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With momentum on their side, Owls feel good about chance for upset(s) at Districts

SPOKANE'S JD TATE and the Owls have won eight of their last 11 games.
SPOKANE'S JD TATE and the Owls have won eight of their last 11 games.

Spokane would seem to perfectly fit the profile of a capable darkhorse, as the Owls prep for the beginning of post-season play Monday.

Entering the start of Class 3 District 11, to be hosted by Fair Grove, and a 6 p.m. first-round matchup against Greenwood, Spokane (13-13) has won of eight its last 11 games.

The fifth-seeded Owls’ most recent loss, a 66-63 setback to top-seeded Sparta, also sparks optimism.

“I like where we are at right now. I think we can pull off some upsets,” coach Newt Starrett said. “We will have to play well. But I like where our game is at the moment. We are playing together with a lot of confidence. The boys are driven to push for a District championship — that has been our driving goal all year long. 

“We have had to play through injuries and without some of our main guys,” he added. “We have used any and all adversity we have faced as a motivator for Districts.”

In his first season as a head coach, Starrett and his players have responded well to each other by staying the course through a challenging early-season schedule that left them 5-10 in early January.

“I have players (who are) starting to understand what they are capable of,” Starrett said. “I issued a challenge to our guys to take more responsibility of their roles and abilities. It hasn’t just been one or two individuals, but an entire team effort these past couple of weeks.”

Spokane center J.D. Tate joined the Owls’ 1,000-point club this season and is fresh from a 36-point effort last week in a win against Galena. Also, he recorded a double-double at Sparta with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Greenwood (19-7) is the fourth seed, but has beaten second-seeded Strafford (14-10) and split two games with third-seeded Fair Grove (18-8).

The Blue Jays’ leaders are Nick Burri, Collin Clark and Garrett Winslow. Burri has had a couple double-doubles recently, with 19 points and 11 rebounds against Seymour and 26 points and 12 boards versus College Heights while being named the Mercy/Warrior Classic MVP.

Spokane and Greenwood have not met, but have eight common opponents. In those contests, they had the same result against six teams. The different outcomes were Greenwood beating Strafford 61-54 and losing to Stockton 54-54, while Spokane fell to Strafford 69-54 and beat Stockton 55-40.

“It is a game both teams can win,” Starrett said. “We will have a game plan. It’s all about how we execute what we want to do.”

SWCL champion Sparta (21-5) takes on the Spokane-Greenwood winner in a 6 p.m. semifinal Wednesday. Other than their three-point win against Spokane, the Trojans outclassed the rest of the SWCL by 17 points or more.

Sparta center Jacob Lafferty reached the 1,500-point mark this month and forward Dexter Loveland joined the Trojans' 1,000-point club last month.

Lafferty is averaging a double-double, with norms of 21 points and 11 rebounds a night. Guard Kavan Walker is shooting 41 percent from 3-point land and guard Walker Loveland sports a 1.35 assists/turnovers ratio.

Monday's other first-round game will find Fair Grove faing Pleasant Hope (8-17) at 7:30 p.m. Mid-Lakes Conference champ Strafford will play the winner.


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