COEUR d’ALENE — After a fast start from the field, you could say that Lake City High post Keara Simpson felt right at home shooting in the friendly confines of Christianson Gymnasium on the campus of North Idaho College.
The funny thing is, it will happen again soon, for the next couple years at least.
Simpson scored all eight of her points in the first half for the Region All-Stars (seniors from North Idaho, eastern Idaho and south-central Idaho) in an 87-41 win over the Metro All-Stars (Boise area) in the 15th annual state all-star basketball games on Saturday.
Later, Jalen Galloway from Mountain View in Meridian earned Most Valuable Player honors, scoring 28 points as the Metro outscored the Region 79-54 in the second half of a record 144-112 win.
Since the game went to the Region vs. Metro format in 2016, the Region girls and Metro boys have won all three times.
Between games, Preston’s Braydon Parker — an Idaho State signee — won the slam dunk contest, beating Lake City’s James Carlson. Rocky Mountain’s Tyler O’Donnell made 13 3-pointers to win the 3-point title, beating Bishop Kelly’s Lydia Nieto.
Region 87, Metro 41: Simpson has committed to play at North Idaho College next year.
“I’ve had Chris and Carey (Carlson, NIC women’s coaches who also coached Simpson on the North Idaho Elite AAU team) as coaches for a long time, and we’ve been talking about where I wanted to go,” Simpson said. “They’ve asked where I want to go, and where’s the best fit for me. And one day, it all clicked. I’ve got a school pretty much in my backyard and know the coaching staff. They’d always prepared me for my best, so it was an easy decision. NIC is where I want to go.”
Simpson, who finished in the top three in the discus at the state 5A track meet in 2017, could be recruited in that sport as well.
“It was an idea, but track’s an interesting thing,” Simpson said. “It’s all based on numbers, and once you hit a number, then all the schools call you. I’m still in my senior year of track, so we’ll see where that goes. Right now, it’s an easy decision.”
“In our house, we say, ‘Don’t leave fun to have fun,’” Simpson said. “It’s kind of a key thing in my life. They’ve got a great coaching staff here, and it’s a great school. They always do things for the best interests for the players, and I really like that.”
Post Falls forward Melody Kempton, who was recently named the state Gatorade Player of the Year, as well as state 5A Player of the Year, scored 14 points for the Region team. Kempton has signed with Gonzaga, which won’t have West Coast Conference Player of the Year Jill Barta back, as she announced earlier this week that she’s forgoing her final year of eligibility to pursue other interests.
“It took me off guard a little bit,” Kempton said of Barta’s decision. “But I think we’ll still be great. My coach hasn’t said much about, but to just keep working hard and get better.”
Kempton added that she’s enjoyed some rare time off from the end of the state girls tournament on Feb. 17 to Saturday’s game.
“I haven’t had much time to relax in the past,” Kempton said. “It’s just been great to be able to spend time with the team, enjoying that win and playing in games like this. Everyone came out really hot-handed and hit a lot of shots, which was fun to see.”
Sandpoint’s Grace Kirscher, who has signed with Eastern Washington, was named the game’s MVP with 23 points.
Kirscher helped the Bulldogs to four straight state 4A tournament trips. They’ll have a new head coach next year as assistant Will Love takes over for Duane Ward, who resigned.
“Coach Ward has been with me since I was in seventh grade,” Kirscher said. “He’s been growing and developing the program for years, years, years, years.”
Metro 12 7 5 17 — 41
Region 25 19 21 22 — 87
METRO — Meriah Deugan (Middleton) 0, Morgan Laird (West Jefferson) 0, Lydia Nieto (Bishop Kelly) 6, Holly Golenor (Cole Valley Christian), 7, Bukky Ogunrinola (Ridgevue) 3, Elly Johnson (Capital) 6, Caitlin Crist (Canyon Ridge) 1, Kylie Meadows (Mountain Home) 6, Beverly Slater (Capital) 4, Alyssa Bolt (Borah) 0, Allie Thayne (Highland) 8.
REGION — Shelby Starr (Timberlake) 8, Demi Randall (Lewiston) 12, Lilly Kelley (Timberlake) 4, Savanah Crane (Sugar-Salem) 1, Morgan Harr (Twin Falls) 5, Gracey Meyer (Moscow) 6, Grace Kirscher (Sandpoint) 23, Shay Lambson (Butte County) 6, Melody Kempton (Post Falls) 14, Keara Simpson (Lake City) 8.
Metro 144, Region 112: At first, Lake City guard Hunter Schaffer wasn’t voted into Saturday’s game.
Then he was, but for the Metro team.
Eventually, it worked out and he was back with his more familiar Region teammates.
“I was confused on why I was on the opposite team, but then they fixed it and the situation and put me on the Region team,” said Schaffer, who scored 11 points. “It was a really fun experience playing with everyone I know actually. I just enjoyed having the chance to come out, compete and show what I can do.”
Schaffer had an opportunity early in the season due to an injury to Kodie Kolden, who missed the first month of the season while recovering from a shoulder injury. Schaffer replaced Coeur d’Alene’s Sam Matheson on the Region team after he was unable to play midweek.
“It’s been a grind,” Schaffer said. “I wasn’t very good at all in the beginning at Lake City. But I just kept working at it and my senior year, I started and started having a pretty good year. I had to play point guard for the first five games and really had to adapt, and make better decisions with the ball and work on my ball-handling for sure.”
Schaffer plans to attend the Community Colleges of Spokane next fall. He is undecided on playing, but is leaning toward attempting to.
“I’ve coached hundreds and hundreds of kids, and I’d put him right at the top,” Lake City coach Jim Winger said. “He’s one of those kids that absorbs everything you say. Hunter is 100 percent coachable, will literally run through a wall for you. Talk about a kid that from his freshman year to his senior year, probably if you’d told anybody that kid would be first-team all-league his senior year, you’d have said there’s probably not any chance of that at all. He works and works and works. He’s put on a ton of muscle from his sophomore year to his senior year. He dedicated himself to the program 100 percent, he’s done a great job at school. What I think is great about high school sports is it means a lot to them, and it means a lot to Hunter.”
The Metro set a record for most points scored in the game. The North boys scored 138 points in 2011.
Chances are, you’d have to be a really, really big fan of basketball to remember the last time Max Rice played basketball against players from this part of the state.
“I played against some of the Post Falls kids in AAU growing up,” said Rice, whose father is Leon Rice, the current Boise State men’s basketball coach and former Gonzaga assistant coach, who was at Saturday’s game. “I might have played against Jake (Pfennigs) a few times, so I knew they were ballers.”
To Rice, it kind of felt like a homecoming of sorts.
“It was really nice,” said Max Rice, who starred at Bishop Kelly. “I had my family sitting up in the stands. (Gonzaga coach) Mark’s (Few) mom and dad came, and I love those guys. It was just fun playing in front of my family. It was really nice to have him (Leon) here for once.”
Dad will get to see a lot of his son next year, as Max will play at Boise State next year.
Now about those rumors about Gonzaga joining the Mountain West Conference?
“That would be big,” Max Rice said. “That would really help the league overall. Playing against Mark, technically he’s my second dad, would be a lot of fun. It would be great. I hope they come.”
Metro 65 79 — 144
Region 58 54 — 112
METRO — Steele Hadlock (Vallivue) 5, Derek Wadsworth (Preston) 2, Carter Arrasmith (Middleton) 2, Tyler O’Donnell (Rocky Mountain) 5, Derek Marlowe (Bishop Kelly) 14, Max Rice (Bishop Kelly) 24, Kameron Modrow (Centennial) 2, Clancy Thomas (Snake River) 19, Jalen Galloway (Mountain View) 28, Braydon Parker (Preston) 18, Daxton Carr (Highland) 25.
REGION — Ryan Bagley (Burley) 8, Hunter Schaffer (Lake City) 11, Emmit Taylor III (Lapwai) 22, Chase Jerome (Kellogg) 11, Tanner McCliment-Call (Post Falls) 10, Dylan Knight (Lakeland) 5, James Carlson (Lake City) 20, Robbie Johnson (Sandpoint) 8, Slade Dill (Dietrich) 13, Jake Pfennigs (Post Falls) 4.