It’s rare when good basketball and the pageantry of a spirit doubleheader merge.
That’s what happened Friday when the Lake City boys fended off Coeur d’Alene 61-57 and the Coeur d’Alene girls did likewise to Lake City 48-44 in two well-played, tightly contested Inland Empire League games in the 13th annual Fight for the Fish before a standing-room-only crowd of 2,700 at LC.
LC captured the wooden Rainbow trout, landing the trophy that’s awarded to the school displaying the most spirit.
It was the kind of game LC coach Jim Winger has wanted to see from Chris Wheelock.
The Timberwolves’ senior point guard wrested control of the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his team-high 20 points.
“What I liked about it is we’ve been asking him to do that for a while – is to take the ball, want the ball and go at people and be a leader,” Winger said. “He certainly did that quite well.”
Wheelock’s adrenaline was still flowing well after the game.
“I don’t know what to say right now – I’m still jacked up,” Wheelock said. “We just wanted to stay aggressive and that’s what we tried to do.”
Single-handedly keeping the game closer than it should have been was CdA junior wing Deon Watson, who finished with a game-high 25 points. He made 5 of 7 3-pointers in the second half.
LC (10-2 overall, 1-0 league) led 42-36 going into the fourth. But Watson hit two 3-pointers and Jake Matheson nailed another to open the period. While that tightened the margin, CdA (7-4, 1-1) never took the lead in the final 8 minutes.
Instead, Wheelock made a driving basket with 1:16 to go and Colton Carlson made two free throws 22 seconds later that extended LC’s lead to 57-49.
“Sometimes these spirit games … the kids are so wound up and sometimes a little nervous (that) it’s a sloppy game,” Winger said. “Right from the start both teams got after each other pretty good.”
What CdA lacked on offense, LC had plenty of – balance. Three other players joined Wheelock in double figures. Smyly had 12, Scott Turner had 11 off the bench and Carlson 10. Freshman Kyle Guice led the T-Wolves on the boards with 13.
Matheson was the only other Vikings player in double figures with 15 points.
CdA coach Kent Leiss was displeased with his team’s shot selection at times.
“Our shot selection and sharing the basketball was really poor,” Leiss said. “It’s something we talked about all week because Lake City’s very good defensively. They sag in the lane and it’s a man-to-man defense that looks almost like a zone.”
Sydney Butler made a step back 3-pointer to pull LC within 45-44 with 53 seconds remaining.
CdA (9-4, 2-2) got two free throws from Carli Rosenthal and one from Kyeli Parker in the final 20 seconds to hold off LC (12-3, 1-1).
Butler had a chance to give LC the lead with 9 seconds to go, but a 3-point shot bounced high off the rim.
It was a much-needed win for CdA, which was coming off a 41-33 loss at Lewiston on Tuesday – the Vikings’ second conference loss to Lewiston.
“We made a few (shots) when we had to have them,” CdA coach Dale Poffenroth said. “We had the two runs in the second half and they had to catch us with their run. That’s hard.”
The Vikings opened the second half as if they were going to pull away from LC. CdA made three straight shots, two of which were 3-pointers, to open a 26-18 lead.
But LC countered with a 10-0 surge, taking a 28-26 lead when Butler made two free throws with 3 minutes left in the quarter.
The guard-heavy T-Wolves had to rely on 3-pointers to counter the inside attack of Rosenthal, a 6-foot-3 post. LC made 8 of 23 from behind the 3-point arc.
Rosenthal finished with just three field goals but made 9 of 10 free throws for 15 points. She also had 17 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. Parker had 15 points.
LC coach Royce Johnston said his team can’t accept moral victories against CdA anymore because he believes his team is good enough to beat its rival.
“I’m disappointed for our girls more than anything because I know how badly they wanted to win that game,” Johnston said. “We’ve got to get the job done. We were one possession away from getting it done.”