By JOSH McDONALD
It’s just about the midseason break for our local basketball teams; most of them have either wrapped up their non-conference play or are just a game or two away from doing so.
We are going to take a page from ESPN and Fox Sports and do a buying or selling review on the local teams.
We will be BUYING or SELLING the odds of each team making it to the state tournament.
Criteria used will be current record, the eye test, and what the schedule looks like as they move ahead.
I hope the SELLING teams prove me wrong.
Kellogg Wildcats (4-3)
Coach Jana Nearing has her work cut out for her during the second half of the season.
While they have a winning record, they beat Wallace three times and Clark Fork once, so all of their wins have come from 1A schools and they have been beaten thoroughly by schools that are similar size or bigger.
Kaili Cates can’t be the sole offensive weapon for the Wildcats, and no one has stepped up to be that second option.
The road to a league and district championship will go through either Timberlake or Bonners Ferry and I can’t honestly say that I see Kellogg beating either of them at this moment in time.
There is still room for improvement though.
Wallace Miners (3-4)
The Lady Miners are an anomaly to me, one day they are knocking down shots at a deadly pace and the next they are struggling to find any offense at all.
They have two wins over Priest River (the worst team in the 3A Intermountain League) and have split games with Lake-side this year.
The guard trio of Hayley Oertli, Kimmie Krous, and Catie Sheppard has been terrific at times and the down-low duo of Jen Hayman and Maggie Howard should give Wallace a size advantage, but it all depends on which Miner team shows up to play.
Their mixed bag schedule has them playing some really tough games and some really winnable games going forward, but I’m not sure the Miners can parlay that into a win over the second place team from the White Pine League.
The potential is there, the experience should be there, so I think the Miners should have a fighting chance to win that game if they play their best ball.
Mullan Tigers (3-2)
The Tigers are back to playing some fun basketball as coach Dan Fritz finally has a full team at his disposal to work with.
The Tigers can and should beat every team in the North Star League, except for one.
Mullan has five players who can score at will from different spots on the court, but can Gryphon Todd, Sheldon Trogden, Riley Trogden, Skye Galloway, or Seth Dechand stop the Genesis Prep Jaguars from scoring?
Their first matchup of the year leads me to say no, but the Tigers also played that game slightly coy in hopes of not giving up their best defensive strategy.
Earlier in the year the Tigers pushed Kellogg to the limit in a game that surprised a lot of people and really set the tone for Mullan’s season going forward.
But can they get the one big win they will need over Genesis Prep?
Only one team from the North Star League can qualify for the state tournament.
So, unfortunately, even if they hit Genesis Prep with their best shot …
Wallace Miners (4-3)
The Miners are my favorite team in the area right now — they have a winning record, they have played a tough schedule, and they are doing it without their most rounded player.
In the three losses the Miners have one was in a double-overtime thriller to St. Maries, and the other two were losses to Kellogg and Bonners Ferry.
This is all without senior Matt Farkas.
The Miner forward is coming off a broken hand and should make his debut next month, which should give Wallace just enough time to create the chemistry needed to prepare for the second seed out of the White Pine League.
The rest of the season really doesn’t even matter.
The biggest knock against these Miners is definitely their inability to get stops at key times in games, but in a shootout the Miners can score with the best of them and adding Farkas gives them the defensive stopper they need to get into the state tournament.
I like the Miners’ odds of making their first tournament appearance since 2009.
Kellogg Wildcats (2-3)
Fresh off a third-place finish last season, Kellogg has found itself in some unfamiliar territory this season.
The Wildcats have lost three games in a row for the first time since the 2009-10 season, albeit to some fairly tough competition.
Kellogg scheduled themselves very tough this year in hopes of preparing for the bigger 3A schools that have been their kryptonite in the state tournament, and that schedule only gets tougher in the coming weeks.
The Wildcats’ biggest struggled has been trying to figure out who is going to replace Toby Colburn.
Seniors Chase Jerome and Tyler Gibbons have been the best players for the Wildcats thus far, but almost completely lack any interior presence despite a bevy of giants at their disposal.
Meanwhile the top heavy team hasn’t found consistent contribution from anywhere else, which could be concerning when they get into their league schedule.
I see the Wildcats losing to Bonners Ferry in Bonners Ferry, but that will probably be their only Intermountain League loss and the Wildcats should get to their sixth state tournament.