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In another close GSL game, Jason Bates, right, and Ferris edged Kenyatta Davenport and Lewis and Clark on Tuesday. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Unpredictable GSL boys basketball season unfolds

What in the name of high school boys basketball has been going on in the Greater Spokane League this year? Entering the second half of the season Tuesday, just two games separated seven GSL teams. Fifteen games had been decided by six or fewer points, nine of those by a basket or less. More games could have gone the other way.

“We’re dealing with 16-year-old kids,” said Lewis and Clark Tigers coach Jeff Norton. “What we all lack is consistency.”

High school basketball is unpredictable. It just seems that this year the GSL has been more unpredictable than usual.

Among the many surprises, University, with one victory at the time, traveled to and beat Mead, which had won five games. A day later, U-Hi was toppled by nearly 14 points at home by then-winless East Valley. One day LC lost by 24 points to Rogers, on another it handed Gonzaga Prep its first loss in 10 games.

When the season began, coaches figured that the league would be a tossup behind G-Prep and Shadle Park. But did anyone other than North Central coach Jay Webber envision his team in third place with a 7-4 record? Four one-point wins will do that.

Behind NC, a mere game separates five teams – three of them 4A schools jockeying for playoff position. LC’s Tigers are an overtime loss away from making it six and four.

Talk with coaches and there is a litany of reasons why:

•Carelessness – There have been numerous sloppy outings, coaches agree. When U-Hi beat Mead, there were 55 turnovers in the game – 30 by U-Hi.

“It’s the only game I’ve ever coached where we’ve turned the ball over 30 times and won,” Titans coach Garrick Phillips said. “We had 18 at halftime and really calmed down in the second half with 12.”

•Matchups – Phillips wasn’t the only coach who said turnovers weren’t a problem until facing a specific foe. For whatever reason, certain teams give others problems, as has been the case recently in the decidedly up-tempo series between Mead and U-Hi.

“They always drive us nuts,” Mead (5-5) coach Glen Williams said of U-Hi. “The old cliché is, ‘Matchups are everything.’ We’re pretty good when we take care of the ball. That was a head-scratcher for us.”

•Youth – There are 19 sophomores and two freshmen on GSL boys rosters, not to mention the number of juniors on the floor. Ferris (6-5) starts two sophomores and plays four regularly. It is harder to coach on the fly in a game, as young players adapt to varsity speed, Ferris coach Don Van Lierop said.

“There have been times when up to three have started for us,” Van Lierop said. “Inexperience shows up at times.”

•Circumstance – The dismissal of leading scorer and floor leader Mason Johnson didn’t help U-Hi (2-8). Phillips said the team is still seeking an identity this late in the season. Snowy weather has disrupted routine. Ferris and Central Valley (6-5), which has won its last five games following a 1-5 start, got late arrivals from players with extended football playoff seasons.

“I like to think we had a little bit of a football hangover the first part of the season, trying to get our basketball legs,” CV coach Rick Sloan said.

But this year’s inconsistency isn’t for lack of talent, coaches said. It may not be as great as in the past, but good players, unlike past seasons, are spread among every team, creating equity.

“I really think that every single team in town has two or three guys who could start for anybody,” Norton said.

“(NC’s Webber) thinks top to bottom this league is as strong as it has been,” Shadle coach Tim Gaebe said. “And I think it is, as far as anybody beating anyone on a given night.”

“(Unless you) watch these kids warm up, you don’t realize how big they are,” Williams said. “They are good-sized, athletic kids and every team has them.”

G-Prep (10-1) and Shadle (9-1) are in the driver’s seat in their respective 4A and 3A classifications. No one knows what to expect after that, and such parity can be nerve-wracking for coaches if entertaining for fans.

Five 4A schools make postseason, as do four 3A schools, Mt. Spokane (4-5) and Rogers (4-6) among them. The remaining GSL games will determine where they stand.

“Like I told you at the beginning of the year, the 3A’s pretty doggone solid,” Gaebe said.

The second half of the season will shake things out.

“This definitely makes the second round of games interesting,” Sloan said. “It’s like we’re starting over.”

He said his Bears could be 9-1 or 1-9, losing twice by two points and once by one. They escaped in overtime after an East Valley basket at the end of regulation was waved off, then throttled Mead 72-51 Tuesday after losing to the Panthers earlier.

Ferris has lost two games by a point, had Shadle on the ropes and escaped LC in overtime. LC (4-7) also had a chance to beat Shadle earlier.

“We’ve beaten a dangerous Mt. Spokane, Gonzaga and NC, but have been horrible on some nights,” Norton said. “Whoever develops consistency could run off three or four games in a row.”

That is the challenge facing coaches in what has been an inconsistent GSL boys basketball season.