The Kellogg Wildcats have accomplished quite a bit this season.
They finished with an 18-2 record, they won their third consecutive league championship, they won their fourth consecutive district championship, extended their winning streak over league opponents to 29, and will be making their fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament.
They also had three players named to the Intermountain League All-League team, including the two-time league most valuable player and according to those three players, they have not accomplished enough.
Juniors Tyler Gibbons and Chase Jerome and senior Toby Colburn have led the attack for the Wildcats for much of the season and each one has shown the ability to lead the team when they are on the floor without the other two, but when they are on the floor together they become a three headed monster that has had opposing teams flustered all season.
Gibbons is new to the all-league team this year, after primarily being a backup point guard last season, but his impact was felt almost immediately this season as has been one of Kellogg's best defensive players and a do-everything style floor general.
Jerome was the leading scorer from this season and he is the guy the Wildcats use to kickstart most of their offensive runs, whether it's from the three point line, or off of an acrobatic drive to the hoop, he has put the team on his back on more than one occasion with his massive scoring production.
Colburn, the reigning, defending (Michael Buffer voice) IML MVP was an absolute force last season for Kellogg and was basically THE guy.
This year he was still THE guy, but with the emergence of Jerome as a potent scorer and the reliability of Gibbons to control the game, Colburn was able to become a more cerebral player.
Colburn led the team in rebounds, assists, steals, and probably blocks, but was second in scoring behind Jerome.
Each one of these three play vastly different positions and styles, but they share two very important traits… humility and a burning desire to win.
“It always feels nice to be recognized,” Colburn said. “But without these two guys, or the rest of my team I wouldn't be in the position I am.”
Both Gibbons and Jerome were icy in demeanor when asked how they felt about being recognized.
“If we go down to Boise this weekend and come back empty handed then these awards don't matter,” both Jerome and Gibbons said as Colburn nodded his agreement.
With the state tournament set to begin on Thursday, all three players are strategizing in their heads the best way they will be able to help their team achieve their dream.
“We're going to go down there, play our game, and do everything we can to not come out flat like we did last year,” Jerome said.
Last season the Wildcats struggled in the state tournament and lost two very winnable games, which is something that all three of these players and all of the other players on the team haven't forgotten about.
While the boys are laser focused on the tournament, Wildcat coach and Intermountain League Coach of the Year Jeff Nearing was more than capable of praising his all-star trio.
“Tyler Gibbons has been a workhorse for us all year,” Nearing said. “He has the ball in hands 75 percent of the time and he does a lot to make sure the ball is moving and taken care of. He gets us going defensively, but as we have seen (especially in the district championship) he can score when we need him to.”
Jerome's transition into the offensive juggernaut he has become is no real surprise to Nearing as he has been coach both him and Gibbons since they were in second grade.
“Chase is so strong and so fast that he is an absolute nightmare to match up with,” Nearing said. “He can put the ball on the deck and get to the hole, he can take guys into the post, he can knock down outside shot, he was our leading scorer, but second in every other major statistical category. How many teams can say that their second best rebounder is a guard?”
With Colburn winning his second straight MVP award, Nearing saw Colburn grow as a leader and as a player.
“Toby did such a good job accepting his role this season,” Nearing said. “Last year we expected him to do most of the scoring and this year we needed him to do more of the not-so glamorous stuff for us and he did it without question. He has done a tremendous job of getting his team involved and sharing the spotlight and is really just an excellent team-first basketball player.”
The Wildcats left for the state tournament this morning and will open up tournament play against Shelley High School at Meridian High School on Thursday night a 6:15 p.m. MST.