Strong point guard play, resolve help Bulldogs split series on final day of West Valley Summer League pool play

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(Photo by KYLE CAJERO) Sandpoint’s Darren Bailey drives during a West Valley Summer League game on June 26. Bailey is one of four Bulldogs taking point guard reps this summer, including against Davenport and Coeur d’Alene on July 8.

SPOKANE — Sandpoint boys basketball team was oh-so-close to a 2-0 record on the final day of West Valley Summer League pool play, yet their 5-5 record set them up for a fifth-place finish in the standings and a fifth-seed in tomorrow’s tournament.

As far as Sandpoint head coach Wade Engelson is concerned, even though the month-long league is about to come to an end, his players are showing no signs of stopping.

“There’s no quit in them: They believe in themselves and they believe in their teammates,” Engelson said. “We don’t back down. We played some really physical teams, and our guys didn’t back down. It’s really fun to watch and it’s fun to coach when you’ve got a bunch of guys who are battling away, working hard and enjoying the game of basketball.”

With point guard Kobe Banks as the lone senior on Sandpoint’s revolving cast of summer league players, the Bulldogs kicked off Monday with a 57-24 romp over Davenport (Washington), then followed it up with a close 42-37 loss to Coeur d’Alene.

In the latter game, the small-town 4A school hung right with their relatively more metropolitan 5A counterparts thanks to a quick start out the gates. The Banks-led offense handled the Vikings’ press for the first half, got into its sets and held its opponents at bay to enter halftime tied.

But Coeur d’Alene’s adjustment to double-teaming the ball and being more mindful in the pick-and-roll defense turned the tide in the second half. Although Sandpoint showed that never-say-die attitude by clawing back from an eight-point, second-half deficit, the Vikings’ late free-throws and defensive stops made the difference in the end.

“It was a really good, competitive game,” Engelson said. “We have a lot of respect for their program, but I think they’re looking at our guys and saying ‘Hey, Sandpoint really gets after it and really competes.’”

As Sandpoint has done all summer, these games were also ways of getting several players acclimated to the point guard position. In Monday’s games, Engelson said the Bulldogs focused on getting point guard-reps from Banks, junior sharpshooter Darren Bailey and the freshmen duo of Parker Pettit and Arie VanDenBerg. While each player brings something different to the table as far as running the offense goes, the versatility shown by each player playing on and off the ball has been a positive takeaway from West Valley Summer League play as a whole.

To wit, Banks set the tone with his offensive eruption in the Bulldogs’ big win over Davenport. While stats aren’t necessarily kept in summer play, Engelson said Banks hit five threes against the Gorillas — all while feeding Jacob Eldridge and Ethan Butler in pick-and-rolls.

“Kobe shot lights out that game,” Engelson said. “He was excellent tonight in getting our offense set up and scoring, both of which we want to see him do as our point guard.”

Sandpoint plays in the West Valley Summer League Tournament tomorrow evening. Both the Bulldogs’ opponent and tipoff time were unavailable at press time.

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