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Greg Lee: Second half of GSL basketball should be highly entertaining

Quinn Sestero, left, and GSL preseason favorite Gonzaga Prep will be pressed during the second half of the season by the likes of  Central Valley and  Terrell Harrison. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Quinn Sestero, left, and GSL preseason favorite Gonzaga Prep will be pressed during the second half of the season by the likes of Central Valley and Terrell Harrison. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Sean Mallon has made his presence known in a big way at his alma mater.

The former Gonzaga basketball standout is in his first year as Ferris’ boys coach. His Saxons have easily the biggest win in the first half of Greater Spokane League play.

The Saxons upset preseason favorite Gonzaga Prep 44-41 last month.

Mallon’s reaction to the win, though, is telling. The man he played for, the late Wayne Gilman, was an even-keeled gentleman with a business-like demeanor. A win never got him overly excited and a loss was just something to learn from.

So I asked Mallon what was the key to the Saxons’ win over the Bullpups. His response was matter of fact, much like his former coach.

“I don’t know. We just watched tape on them and they’re really good when they get out in transition,” Mallon said. “We just tried to limit that. We didn’t play a perfect game by any means, but we stuck to the plan.”

The Saxons did something the athletic and physical Bullpups expect to see more of as the GSL reaches the halfway point Friday. Teams are going to throw all manners of zone at G-Prep.

“We’re going to see a lot of zone, probably a box-and-one on Anton (Watson), exotic stuff,” Bullpups coach Matty McIntyre said. “Teams will try to pack it in on us.”

That’s what Central Valley did effectively during the first half Tuesday. It allowed the Bears to go into halftime trailing 23-19.

But G-Prep, a state runner-up a year ago, adjusted and stretched the lead to double digits. The Bullpups got up by 20 with 3 minutes remaining before momentarily forgetting to finish.

“We need to come ready to play 32 minutes every game,” McIntyre said. “Sometimes we have a tendency to disengage at times, which is something we’re hopefully improving upon.”

McIntyre said his team has learned much from the loss to Ferris.

“Ferris is a very good team. I picked them to win the league,” McIntyre said. “They’re talented. Their guards can play and they don’t back down. Our team needed that. There’s a lot of growth that will happen because of that (the loss). If we lose one or two more, I can see growth happening from that, too.

“We’re not going to throw everything out because we lose a game. We’ll battle through some adversity and at the end come out on the other side, hopefully better because of it.”

A team that has struggled out of the gate in league was Lewis and Clark. Much was expected of the Tigers, but they’ve suffered three losses.

“When we got to where we needed to be against the better teams, we weren’t there,” LC coach Jim Redmon said. “If it’s me as the coach, I’ll take the hit. We’ve addressed some things.”

LC spent holiday practices addressing weaknesses.

“We’ve gone through what I call the gauntlet,” Redmon said. “We’re in a hole, but I want to see how big the hole is in the next two games.”

In other words, teams ahead of LC have a few tough games this week. That was evident when CV, tied with G-Prep and Shadle Park at the top going into play Tuesday, suffered its second loss.

“We’re not pleased by any sense,” Redmon said. “We started the season ranked high and we haven’t performed to meet those expectations.”

CV coach Rick Sloan had to be encouraged by the fact his team cut a 20-point deficit to five in a matter of 2 1/2 minutes Tuesday.

What concerns Sloan is the fact his team faces a tough stretch that began with Richland and included G-Prep and continues with Shadle, LC and Ferris to start the second half.

“I’ll be able to tell you more in a couple weeks,” Sloan said.

The top four 4A GSL boys and girls teams will gather with the top four MCC teams for a subregional with two state berths up for grabs.

Richland is clearly the MCC favorite. The GSL is 3-0 against the Bombers, who lost to G-Prep, CV and Ferris. So there’s a chance that two GSL teams could get two teams through to state.

There are four GSL teams in that mix. If you do the math, that means two state-worthy teams won’t make the cut.

It should be an interesting second half to the season.

In 3A, Shadle Park, a co-leader with G-Prep, is clearly the best of the lot. Games against the 4A teams will only sharpen the Highlanders for postseason and a run to state.

In the girls, there’s defending state champ CV and the rest of the league.

To be honest, there’s CV and Mt. Spokane, a distant second. But it’s a good Mt. Spokane, which earned a trophy at the State 3A tournament last year.

Undefeated a year ago, CV isn’t losing anytime soon. It’s not likely the Bears will lose again until the 2018-19 season – when the Hull twins and company have graduated.

CV defeated Mt. Spokane 43-25 last month.

The Bears own nonleague wins over Kentlake (53-29), which was ranked second when the teams met, and traditionally tough Moses Lake (51-39).

Outside of playing CV a second time, Mt. Spokane won’t have another overly difficult game until it runs into Kamiakin in the subregional. Kamiakin is ranked second in one poll.

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