The Spokane Stars Columbia Blue squad, the top team in the Stars' AAU girls basketball program, has a decidedly North Idaho feel.
Of the five starters, four are from North Idaho high schools - point guard Caelyn Orlandi (Coeur d'Alene), shooting guard Brooke Litalien (Post Falls), small forward Kendalyn Brainard (Coeur d'Alene) and center Dani Failor (Post Falls). And the fifth, power forward Hallie Gennett of University High in Spokane, plans to transfer to Post Falls.
Along with backup point guard Katie King (Post Falls) and backup center Sydney Williams (Coeur d'Alene), as well as others, the Stars went 6-0 last week to win the championship of the Mid-Summer Night Madness Nationals in Seattle.
Ron Adams, director of the Spokane Stars and head coach of the Stars Columbia Blue team, said it's the most North Idaho players he's had on the squad in his 32 years as coach.
"And it's one of our better teams," he said. "They play incredible defense."
En route to the title, the Stars defeated the Idaho Flash Spirit 67-17, Team Alaska 61-29, Way to Win from Seattle 66-47, Hoop Dreams of Boise 64-60, the Vegas Bulldogs 61-41 and, in the finals, Y.E.A. of Seattle 63-55.
The Stars were coming off a 3-2 finish at the End of the Trail tournament in Oregon City, their first tourney of the summer.
"They improved every game," Adams said. "We had five practices and no practice games before we went to Oregon. We get to Seattle and they get 5-6 games under their belts. They start winning, they start playing better, and they start getting more confidence. Those last two games, I think they surprised everybody how well they played."
Orlandi averaged 13.5 points, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game, Gennett averaged 10.8 points, Litalien averaged 8.1 points, 2.0 assists and 2.2 steals, Brainard averaged 7.0 points and 2.5 assists, and Failor averaged 6.3 points and 5.7 rebounds.
"Goose (Orlandi) and Kendalyn are both outstanding defensive players," Adams said.
After averaging 23 turnovers a game in Oregon City, the Stars averaged just 6.5 turnovers per game in their last three games in Seattle.
All of the above-mentioned players will be seniors this fall, with the exception of Williams, who will be a junior. Adams said all six seniors-to-be could eventually land with NCAA Division I or II teams
The Stars' No. 2 team, the Royal Blue squad, went 1-3 in Oregon City and 2-3 in Seattle. The team includes four Coeur d'Alene High players - Sydni Parker, Madison Sumner and Sara Chalich, who will be juniors this fall, and Tabitha Wellsandt, who will be a sophomore.
All three Stars teams (including the Navy) will play in the Summer Heat tournament July 22-23 at the Warehouse in Spokane.
After that is the MSNM Western Championships July 28-31 in San Diego where, if the Stars Columbia Blue team wins its first two games, it could face the Chinese National U17 team.