Northport High boyâ€™s basketball coach Erik Stark will tell you that his team isnâ€™t as good as its gaudy 15-2 record.
â€śWe arenâ€™t that good,â€ť says Stark, who figured that this would be a building year after losing some key players off the Mustangsâ€™ State 1B team of last winter. â€śAt least we arenâ€™t as good as our record. But we are starting to do some things that good teams do.â€ť
In a 60-35 win over Curlew last week, balanced Northport was led by senior David Higginsâ€™ 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Dylan Masters dumped in nine first half points and pulled down seven rebounds.
Northportâ€™s backcourt of Jeremiah Johnson (10 points) and Belgian foreign exchange student Freddy Verhaeghe (14 points and four rebounds) â€śdid a nice job on defense in disrupting what Curlew was trying to do,â€ť Stark said.
Last Saturday night, Columbia High battled Northport in the first half before Northport caught fire and rolled to a 70-30 win.
Columbia outscored NHS 15-13 after the hosts had taken an 18-7 first quarter lead.
That was pretty much the extent of the highlight reel for the Lions.
Stark wasnâ€™t displeased with the way his team played in the first half.
â€śI told my team at halftime that we played really well,â€ť Stark said. â€śWe executed on both ends of the court, but two tough shots had brought Hunters right back in the game.â€ť
Dom Marquez hit a banked three-pointer in the second quarter and nailed a buzzer beater to get CHS to within seven at the break.
Stark told his kids that playoff teams need to ratchet up the energy level and take control in the second half.
So much for the halftime oratory. Northport heeded Starkâ€™s advice and outscored Columbia 40-7 in the second half. The Mustangs outscored CHS 25-7 in the third quarter and 15-0 in the fourth.
Big night for Josh Konkler against CHS
Josh Konkler, Northportâ€™s â€śOne-Armed Wunderkind,â€ť is one of the best athletes in the Panorama League. He showed off his all-around game and a deft shooting touch with 27 points against Columbia High.
Konkler went off for 15 of his 27 in the second half (a trio of three-pointers and four for the game).
Stark has seen Konkler, an All-League football player for coach Don Fox in the fall, do this before, just not to the tune of 27 points.
To Northportâ€™s credit, they got the ball to the hot hand.
â€śAfter Josh hit a couple of shots in the third quarter, I called a timeout and told him to find open shots in their zone,â€ť Stark said. â€śI told his teammates to find Josh and get him the ball--heâ€™s on fire.â€ť
Konklerâ€™s teammates were only too happy to comply.
While Konkler was turning in a game to remember, Higgins was steady in support with 14 points, six rebounds and five steals. Johnson added 12 points and nine assists.
Stark was happy for Konkler and pleased that his team keeps getting better and is starting to â€śplay as a team on both ends of the floor.â€ť
Stark appreciates the unselfishness and his teamâ€™s ability to make the extra pass and share the ball.
â€śWe are really understanding how to share the ball and get the best match-ups on the floor. We have had four different guys score 20 or more pointsâ€¦Johnson has had 18 a few times and seven guys have scored in double figures for us.â€ť
Find the hot hand and recognize it is the mantra for these Mustangs.
â€śWe just try to figure out who is hot that night and get them the ball in places they can score,â€ť Stark explained.
The Panorama 1B District Tournament is shaping up to be ultra competitive. Almira/Coulee-Hartline and Valley Christian are ranked no. 2 and 3, respectively.
â€śACH, Valley Christian and Odessa-Harrington are all good teams that are playing really well right now,â€ť Stark said. â€śWellpinit and Cusick (from the Panorama) are turning it on at the right timeâ€¦since there are only three bids to state this year, some really good teams will be sitting in the stands in March.â€ť
The schedule: Boys, Tuesday, Jan. 31 No. 4 at No. 1 and No. 3 at No. 2 (both at 6 p.m.).
Girlâ€™s Wednesday, Feb. 1: No. 4 at No. 1 and No. 3 at No. 2. Both at 6 p.m.
On Saturday, Feb. 4 at Kettle Falls, the Panorama boyâ€™s losers will play at 1 p.m. (winner No. 3 to District and loser No. 4 to District).
Girlâ€™s loser-out games will start at 2:30 p.m. at Kettle Falls.
Kettle Falls will host once again
The boyâ€™s league tournament winners will play at 4:30 p.m. at Kettle Falls on Feb. 4. The champion is the top seed to the District tournament and the loser will go as the second seed.
The girlâ€™s winners will play for the title at 6:15 p.m. at Kettle Falls Middle School.
The District 7 1B Tournament starts on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the home of the higher seeded teams (boys).
The girlâ€™s District Tournament will get underway on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at the home of the higher seeded teams.
The tournament between the Panorama and Bi-County 1B will continue on Saturday, Feb. 11 at Deer Park High School and again on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at DPHS.
The District 7 1B championship will be decided on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Deer Park.
On Saturday, Cusick (7-8, 6-3) got 34 points from Alec Bluff in a 60-47 win at Republic.
Dan Slagle led Republic (3-14, 1-3) with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Selkirk outscored Curlew 33-14 in the first half en route to a 60-27 demolishing of the Cougars in Ione last Saturday night.
Avery Miller led Selkirk (8-10, 7-4) with 18 points. Teammate Dominic Cain added 16 more.
Aaron McCullough led Curlew (2-14, 0-9) with eight points.
In the Bi-County 1B, Valley Christian (13-1, 4-0) blasted Odessa-Harrington (2-3, 9-7) 69-38 on Saturday night at home.
Carver Small scored 15 points and teammate Jordan Jarvis added 14 more for the Panthers.
VC outscored the visitors 24-5 in the second quarter.
Almira/Coulee-Hartline (4-0, 12-3) ran past Wilbur-Creston (0-5, 5-9) 70-34 behind Derek Isaakâ€™s 24 points, six rebounds and five steals.
Thunder Wellhousen added 14 points for ACH.
On Friday night in the Panorama League, Republic raced past Inchelium 56-36 behind Jeremy Bertrangâ€™s 20 points. Saxon Brown added six points, 10 assists and 11 boards for the Tigers.
Sam LeaderCharge led Inchelium (0-8, 0-13) with 13 points.
Selkirk used a 15-6 second quarter run to hold off Columbia 48-44 at Hunters on Friday night.
Matt Emerson led Selkirk with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Avery Miller added 11 points for the winners.
Justin Singer scored 13 points and Dominick Marquez added 10 more.
In the Bi-County 1B, St. Michaelâ€™s (1-3, 6-8) beat Wilbur-Creston 66-53 behind Gabe Durazoâ€™s 20 points and Chris Shelleyâ€™s 18.
Last Tuesday night, Wellpinit ran past Cusick 87-72 in a game that saw the Redskins get five players in double figures. Brodie Ford led WHS with 16 points.
Derrick Bluff and Ryan Sample combined for 34 points for the Panthers.
Also last Tuesday, Odessa-Harrington edged St. John-Endicott 58-55 in a non-league game at St. John.
Justin Hunt led Odessa-Harrington with 24 points.
Class 1A Okanogan, the stateâ€™s sixth-ranked 1A team, ran past ACH 63-34 in the Warriorsâ€™ worst loss of the season to date.
St. Michaelâ€™s got 21 points and 11 boards from Chris Shelley in a 49-45 win over Columbia (3-8, 4-13).
Gabe Durazo added 19 points for the winners, who had to overcome a 13-7 first quarter deficit.
Marquez led Columbia with 17 points. Dustin Wyborney added 16.