With half the boys basketball season behind us, there have been exciting developments in each class and several players who have emerged as pleasant surprises.
Gary Winston has not been one of them.
Which is to say that no one expected Winston to be anything less than spectacular. The 6-foot, University of Idaho-bound guard has not only been the CBBN's most unguardable player for the last two years, he also may be the league's top defender as well.
"I think his offense has really blossomed this year. That was a part of his game he really worked on this summer," said Blue Devils coach John Golden. "He works harder than anybody I've been around. He just takes it upon himself to improve upon his game."
Winston is an easy choice as the CBBN Cascade Division mid-season MVP, but he is but one of many talented players who have helped make the Cascade one of the most competitive divisions in the state.
Here's a run-down of the Mid-Columbia boys' mid-season all-league teams:
CBBN Cascade Division
First-half first team: Gary Winston, sr., Walla Walla (MVP); Colton McCargar, sr., Richland; Case Rada, jr., Kamiakin; Malachi Roberts, sr., Eastmont; Michael Weisner, sr., Walla Walla.
McCargar gets the nod over Lopez after leading Richland to a 10-0 start. Rada's intense play and scoring ability set the tone for dynamic Braves offense. Montana recruit Weisner is part of a devastating 1-2 punch for No. 5 Wa-Hi.
Second team: Robert Bonser, sr., Eisenhower; Jordan Downing, soph., Chiawana; James Lopez, sr., Eisenhower; Dylan Radliff, sr., Richland; Pete Zachara, sr., Hanford.
Downing is the backbone of a young and promising Chiawana squad, while Radliff is starting to get hot for the third-ranked Bombers, averaging 14.7 points over the last seven games. Zachara combines with strong frontcourt to lead Hanford's 3A state hopes.
Biggest surprise (team): Richland is off to its best start since the 1997-98 season, when they started 12-0. Coach Earl Streufert's emphasis on leadership and defense has helped the Bombers post impressive wins over Eisenhower and Kamiakin. We knew they'd be good, but this group has exceeded expectations.
Biggest surprise (player): Kamiakin's Justin Pedley is only a sophomore, but he does not play like one. The athletic 6-4 forward has been a consistent scorer (13.2 points) and rebounder (6.1) for the eighth-ranked Braves, and his court sense makes him one of the best passers in the league.
Bold prediction: Richland, boosted by the play of senior guards Mike Dunford, Tanner Dunn, McCargar and Radliff, finds a rhythm at 4A Eastern Regionals and posts its best finish at state since winning the 1979 4A championship.
CBBN Columbia Division
First-half first team: David Trimble, soph., Davis (MVP); Alfredo De La Barrera, sr., Sunnyside; Jackson Marquis, jr., Davis; Derek Porter, jr., Southridge; Connor Smith, sr., Wenatchee.
Trimble is part of a talented mix of young players, but he's the most consistent, reaching double-figures in the last 11 games. De La Barrera and Smith are the only returning first-teamers in the group.
Second team: Davonte Luckett, soph., Davis; Israel Manzo, soph., Sunnyside; Matt Mendenhall, soph., Southridge; Gabe Porter, jr., Moses Lake; Jeramie Streicher, sr., Pasco.
Mendenhall is following in the offensive footsteps of his brother, Andrew. Streicher had first-team credentials, but they aren't enough to help an 0-11 Pasco squad.
Biggest surprise (team): To see Davis at the top of a weak Columbia Division hardly qualifies as a surprise, but the Pirates are the division's best hope of unseating any Cascade team at districts. The cohesion of Luckett, Marquis and Trimble has given Pirates fans much hope of a return to glory days.
Biggest surprise (player): Derek Porter of Southridge has emerged as one of the top big men in the CBBN, scoring 13.6 points a game and keeping the Suns in the playoff picture.
Bold prediction: Pasco becomes the first 4A Mid-Columbia team to finish 0-20 since Southridge did it in 1998. With seven games remaining, the Bulldogs' best chance at a win comes tonight at the Lions Den in Kennewick.
First-half first team: Patrick Simon, sr., Ephrata (MVP); Ross Buchert, sr., Ephrata; Matt Guevara, sr., Wapato; Nick Longmire, sr., Selah; Drew Washut, sr., Selah.
Second team: Rigo Alvarado, sr., Wapato; David Charles, sr., Othello; Blake Milne, sr., Prosser; Christian Shcrank, jr., Grandview; Ethan Sterkel, sr., Ellensburg.
After missing the entire 2008-09 season with a stress fracture, Patrick Simon has returned to dominating the CWAC along with wing Ross Buchert. The pair won a 2A state title in 2008.
First-half first team: Juan Contreras, jr., River View (MVP); Christian Aguilar, fr., Kiona-Benton; Victor Contreras, jr., River View; Makai Hirai, sr., Wahluke; Trevor Lott, sr., Columbia-Burbank.
Second team: Marc Albertson, sr., Royal; Matt Barger, sr., Royal; Nathan Brown, sr., Warden; Matt Hadley, soph., Connell; Hayden Wing, jr., Kiona-Benton.
The Contreras brothers -- Juan and Victor -- put in plenty of work in the offseason to make this year a success. Juan is second in the league in scoring (16.4 ppg) while Victor is a shut-down defender.
First-half first team: Cody Brockman, sr., Liberty Christian (MVP); Will Hoppes, sr., Tri-Cities Prep; Ben Kiefel, sr., Waitsburg-Prescott; Pat Richard, sr., DeSales; Jake Siefken, soph., Liberty Christian.
Second team: Brian Corrigan, jr., Liberty Christian; Marshall Failing, sr., Walla Walla Valley Academy; Jake Hodnefield, jr., Touchet; Matt Kates, jr. Touchet; Antonio Ledesma, sr., Tri-Cities Prep.
Five starters graduated from Liberty Christian, but the Patriots' program is safe in the hands of Cody Brockman and Jake Siefken, who combine for 29 points a game.