BONNERS FERRY — The Bonners Ferry varsity girls basketball team lost to the Priest River Spartans at home on Saturday, Feb. 11, which means they will not be playing in the state tournament this year.
It was a tough pill to swallow — especially for the five seniors who put on their Badger uniforms for the last time on Saturday night — and an unexpected ending to a strong season. Even though the loss precludes them from competing at the state level, it does not take away from the girls’ many accomplishments this season.
Although the Badgers were 2-0 against the visiting Spartans this season, Priest River proved how little that really means in the Intermountain League. In this case, timing was everything.
The Spartans, who came into the district tournament as a no. 4 seed, might have struggled during the regular season but they got hot in the final stretch and, in true underdog fashion, beat the two and three seeded teams (Kellogg and Bonners Ferry) in order to punch their ticket to state. They will head to the tournament along with a very potent Timberlake team that went undefeated in the IML this year.
The whole league knows how powerful Timberlake is, but especially the Lady Badgers, who played them three times over the past two weeks and lost each game by at least 40 points. Their last match up was on Feb. 10, and Timberlake won that one 72-21, securing their berth to state.
On that same night, the Spartans, who went 1-7 in league play this year, upset the number two seeded Kellogg team. So while the Badgers were getting crushed by the Tigers, Priest River was gaining some serious momentum. “Priest River was coming off an upset at Kellogg, so they were on a high,” head coach Rich Feickert explains.
“We were coming off playing Timberlake three times in [10 days], which is almost cruel and unusual punishment,” Feickert jokes.
Saturday night’s game started with Priest River getting out to an early 14-5 lead. The Badgers then went on an impressive run about halfway through the quarter. The offensive charge was led by Miranda Wenk, who was able to make some plays down low, and Kadi Bateman, who knocked down three three-pointer’s in a row to help her team tie it up just before the buzzer.
While Bateman’s end-of-quarter three gave the Badgers some momentum, the team was unable to carry that into the second quarter and they would score only 4 points during those eight minutes.
By the second half, the Bonners Ferry offense was cold as ice. Although the team played great defense and got plenty of rebounds, they couldn’t buy a bucket.
“We certainly didn’t play our best basketball of the season that game. It was a bad time to not play well,” Feickert says.
The team struggled from field goal range and they had a hard time finishing close to the bucket. They also fared poorly from the free-throw line, and this lack of offense prevented them from making any sort of comeback in the second half.
Coach Feickert says he thought that the game got a little too physical, especially late in the second half.
“It started looking more like a brawl than a game,” he says, referring to what he thought was a flagrant foul by one of Priest River’s players. He said he told the referees at one point that if they didn’t start calling more fouls he would pull his team out of the game.
“I’m not taking anything away from them,” Feickert says. “They played hard and won the game.”
While Elizabeth Cowley, Brittany Spangler, Grace Coughlin, Nicole Donn and Natasha Webster will graduate this May, the rest of the team will be back on the court next season for another shot at state.