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Timberwolves show more than expected

His Lake City boys basketball team had just knocked off Lewiston, the No. 1-ranked 5A team in the state.

So Lake City coach Jim Winger’s comments were probably as predictable as the question.

The Timberwolves are 8-2 overall and 3-0 in Inland Empire League play after rallying to beat Coeur d’Alene in overtime (68-63), handing Post Falls its first loss (58-43) and handling visiting Lewiston (61-48) all in the span of a week.

The second half of league play – at least among the 5A teams in the league – begins Saturday when LC plays host to Coeur d’Alene.

LC will play two of the three return games against the 5A teams at home. The one road trip is to Lewiston (Feb. 7).

So how does it feel to go 3-0 against the 5A teams?

“It’s only January,” Winger quickly answered. “We have a long ways to go. It’s certainly the best spot we can be in.”

It’s a spot any of the other three teams would gladly exchange with LC – especially considering that the league champ will play host to the first night of games involving the four teams and have home-court advantage throughout state-qualifying play.

To be honest, I didn’t see this happening in late December – particularly after watching LC lose back-to-back games at the holiday tournament at North Idaho College while Post Falls cruised to three wins over the same teams.

Much can happen in the next three weeks, no doubt.

Here’s what I learned in the past week:

•Coeur d’Alene, despite the fact that it doesn’t have a senior on its roster, is capable of beating Lewiston, LC and Post Falls.

•Lewiston, which I predicted would win the league title and challenge for a state championship, is worthy of the hype.

•Post Falls may be a year away, but will have a big say in deciding which team(s) advance to state. The Trojans could be one of those state-qualifying teams.

•And LC is better than I thought it would be, and should just get better. The Timberwolves are playing stout defense and can still improve measurably on offense.

As I’ve said before, Winger is a master at getting average players to play beyond their abilities. His first team in his second time at the LC helm is no different.

“This is how you envision you’ll play,” Winger said after the Lewiston game. “Most of the time you don’t play the way you envision, but they’re playing the way we want them to play. They have such good chemistry. They want to win real bad.”

Winger sees plenty of room for improvement.

“If I were to critique it, I think we can get better offensively,” he said. “Our type of offense, especially the man to man that we run, is totally foreign to what they’ve run for a long time. Ours is more of a read it – screen, pick and roll and sucker cut and all those things – where before they were pretty patterned, up-the-gut type of offense. You couldn’t really pick two more opposite offenses. So that’s why we still struggle a little bit. We’re a hair away.”

The key for the four 5A teams from here on out is protecting home court.

This week

The Coeur d’Alene girls (16-0, 7-0) can clinch the Inland Empire League title and top seeding to the Region I tournament Friday when they visit Post Falls (12-4, 6-1) as part of a doubleheader with the boys.

The girls tip off at 5:45, followed by the boys at 7:30.

•On Saturday, CdA’s girls and boys visit LC. The girls begin at 4:15, followed by the boys at 6.

Here piggy, piggy, piggy

Tickets for the annual Prairie Pig spirit doubleheader between the Lakeland and Post Falls boys and girls, which will be held Jan. 29 at The Arena in Post Falls, went on sale last week.

The tickets will be sold only via presale at both schools. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students with student activity cards. No booster club passes are accepted.