a 52-game winning streak. CV won the state title in 2016 and is 54-1 over the past two seasons.
“We lost one game. To lose where we did, absolutely disappointing,” Rehkow said. “Not disappointed in the team or the season, but just disappointed that for one night we didn’t play our very best and that we didn’t coach our very best and that we came up short.”
So is redemption the theme for the new season?
“I think it’s more making sure that type of game doesn’t happen again,” senior 6-foot-2 forward Lexie Hull said, referring specifically to the single loss. “Preparing so that one game doesn’t determine how our season finishes.”
Twin sister Lacie concurred.
“We want to win the state championship, come back better than ever and to prove we shouldn’t have lost last year and that we’re a better team because of it,” she said.
This is a program that has bred excellence in recent years, so much so that Rehkow said turnout for the freshman team this year was low because of some girls being intimidated by the skill level and success.
“We’ve got kids that are working extremely hard (in the program), because they want to continue the success that the teams before them were having,” Rehkow said.
It might be an embarrassment of riches for the program, but it’s also a source of pride for the school and the players involved.
“It’s a lot of fun winning and having such high stakes every game,” Christopher said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re expected to win.’ We have to win. We want to keep our record. I think it’s just among us all, we want to keep winning because it’s a sense of pride for ourselves.”
“Our team is so well-rounded and diverse that the 10 people on our team are just as good as the majority of the teams we end up playing,” Lexie said. “Just being able to practice against them every day is helping us get better.”
The Hull twins are working to get better, of course, for college basketball. Stanford, and the Pac-12, to be exact. It hasn’t been a secret – the two orally committed in 2016 and signed letters of intent in early November.
And that’s not all. There’s a third Division I player on the Bears, as Christopher signed on to play for Idaho.
“It’s not that I get lost, but we just have so many great players that maybe one night I don’t score,” Christopher said. “But I was helping out on defense and doing a lot of other stuff. Points-wise, yeah, maybe I get lost sometime, but other ways I’m helping the team.”
Christopher acknowledges that it’s an unusual situation for one girls high school program to send three players to college basketball’s highest level.
“We’ve always been good players and we’ve played on the same team for a while,” she said of the twins. “Having three people that can go to a D-I school is super unique and unheard of. It’s great we get to practice against each other and play with each other on the court.”
“Sometimes people see the scores and they don’t understand that there is that gap between some of the athleticism that some of (the CV) kids have,” Rehkow said. “When you have three Division I athletes, they’re used to running. They’re used to playing. It’s hard to shut that competitiveness down.”
Rehkow thinks this might be the smartest team with which he’s been associated. The Hulls both boast 4.0 grade-point averages.
“The thing people don’t realize with this group is they are two-time academic state champions,” Rehkow said. “And their basketball IQ is ridiculous.
“I don’t think there’s a team around here – boys or girls – that picks up things faster.”
“Everyone on our team has such a high basketball IQ that if one’s not seeing something there are nine other people that are and can help that person,” Lacie said.
Whatever else they do this season will all be judged by whether they avenge last year’s single defeat and win a second state title in three years. That’s just the way it is for this program.
“Last year we wanted it and unfortunately we lost, but I think this year we want so badly to win state,” Christopher said. “That’s our goal.”
Post Falls ranks as Idaho state contender
Post Falls finds itself in a similar position as Central Valley. A tremendous regular season in 2016-17 ended with a bitter loss in an Idaho 5A State semifinal and the Trojans settled for third place.
With three-time league MVP Melody Kempton returning with a host of other experienced seniors, coach Marc Allert is aware folks are already penciling in his squad to get over that hump.
In the most recent state media poll, the Trojans (4-0) are ranked second – with two of seven first-place votes. The team they lag behind is Eagle, which dumped them from the playoffs last year.
“(Rankings don’t) mean very much at the beginning of the season,” Allert said. “We knew that would probably be the case. We’d be up there pretty high. It’s not anything we’re afraid of. We’re just going to use it as a challenge and try to meet those expectations.”
Post Falls already owns nonleague wins over GSL foes Lewis and Clark, Rogers and University with CV on tap Dec. 16, before Allert takes his squad to play in the prestigious Jerry Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas on Dec. 20-23.
Allert’s team starts with four-year starter Kempton, who committed to Gonzaga to continue her career.
“It’s definitely given me a lot of attention,” Kempton said of signing with one of the more high-profile women’s programs in the region. “I have random people come up to me all the time … that I don’t know coming up and congratulating me. So that’s really awesome. It’s just a great environment and a great school and I’m really stoked to go there.”
“She’s a great athlete, a great basketball player – but she’s a better person,” Allert said. “She’s just an awesome kid. She’s a 4.0 student. She’s a leader for us. If you want a daughter, that’s the kind of daughter you’d want to have.”
“Aw,” Kempton said when she heard her coach’s remarks. “That makes me feel really great.
“In practice, we’re all very focused, so we don’t have that connection, don’t really talk about that stuff. But to hear it outside of basketball it really, really means a lot.”
“She’s done everything we’ve asked of her for four years,” Allert said. “She makes my job way easier.”
Allert was then quick to point out Kempton doesn’t do it alone. Four-year starter, two-time all-league and second-team all-state point guard Bayley Brennan – who committed to play at Seattle Pacific – returns to add stability and playmaking.
“Melody gets a lot of the credit, and she’s kind of overshadowed Bailey, but Bailey may be just as important to us running our offense and doing a lot of the little things you may not know,” Allert said. “Bailey just gets us into our sets and now she’s become a great scorer for us too.”
Fellow seniors Sydney Parks and Macky Morris were also singled out by Allert as key contributors.
Kempton said she’ll miss the camaraderie with Brennan and her other teammates at the conclusion of the season, the “end of something special,” she said. But they still have work to do before then.
“Our main goal is to win state,” she said. “We tried to do that last year and came pretty close, but didn’t quite make it.
“What it’s all about is having fun and doing well as a team and the better you do normally the more fun you have.”
Greater Spokane League
Mt. Spokane: First-team GSL junior guard Aspyn Adams returns for the Wildcats (19-6, 14-4). She is being recruited by Washington State and Eastern Washington, among others. Most recently, she tied the single-game scoring record at the Dan Fitzgerald Memorial Showcase last weekend. She returns with two other college-bound players, Averi Adams and Emily Nelson.
Gonzaga Prep: The Bullpups (15-9, 13-5) were dealt a blow before the season, losing first-team all-league freshman Olivia Mayer to an ACL injury. Mayer led the Bullpups last season, but they do return two senior starters – Mia Scelfo and Kerynica Keyes – along with young, talented depth. Veteran head coach Mike Arte believes he can play all 11 players without a drop in production. “With our overall depth at each position, I look for us to have a solid season,” Arte said.
Lewis and Clark: First-year head coach Gabe Medrano (former North Central head coach) returns to coach the Tigers (14-10, 12-6), who welcome back four starters from a playoff team a season ago. Jacinta Buckley, a 6-foot forward, was a first-team all-league last season. Also returning is honorable mention all-league guard Dominique Arquette.
University: The Titans (10-10, 10-8) bring back Ellie Boni, who made second-team all-league as a freshman. First-year head coach Jay Kennedy calls her one of the best high school players he’s seen. Two all-league honorable mentions – Claire Dingus and Kinsley Barrington – also return.
Mead: The Panthers and head coach Quantae Anderson finished with a 15-9 record in the 2016-17 season and looks to improve on that mark. Mead returns six letterwinners to a team that earned a playoff berth last season. The senior Russell triplets: honorable mention all-league Lindsey (6-0), Mckenna (6-1) and Allison (5-9) return.
North Central: The Indians (9-15, 6-12) boast one of the smaller lineups in the league, with no true post players and no one taller than 5-11. Coach Jake Martyn is excited to see balanced scoring and a gritty defensive team. Junior Quincy McDeid returns, a second-team all-league selection last season.
Ferris: The Saxons (2-18, 2-16) come into the season inexperienced. Only two starters returning – senior Haylee Summers and junior Sarah Figg. “We are a young team who’s going to have to mature quickly,” coach Rob Servine said. “We are going to show up every night and work our tails off and challenge our opponents.”
Rogers: Head coach Randy Hunt is back for his third stint, having coached the Pirates from 1980-81 and 1989-94. He inherits a team with only one senior. Akon Aleu is one of the most athletic players in the GSL. A storyline to watch is junior guard Shaeli Morrison, whose sophomore season was cut short after season-ending knee surgery.
Shadle Park: Winless last season (0-20, 0-18), head coach Tim Riles and the Highlanders bring back five seniors. Jillian Groves (6-0) returns after a one-year hiatus. After dealing with two nagging stress fractures over the course of last season, Madeline Baldwin will be healthy enough to play.
Great Northern League
East Valley (17-7) is the top pick, returning four starters. Sophomore Brie Holecek was first-team all-league last season. Genesis Wilkinson, another first-teamer, also returns. … Clarkston (11-11, 7-5) lost two of three first-team all-league players featured last season to graduation. Makinzie Packwood, a senior guard, is the one returning first-teamer for the Bantams. … West Valley (14-10) is looking to reload after losing a few graduating seniors. Sophomore Hailey Marlow, a second-team all-leaguer last season, will run point for the Eagles. … Cheney will feature Brette Draper, a second-team all-leaguer a season ago. Lorin Carlon, a 28-year veteran coach, will have nine letterwinners returning, one of the more experienced teams in the league.
Medical Lake (20-3) is the defending champ and projected to finish in that slot again. The Cardinals boast two talented guards, senior Makayla Geiger (first-team all-league) and Jayda Noble (first-team all-league as a freshman). … Lakeside (14-9) is not far behind. The Eagles return two-time league MVP guard Sienna Swannack, who has committed play at Carroll College. … Freeman (5-16) makes the jump this season with senior guard Isabelle Miller – a second-team all-league selection last season – running the show. … Deer Park (10-12) may be the tallest team in the league with two 6-foot starters. Sophomore guard Hava Fairbanks returns, as well as seven other letterwinners. … Newport (5-15) is going to need a lot of production from three incoming freshman guards. Returning post senior Jocelin Nenema will anchor the frontcourt and Cydni Lewis will run the point. … Colville (6-15) loses first-team all-league Hayden Hartman to graduation, but the Indians have an experienced, senior-laden roster. Senior Kaitlyn Petrey returns along with junior Hallie Cox. … Seven of the 11 players on the roster for Riverside are seniors. The Rams will lean on senior point guard Olivia Willis.
St. George’s (23-5) is the reigning champs and finished sixth at state last season. The Dragons only lost one starter – first-team all-leaguer Hailey Higashi. Returning for the Dragons are sophomore first-team all-league Lydia Bergquist and junior second-teamer Abby Jones. … Colfax (19-8) qualified for state last season and is projected to make a trip back. A possible league MVP, Carmen Gfeller, is committed to Montana. Also, keep an eye on head coach Corey Baerlocher’s win total as he is seven away from 350. … Liberty (20-4) lost four starters to graduation – including the league MVP – after a 20-win season. The Lancers will look to first-team all-league sophomore Maisie Burnham for leadership. … Davenport (23-5) lost three starters to graduation. Senior Sydney Abbott (first-team all-league) and junior Sydney Zeiler (second team) return. … Northwest Christian (12-12) lost two starters but returns eight letterwinners. The Crusaders hope seniors Mattea Nelson and Savanna Morasch will lead them back to the postseason. … Reardan (8-15) has varsity experience with seven letterwinners returning, although just one senior. Sophomore Kim Dewey and Sammie Merriott (returning from injury) are players to watch.
Selkirk (20-6) did not lose a starter and all-league senior Gabi Rick and two-time all-league junior Jenna Couch return. Head coach Jack Couch is looking for a trip to state as nine letterwinners are returning. … Almira/Coulee-Hartline (23-5) will push Selkirk for the top spot. All-league selections Tiffany Boutain and Gabi Isaak, and honorable mention Caitlin O’Neil, supplement the Warriors’ lineup. … Republic is defending state champ and first-year head coach Sheila Shockey takes the reins. Twin sisters Carlie and Kailee Rittel are two to watch. … Odessa (3-18) transitioned former boys coach Travis Schuh over to the girls. He returns an athletic team, led by seniors Maleah Davison and Amber Smith. … Columbia (0-19) has struggled the last few seasons and new head coach Clayton Erickson said his young team (six freshmen on a roster of 10) is ready to remedy that situation. He describes his team as passionate and dedicated.
Colton (23-3) finished third at state last season. After losing two starters to graduation, juniors Jordyn Moehrle and Dakota Patchen (both first-team all-league) will be leaders. … Oakesdale (22-6) fell to Colton in the state playoffs last season and for the time being is just a peg below the Wildcats. First-team all-league junior Logan Reed returns. … Pomeroy (16-7) has talent to push the pair for the league title. All-leaguers junior Syndey Smith and sophomore Madison Dixon return.
Inland Empire League 5A: Lewiston (15-7) finished third in the IEL last season behind first-team all-league junior Kendyll Kinzer. Seniors Demi Randall and Cameron Cady will need to produce if the Bengals want make it back to state for the first time since 2015. … Lake City (20-7) has budding stars in senior Keara Simpson and junior Bridget Rieken. … Coeur d’Alene (9-10) second-year head coach Scott Stockwell has built a young but upside-laden team. It might take another year or two, but the Vikings look to be set up for the future.
IEL 4A: Gracey Meyer, a senior first-team all-league selection will be the best player on a Moscow (6-13) team that finished in second place in league. … Lakeland (3-19) returns senior Sofi Schnepf, a first-team all-league pick, and co-newcomer of the year Lauryn Cooper.
Intermountain League 3A: A year removed from going 23-2 and winning the Idaho 3A State Tournament, Timberlake is ready to make some more noise at the state level. With three returning all-league players, the Tigers have reloaded. Seniors guards Shelby Starr and Lilly Kelley will need to take on a strong leadership role. Don’t forget about McKeeley Tonkin, a junior guard and two-time all-league selection. … Bonners Ferry (9-11) loses six letterwinners, but the Badgers feel confident about their chances. New this season after four years off, head coach Travis Hinthorn is implementing a new system and believes they will get better as the season rolls on. … Kellogg lost two all-leaguers to graduation, but first-year head coach Jana Nearing isn’t making any excuses. Expect seniors Kaili Cates and Ryle Riekena to help ease the learning pains.
Others: Another state appearance is the goal for St. Maries (16-6), which lost two starters but retains senior Kaylee Auer, who is a two-time all-league selection. Expect the Lumberjacks to finish at the top of the Central Idaho League … Wallace (8-13) is led by new head coach Nichole Farkas, who lost three starters. Seniors Jen Hayman and Kimmie Krous will take strong leadership roles. … Genesis Prep is expected to win the White Star League. Two all-league juniors return: guard Rachel Schroeder and forward Bella Murekatete, who is being recruited by several D-I schools. … Lakeside (18-5) will be be a threat, boasting an athletic lineup that includes Tommia Pakootas, an all-league selection last season. … Clark Fork (3-10) features two all-league recipients – juniors Brooke Stevens and Tessa Sutton.
All records listed from last season.