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Top sports stories of 2021

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | December 30, 2021 1:00 AM

2021 was a comeback year for Badger sports and sports across the county. It was a year to make up for all the time missed in 2020 due to COVID-19 when sports had to take a back seat. In 2021, athletes came ready to compete and win. Which they did.

Badger boys basketball made it to the state tournament after a 13-year drought by competing at the 2021 IDHSAA state championship.

Although the Badgers made plenty of baskets, they couldn't stay with Teton in their first game at the state 3A tournament on March 4, at Columbia High School in Nampa. Bonners Ferry faced Kimberly in the consolation bracket on March 5, but couldn't overcome a slow start in a 56-36 loss to the Bulldogs.

During the final minute, commentators said, "This Bonners Ferry team will come back for years to come; I look forward to watching them in future tournaments."

The Badgers finished the season 11-9 overall and 4-3 in the Intermountain league; head coach Nathan Williams attributes a successful season to the team shooting well, strong ball movement and aggressiveness on the offense.

Richards wins state wrestling title

Junior Eli Richards won the 170-pound title, and six other Badgers earned medals at the 3A state wrestling meet on Feb. 27, at the Ford Idaho Center.

Richards, who finished second at 160 pounds last season (2019-2020), rallied late in his championship match to pull off a 3-2 victory over River Eddins of South Fremont. Other highlights included a second-place finish by Andrew Sandelin-Macintosh at 220 pounds and senior Evan Barajas' third-place finish at 132.

According to head coach Kevin Campbell, Richards dominated the matchups and never panicked.

“Eli wrestled a great tournament; he dominated each match up to the finals; it truly was a dominant performance,” Campbell said. “Then in the finals, he gave up the first takedown but never panicked; he knew he was the better wrestler and did what he needed to get the win.”

Also earning medals were Kyle Smith (fifth, 160); Jackson Richter (fifth, 195); Jake Summerfield (sixth, 132) and Isaiah Shottanana (sixth, 285). The Badgers finished eighth as a team with 115.5 points.

The Badger cheer team placed in state competition with only four cheerleaders. Hailey Kelsey, Addy Heigel, Brenna Stewart and Gena Kelsey all qualified for the state cheer competition. Badgers were the 3A champions placing first in pom routine, all-girl show routine, all-girl stunt group and placed second in sideline cheer.

According to Head Coach Andria Hedrick, “They have scored higher on their competition routines than most 4A and 5A schools in the North Idaho District.”

According to Hedrick, Bonners Ferry was the smallest cheer team to compete in the North Idaho District, with most teams having more than 20 athletes performing for most routines.

Tegan Banning pitches no hitter, Badgers dominate Kellogg

Sophomore pitcher Teigan Banning pitched a no-hitter against Kellogg in the opener of an April 14, doubleheader. The visiting Badgers went on to sweep the Wildcats 12-0 and 15-13. Banning allowed only one walk in the five-inning victory, striking out nine en route to the shutout and no-hitter.

According to head coach Tom Turpin, Banning gave a rare performance not seen before by sophomore pitchers, Banning dominated from the beginning.

Boys, girls performed great at state, Henslee takes home hardware

Charles Henslee took first place for the 1600-meter run at the 3A state championships, bringing back some hardware for the Badgers.

Head coach Travis Hinthorn said Henslee ran a near flawless race in the 1600-meters to overtake Owen Rogers of Gooding High School in the final 100 meters.

The boys and girls 4x400 teams placed second at state with exciting finishes. Mia Blackmore, Camille Ussher and Madi McIntyre got the baton to anchor Emma Pinkerton in second place.

In the boys relay, Daniel Walker, Ian Beazer and Willy Wall got the baton to anchor Hayden Stockton in second place. Stockton and Sugar-Salem battled down the final straight, both teams passed Buhl in the last 10 meters, but Sugar-Salem came away with the win, beating the Badgers by .08 seconds.

“With Charles winning the 1600 and then those two [boys and girls] 4x400 teams getting second in those exciting races, it ended on a real high for us,” Hinthorn said.

Stockton also placed fifth in the 400-meters and eighth in the 200-meters. The boys medley relay team of Beazer, Walker, Wall and Henslee placed fourth. Henslee also placed sixth in the 800.

The top four teams received a trophy; Badger boys took 5th place, just short of fourth place by three points, while the girls placed sixth.

Conner Alexander got on the podium by placing 6th in the 1600 relay, and Daniel Zech got a two-foot personal best in the pole vault to place eighth. Rounding out the scoring for the Badger boys was the 4x100 meter team of Josh Pinkerton, Eli Richards, Tully Reinhardt and Noah Walker placing eighth.

Freshman Asha Abubakari placed third in the shot put. Pinkerton placed fourth in the 400 and teamed up with Sierra Petesch, McIntyre and Ussher to sixth place in the medley relay; Ussher also placed sixth in the 800, with teammate Chloe Kupper placing seventh.

Holly Ansley placed fifth in the long jump and eighth in the triple jump. Markynn Pluid placed seventh in the high jump and Morgan Burt placed fifth in the pole vault. Marianne Pinkerton placed eighth, Pinkerton joined teammates Petesch, Morgan Swanson and Jenna Brooks in the 4x100 placing seventh.

Tweedie races his way to NCT title

Bonners Ferry resident Gage Tweedie is racing to the front of the pack in the remote-controlled racing world. Tweedie won the Northwest Championship Tour for 4x4 short course truck event.

Now in its 15th year, the tour is the longest running regional series in the United States and hosts events in Oregon, Washington and Idaho for 1:10 and 1:8 both electric and nitro powered off-road vehicles. The tour features a total of six races, with participants required to race in five of the six to qualify for the championship. Races take place over three days with competitors running three races a day.

Tweedie traveled from state to state to race and rack up points toward the championship.

Once the points were tallied for the entirety of the tour, Tweedie finished with 402 points to claim top tour honors by one point.

XC girls and boys run smart race at state

The Badger girls squad finished 8th out of 11 teams. It was a first for head coach Tyler Warner’s coaching career to beat Timberlake and Fruitland at state.

Connor Alexander finished 10th in state and is the first Bonners Ferry boys medalist since Hunter Smith in the 2019 season.

“Connor [Alexander] ran a very analytical, tactful race,” Warner said. “At one point I remember telling him to relax, you could just see on his face he was a little uptight, but he passed a handful of guys before the end.”

“To finish top 10 in Idaho 3A is still worthy of recognition in my books,” Warner said.

Junior rifle team places third nationally

In March, the Kootenai Valley Junior Rifle Club competed against the Sandpoint team in a rifle match. The scores were then sent to the National Rifle Association in order to rank them nationally.

Shooters compete using a .22 caliber rifle, with iron sights, at a distance of 50 feet indoors. The metric course consists of 20 shots each in the three positions: prone, standing and kneeling. To score a 10, the shooter must take out a small dot, not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence.

The KV team of Ellie Rutherford, Megg Kahanek, Salix Harris and Paige Sartell competed in the intermediate junior metric class, which is 17 years and younger. They placed third in the nation. In the IJ conventional class, they would place fifth.

Girl's soccer finished 3rd at districts

The Badgers girls soccer finishes third in district and will not be going to state this year.

While there won’t be a trip to state in the team's future, the Badgers defeated St. Marie’s 4-1 in the first round of districts on Oct. 15. Goals were scored by Markynn Pluid, Morgan Burt and Mia Blackmore.

Bonners Ferry went on to play Timberlake in the second round of districts but lost 2-1.

“Over the course of the season the team has evolved a lot,” said coach Emily Winebark. “They moved from being strong players to being a strong team.”

The Badgers lost to Timberlake early on in the season and beat them later in the season. Winebark said that they fought really hard and gave it all in the last game.

The girl’s soccer team will be losing nine seniors which are eight of their starters next season, Winebark said. She is looking forward to the change in dynamics with smaller teams.

Varsity Volleyball finished season third in districts

The Badger volleyball team was young and inexperienced this fall with only three returning varsity players, but that didn’t stop them from nearly advancing to state for the first time since 2017.

Bonners Ferry fell to Timberlake in a thrilling five-set battle in the 3A District 1 tournament second-place match, 25-14, 25-23, 19-25, 21-25, 15-11. The Badgers were just one set away from earning a berth to state and head coach Cynthia Cummings said that shows just how much the team grew this season.

“The girls played their hearts out and left everything on the court,” Cummings said. “They hustled, communicated well, encouraged each other and they never gave up.”

Although the girls did not win against Timberlake to advance to state, Cummings said she couldn’t be more proud of them and the effort they gave this season, both in practice and games.

In the first round of the district tournament on Oct. 19, the three-seeded Badgers suffered a four-set defeat at Timberlake before battling back the following day with a sweep of Coeur d’Alene Charter to keep their season alive. They got another crack at the second-seeded Tigers in the second-place match and put up quite the fight.

“In the end someone has to lose,” Cummings said. “The girls this season really put in a lot of effort and gave it all.”

At state boys soccer falls to Sugar-Salem and American Falls

The Badgers boys soccer finished the season with a pair of losses at the state tournament, falling to Sugar-Salem and American Falls. The boys played Sugar-Salem on Oct. 21 and lost 4-0. All teams at state are guaranteed two games, so the boys went on to play American Falls. Final score was 4-0 with American Falls taking the win.

Head coach Paul Bonnell said the games were closer than they seemed and the game play was exciting and offered a major learning opportunity for the players.

Sugar-Salem, ranked as the tournament’s third seed and went on to win the state title. Bonnell said that he didn’t feel bad losing to the state champions, especially since the Badgers held them with a scoreless game until the half.

First year Goalkeeper Trey Bateman played well at state with at least 20 saves, including two penalty kicks.

The tournament was the Badgers’ first trip to state since 2019. Last year, Bonners Ferry had a 15-year state streak snapped when they fell in the district semis to Timberlake as the top seed.

The Badgers’ lone state title came in 2007.

Overall the team record was 10-4-4 and in league the Badger record was 8-1-3. Badgers finished 3rd in 3A district 1. They finished second in the district title game against Coeur d’Alene Charter.

Badgers lose in upset against Timberlake 24-19

Badger football started off strong against Timberlake and fought to finish their season losing 24-19.

The Badger scored first with 1:39 left in the first quarter, when on a third down Quarterback Blake Rice threw for about 63-yard pass and run to No. 7 Charles Henslee. The Badgers led 6-0.

Badgers held them at the goal line for a play, but at 7:54 left in the 3rd Quarter Timberlake scored 6-6.

Charles Henslee returned the ball 45 yards. On the third down, Badgers ran the ball to gain 25 yards. 7:20 left, at 1 and 10 Charles Henslee ran the ball 25 yards and was tackled into the end zone, but with a call for holding the Badgers had a 10-yard penalty.

At three and seven, Tully Reinhardt ran the ball in for a 30-yard touchdown. With 6:34 remaining in the game 18-12 Badgers down.

In a controversial play, Timberlake ran the ball in for another touchdown against cries from the coaches and crowd of a false start. Officials confirmed the touchdown. 24-13 Timberlake with 3:58 left on the clock.

Rice threw for a 55-yard pass to Charles Henslee with 11.5 seconds left. A rush from Rice got the Badgers to the 40-yard line. The Badger advance finished with a 40-yard complete pass from Rice to Henslee in the last second of the game. Final score 24-19 the Badgers finished their season 4-4,1-2.

Badgers place 3rd and 8th at Tri-State

Eli Richards took third and Brandon Williams took eighth at the 50th Tri-State Wrestling tournament Dec. 17 and 18.

Williams, who wrestles at 98 pounds, came in eighth overall. Head coach Kevin Campbell said that Williams ending up on the metal stand was huge and a big confidence booster.

“[Williams] He's really starting to show how good he can be. He’s scrappy, never gives up and never quits.”

For the wrestlers who didn’t place Campbell said that he had nothing bad to say, it is a tough break competing at Tri-State.

“Placing at this tournament is a big deal,” Campbell said. “A lot of people would say it's tougher to place at Tri-State than it is at state.”

Richards, who wrestles at 170 pounds, came in third at Tri-State. Campbell said going into the tournament Richards knew Washington state champion Darion Johnson from Chiawana was going to be a tough match.

“He [Richards] actually did really well. There was just like a one minute scramble and unfortunately Darion [Johnson] came out on top of that.”

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(Photo by: Maureen Blackmore)

Charles Henslee running the 800 meter at Districts. He went on be the 3A 1600 state champion.

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(Courtesy photo)

Gage Tweedie, center, holds his first-place Northwest Championship Tour award after claiming the tournament's top honors for the season. Rett Long, left, claimed second-place honors, and Daniel Price, right, finished in third for the tour.

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(Courtesy photo BCSD)

Addy Heigel, Hailey Kelsey, Brenna Stewart and Gena Kelsey of the Cheer team after the Timberlake Invitational on Feb. 20.

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