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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Kellogg calls upon Priest to defeat Priest

Phil Hayes Correspondent

The Kellogg boys basketball team may be peaking at the right time.

After splitting two tight games with the Priest River Spartans during the Intermountain League season, Kellogg posted its second double-digit win over the Spartans in less than a week in the 3A District I basketball tournament.

Saturday’s 64-47 win at Timberlake High School in Spirit Lake, ignited by Kevin Priest’s 21 points, was especially satisfying as it earned the Wildcats (13-10) the district’s second berth to the State 3A tournament, beginning Thursday at Meridian High School.

Regular-season IML champ Bonners Ferry grabbed the first berth with a 48-39 victory over Kellogg on Thursday.

Priest River, the No. 2 seed going into the tournament finished its season 13-10.

Two glaring statistics make it clear why Kellogg knocked off the Spartans.

First, the Wildcats shot better than 56 percent from the field, connecting on 18 of 32 shots. Kellogg was especially effective in the second quarter, hitting 7 of 8 to erase a 13-10 first-quarter deficit and take a 32-24 halftime lead. PR shot 33 percent from the floor.

Second, Kellogg made a killing from the free-throw line, converting 25 of 31 attempts. The Wildcats were especially effective in the first half, hitting 8 of 9.

After missing its first free-throw attempt, Kellogg made its next 22 before missing one with 3:02 left in the game.

PR didn’t make a trip to the line in the first half and finished 5 of 10.

Spartans coach Bill Ryan credited Kellogg’s defense with providing those opportunities.

“That’s tough when a team shoots that well,” he said. “That’s what happens when you play good defense. It creates good looks.”

After falling behind 6-3 to open the game, Kellogg clawed back, thanks to the play of Priest, who led all scorers. The 5-foot-11 senior got inside along the baseline against the PR defense for easy buckets. His 10-foot jumper with 3:40 to go in the first half gave the Wildcats a 22-20 lead they would not relinquish.

“They were playing a little overzealously on defense,” Priest said. “I decided to take my coach’s advice and back cut. We practice that a lot and if you can get one step on them, then you’re there.”

The Wildcats extended their lead to 36-24 on Priest’s two baskets to start the third quarter, but that edge nearly evaporated in just more than a minute.

A jumper by senior Stevie Walkup and three consecutive 3-pointers by Jake Flaherty, Walkup and Joey Stark allowed the Spartans to cut it to 36-35.

Kellogg answered with a 9-1 run to go back up 45-36 and in the fourth quarter, forcing the Spartans to foul.

The Wildcats made their first 12 free throws of the fourth quarter while PR, shooting mainly 3-pointers, was unable to gain any ground.

Kellogg, making its first trip to state since 2000, may not have peaked but is playing much better, especially on defense, according to Wildcats coach Jeremy Bergquist.

“I would say we have become more consistent,” Bergquist said. “We have been capable of this, but we’ve just made too many mental mistakes. For the last three years we have focused on defense, and if our defense can get the stops and we can get the rebounds, then the rest will take care of itself.”

Kellogg received 11 points from senior Tyler Powers and nine from junior Jacob Conboy.

PR was led by the 11 points of senior Stark and the 10 of Walkup.

“We have a lot of seniors and they all played really hard today,” Ryan said. “(The loss) definitely was not because of a lack of effort.”

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