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danp@spokesman.com Brooke Gallaway, right, leads CV in scoring, averaging 13.5 points per game. (Dan Pelle)

Bears find balance

CV hopes to return to state after seven-year absence

The Central Valley girls basketball players are an infusion of many admirable skills and traits. Perhaps none shines more than their unselfishness.

Seven players have led in scoring this season. The one player who is a candidate for first-team all-league, sophomore guard Brooke Gallaway, is averaging a team-leading 13.5 points per game. Six other players average 4.6 points or more.

Coach Freddie Rehkow often shares with his players a quote from Highland High School (Salt Lake City) rugby coach Larry Gelwix from the movie “Forever Strong.”

“He says, ‘It doesn’t matter who scores, it only matters that we score,’ ” Rehkow said.

Rehkow is more likely to pull a player from a game for not shooting than for shooting.

“Everybody has the green light to shoot at any time,” he said.

At practice Monday, Rehkow continued to implore open players to shoot.

“I’d rather have a good shot than a bad pass anytime,” he said.

Balance is a big reason why the Bears are on the brink of capturing the Greater Spokane League championship. CV (15-4, 12-2 GSL) entertains Mead (15-4, 11-3) tonight at 5:30 with the title on the line.

While capturing the league title certainly would be satisfying, CV is after a much bigger reward. It’s been seven years since the Bears qualified for state. The school’s once-proud tradition of advancing to state seemingly annually has been in mothballs.

Along with Gallaway, the Bears’ starting lineup features two other sophomores, Whitney Black (7.4 ppg) and Katie Estey (5.7), and seniors Loree Hill (8.8) and Kelsey Matthews (6.7). Senior Brandy Johnson (4.6) and sophomore Sydney Emory (4.6) are the first two players off the bench, and after that Rehkow can call on three other sophomores and a freshman.

The “super sophs” – as they’ve been dubbed – are considered the wave of good things to come. For the seniors, though, the future is now.

“We wouldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for the seniors,” Rehkow said. “I really appreciate their leadership.”

Matthews has been a four-year starter and Hill a four-year letterman and two-year starter.

“We’ve grown so much as individual players and as a team this year,” Matthews said. “As players we have almost a sixth sense. I know without looking where Loree’s going to be and that Katy’s always going to be.”

Matthews remembers going to state and watching her older brothers and the CV girls play.

“I remember growing up as a little girl and watching Emily Westerberg play,” Matthews said of the Bears’ all-time leading scorer who went on to have a fine career at Arizona State University. “During timeouts at state I’d be the broom pusher (wiping up sweat on the court). I remember thinking I wanted to be Emily someday – that I wanted to be at state.”

The Bears huddle at the end of each practice. In unison they bellow a simple but focused cheer.

“We yell, ‘State,’ ” Matthews said. “That’s what we’re working for.”

Hill agrees.

“We’ve improved a lot since the start of the season,” Hill said. “You’re not going to click right at the start, but I definitely think we’re starting to click now. I don’t think we’ve necessarily peaked, but I think we’re close.”

The Bears had spurts of inconsistency in the first half of the season. They’ve been few and far between the second half of league play.

“At the beginning of the year we were trying to find our chemistry,” Black said.

Being able to rely on each other has built confidence, Gallaway said.

“We know everyone can score on the team,” Gallaway said. “We’ve just got to play our game.”

Matthews agreed.

“None of us worry about how many points we’ve scored,” Matthews said. “We worry about making the extra pass.”

No wonder Rehkow is smiling a lot these days.

“With the mix of sophomores and seniors coming into the season, I knew we’d have growing mistakes,” he said. “We’ve seen some tremendous growth – not only for this year but for next year. I believe we’re still on the rise. It seems the bigger the game the better we play. The last couple of weeks I’ve seen some maturity in the kids I didn’t see early in the season.

“We’re where I hoped we’d be at this point, maybe a little bit ahead. I just hope we continue to play well enough to continue to grow. I love this group of kids. They work hard every day and they’ve been one of the most coachable teams I’ve had.”