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Cross-town rivals

Sat., Feb. 24, 2007

Basketball fans from north Idaho traveled to Nampa, Idaho, last weekend to watch Lake City High School and Coeur d’Alene High School compete in the Idaho state girls basketball tournament. There was plenty of great basketball to watch with a little downright painful action thrown in. And in the end, the Timberwolves from Lake City claimed the title of 5A State champions with a 46-40 victory over their cross-town rival Coeur d’Alene Vikings.

Each team played a game each day of the three-day tournament. After day two, the Timberwolves and Vikings were the only teams left standing. The 5A title game was the main event, the last game in an all classification championship Saturday at the Idaho Center.

Through all the championship games from the ranks of 1A through 4A there was elation from the winning teams and sorrow from the runners-up. The 5A game promised to be more of the same. In fact, there were tears of joy as well as tears of heart-breaking disappointment for the North Idaho girls.

Pre-game ceremonies included Coeur d’Alene High School receiving the Idaho High School Athletics Association Sportsmanship Award. The IHSAA award is based on the conduct of the coach and team, the spirit of the cheerleaders and the support of the fans. Dating back to 1989, no North Idaho school has ever won the award.

Before starting line-ups were announced to the mostly North Idaho crowd, Coeur d’Alene School District Superintendent Harry Amend knew he was heading home with a state basketball championship as well as the runner-up title. Amend proposed to both coaches a picture of all the players together for an all North Idaho photograph after the game. Both coaches immediately agreed to the idea even though plenty of eyebrows arched at the thought of pitting both teams together after such an emotional and physical contest. “It might be difficult for them now, but it will be a photograph they will appreciate later,” Amend said, selling anyone who would listen on the idea. So it was decided, get the girls together.

The basketball action was intense with Lake City jumping out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter. The top ranked and favored Vikings battled back closing to within a basket at the half. And in the third quarter, the Vikings stretched out a healthy lead for a time. In the final quarter, it was what every fan wanted, a seesaw game until with a minute left, the Timberwolves took a big enough lead to force the Vikings to foul. The T-wolves made more free throws than they missed and the victory was sealed. Lake City head coach Darren Taylor spoke to the crowd calling his team “the team of destiny.”

After the awards ceremony the two teams gathered at center court. Coeur d’Alene head coach Dale Poffenroth directed the girls to mix together for the all-North Idaho photograph, and as they did a transformation occurred. The cross-town, bitter rivalry faded into the cavernous Idaho Center as the girls seemed to remember who they were and where they had come from. After the photograph, hugs of comfort and hugs of congratulations were shared between members of both teams. Many of them rediscovered that they were once fast friends, growing up and playing ball together for years, some friendships going back to early elementary school.

For the most part, Viking fans took roost behind the Coeur d’Alene bench. Lake City fans sat facing their players, across the court. But after the game, parents mixed and milled about taking pictures, reflecting on what they had just witnessed. They were expecting a great basketball game from great players and the girls delivered. They were not expecting the maturity, the class, demonstrated by the two teams. The Lake City High School Timberwolves won the 5A basketball title, but on this night, the entire community that makes up North Idaho was the real winner.


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