The State A-1 boys basketball tournament will be held March 6-8 at Nampa, and it’s a safe bet that the Eagle Mustangs will be there.
It’s probably a good bet, that Eagle will be playing for a trophy on the final day.
Displaying a balanced perimeter and inside attack, the Mustangs had way too much giddyup for the Coeur d’Alene Vikings in a 79-65 non-league decision Saturday afternoon at North Idaho College.
Seven of 10 Southern Idaho Conference coaches (Boise area) picked Eagle (3-1 overall) to win the league title. Mustangs coach Dennis Kerfoot pointed out he was among the other three, who all tabbed Boise.
Kerfoot should have picked his Mustangs as far as Coeur d’Alene coach Larry Bieber is concerned. Bieber’s Viks had opened the season with a 58-52 road victory over Boise.
“They have two good posts, they’re real solid in the perimeter and they play great defense, especially team defense,” Bieber said about the Mustangs. “They do all the things right. They’re well-coached.”
Kerfoot’s posts, Jeb Putzier and Brian Sweaney, both 6-foot-5, stepped up to counter Coeur d’Alene’s 6-6 Lukas O’Dowd. They combined for 32 points and 20 rebounds. Putzier’s effort was particularly noteworthy because he had scored just one point the night before in a 67-56 win over Lake City.
“We finally got a big game out of Jeb (18 points, nine rebounds) and that’s one of the key factors,” Kerfoot said. “We’ve always known that he’s a great athlete. When our two posts really get their timing, they work together well.”
It took a while before things came together Saturday. Putzier and Sweaney just had one basket each in the first quarter.
It was midway through the second quarter, following a steal and a stuff by O’Dowd that gave CdA a brief 22-18 lead, that an angry Kerfoot called time out. He told his guards to get the ball inside.
The guards got the message and the posts responded. Eagle went on a 15-0 run over the next 4 minutes as the posts combined for 10 points.
CdA (3-2) had gone 4 minutes, 30 second without scoring when O’Dowd made both ends of an one-and-one. Eagle led 33-24 at halftime.
There was non-stop action in the third quarter.
O’Dowd, who scored 24 points for the game, and 6-5 junior post Casey Hoorelbeke combined for 15 of Coeur d’Alene’s 22 points in the period.
The Viks almost caught up when Eddie Gibbs made a 3-pointer with 2:17 left in the third quarter. The basket trimmed the Mustangs’ lead to 41-39.
Scott Thompson, who led Eagle with 24 points, thwarted CdA’s comeback attempt with a 3-pointer and a short jumper in the key. Eagle took a 53-46 lead into the fourth period.
The Viks didn’t come any closer than eight points in the final 8 minutes. Thompson’s basket in the waning seconds allowed Eagle to equal its biggest advantage of 14 points.
“We can’t continue to let teams get up on us and try to catch them at the end,” Bieber said. “We talked about that in the locker room. We’re going to have to start the game in fourth gear instead of building up to it.”
The game was played at NIC because Viking Gym was being decorated for the Junior Prom.
Eagle 79, CdA 65
Eagle 16 17 20 26 - 79
Coeur d’Alene 15 9 24 19 - 65
Eagle - Kerfoot 14, Gaythwaite 4, Thompson 24, Moyer 5, Ramsey 0, Roy 0, Sweaney 14, Putzier 18, Davis 0.
Coeur d’Alene - Dretke 0, Rupp 12, Gibbs 12, Wood 1, Davis 5, Kovatch 2, Hoorelbeke 8, O’Dowd 24, Sigler 1.