In Fred Trenkle's book of basketball, December isn't as important as tournament time in February and March.
Still, four games in the last week—three of them Wolverine victories—had the Wood River High School basketball team feeling good about its progress entering Christmas break.
"I would have thought we'd be playing this way at the end of the year, not midway through the season," said Trenkle after Thursday's dominating 63-35 home win over the Challis Vikings.
Wood River emerged with a 4-4 record, doubling last year's win mark. You can't even think about getting over .500 if you don't win at home, and the Wolverines are 3-2 at home.
Hailey teams haven't had a .500 mark at home since 1996, when they were 5-5. In the nine seasons since, prior to this one, they've been 18-67 in Hailey.
That's one huge reason Wood River boys' basketball hasn't enjoyed a winning season since Norm Cook's final Hailey squad went 15-8 in 1992.
Putting together an early-season three-game winning streak with 47-36, 56-49 and 63-35 successes over 3A Kimberly, 3A Middleton and 2A Challis had Trenkle speaking in glowing terms about his 4A team.
"We're looking pretty good and there is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm," he said after the 28-point Challis triumph. "As far as doing things right and having no turnovers, we couldn't have done much better. But making shots covers up a lot of deficiencies, too."
Scoring 63 points—Wood River's best output in 33 games dating back to the 11-14 state tournament season of 2004—put the Wolverines in a good frame of mind entering last Saturday's Great Basin Conference West league opener at Minico.
"I told 'em, we don't have to beat Minico Saturday—we have to beat them the last time we play them this year," said Trenkle with the perspective of 32 years of coaching at the high school and college levels.
Amazingly, Wood River very nearly beat Minico Saturday in Rupert. The upset-minded Wolverines erased a 13-point second-half deficit and gave themselves a chance to win, but Minico (3-4, 1-0) pulled out a 51-48 league victory.
Senior point guard and top scorer Morgan Uhrig (10.2 ppg) led the scoring parade with 12 points including four 3-pointers. Junior wing Cory Rutkowski (7.0 ppg) added 12 points and junior Corbin Miniard chipped in 8 points.
Kyle Straatman topped Minico with 19 points.
"To win in our conference we'll have to defend better and make them guard us instead of us guarding them," Trenkle said about the mind games that evolve over the hoops season.
Wood River will get another shot at Minico Jan. 20 in Hailey. The other home games remaining are Jerome on Jan. 4, Kimberly on Jan. 7, Buhl on Jan. 31 and Burley on Feb. 3.
Right now, however, Wood River is feeling comfortable on its homecourt. For the season the Wolverines are averaging 49.1 ppg on offense—up eight points from last year—and 42.8 ppg defense—down 11 points.
They've got great scoring balance, eight players averaging 4.0 ppg or better.
Indeed, nine Wolverines scored in the win over Challis topped by Rutkowski with 15 points and 4 boards. Wood River nailed ten 3-pointers—three apiece by Rutkowski and Cooper McCroskey plus two by David Sibrian and one apiece by Uhrig and Casey Lane.
Contributors were Lane 11 points and 8 rebounds; McCroskey 11 points, 5 boards and 2 steals; Erik Jacobson 9 points, 3 boards and 3 assists; David Sibrian 6 points and 2 assists; Miniard 4 points; Uhrig 3 points and 5 assists; Kyle Lubeck 2 points; and Jesse Stark 2 points and 2 assists.
"We played doggone good and just overmatched them," said Trenkle. "It's good to have a game like that occasionally.
"Morgan (Uhrig) did a marvelous job of distributing the ball and pushing it up the floor. He did a solid job defensively, too. It was quite a good high school game for Wood River, probably one of the two best I've seen this year, the other Minico beating Rigby."
Frank Phillips topped Challis with 21 points and 9 rebounds.