BONNERS FERRY — The Bonners Ferry varsity boys basketball team entered the final stretch of the regular season last week, playing a four game series that ended on a win against Cour d’Alene Charter on Tuesday, Feb. 14 (57-41).
The boys also started the series with a victory, beating Priest River at home on Feb. 10 (70-54). The Badgers would lose to Kellogg the following night (48-72), and then on Feb. 13, after leading all game long, they would let Timberlake come back to win it in the final minute.
Talking about Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers, head coach Andy Rice says, “It was a decent win point-wise, I just didn’t think that we took care of business.” The Badgers turned the ball over 28 times during that game, which is a season high for the team. They shot well from the outside, however — well enough to win by 16.
“I just thought we should have taken care of the ball more, especially after the way be’ve been playing. I thought we played a good game against Priest River...”
The Badgers put up some big numbers during that game, scoring 30 points in the second quarter alone. After putting up over twice as many points as the visiting Spartans in the first half, the Badgers were able to hold onto their lead throughout the final two quarters and get their first win against Priest River this season — the last time they played each other, on Jan. 27, Priest River won by three.
Kaleb Stockton led his team in scoring with 19 points, while Caleb Harrington contributed another 18.
Although the Badgers were beaten pretty handily by Kellogg in the following game, coach Rice says he was proud of how the boys played. Rice chalks up the loss to a handful of mental mistakes and missed rebounds.
“We gave ‘em some easy stuff, and we didn’t box out very well during the first half of [that] game,” Rice says, adding that the Wildcats were able to score 14 points off of offensive rebounds during the first half alone.
Although they lost by more than 20 points, Rice says he was proud of his team’s effort and felt that the score didn’t reflect the way the boys played.
“I talked to the guys after the game and we all agreed that if felt like it was a closer game than 20 points,” Rice says.
While it never feels good to get beaten by 20, that loss wasn’t nearly as heartwrenching as the one to Timberlake on Feb. 13.
The Bonners Ferry team played some of their best ball of the season that night, playing with patience and determination on offense and consistently out-hustling the visiting Tigers on defense. Chris Sabin did a stellar job spreading the ball around, and he wasn’t afraid to pull up for a jumper when he had the space. Sabin drained two three’s in a row in the first quarter and continued to shoot well throughout the game.
The Badgers got out to an early lead in the first quarter and built on that lead during the following two quarters. The Tigers were persistent, however, and they kept knocking on the door, especially during the second half when a couple of offensive bursts allowed them to bring the deficit down to two.
But the Badgers wouldn’t let them in, at least not until the last minute.
Coach Rice says his team made too many mistakes going down the stretch, as there were a few costly turnovers that gave the visiting team opportunities they never should have had.
“I felt like we shot too many jumpshots instead of working the ball and getting a better shot. Because a missed jumpshot is a turnover in my mind...but I was glad with our effort. We were definitely all very disappointed that we let them get back in that game and win it.”
Rice, who is looking ahead towards tournament time, thinks his team is on the right track.
“I thought that we were continually getting better through that three-game stretch,” Rice says, referring to the Priest River, Kellogg and Timberlake games. He hopes to carry that positive energy into tonight’s game, which will be the Badgers’ last home game of the season.
The district tournament is right around the corner and, as it stands now, Kellogg has locked down the no. 1 seed, Timberlake is a no. 2 seed, and Cour d’Alene Charter is a no. 5 seed.
If Priest River loses their next two games to Timberlake and Kellogg, they will be tied for third with Bonners Ferry. If they win either, they will secure the no. 3 seed. If the tie happens, a coin flip would determine the no. 3 and 4 seeds. “The number 4 seed will have to play Charter on Monday to figure out who gets into the tournament”, coach Rice explains. “And the winner of that 4-5 game gets Kellogg in the first game on Tuesday night.”
Bonners Ferry will play Immaculate Conception Academy at home tonight, Feb. 16. It’s senior night, so come out to support Elijah Price, Kaleb Stockton, Caleb Harrington and Zach Egge as they suit up to take the court for the last time. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.