Nearly 10 seconds remained, but Jessica Kramer couldn’t help herself. She began frolicking toward midcourt, ready to embrace fellow Lewiston High senior Nicole Redd.
After 21 years of frustration for the Bengals girls basketball team, no one could blame Kramer for a little premature celebration.
Thanks to a dominant fourth quarter, host Lewiston pocketed its first berth to the state tournament since 1989 by putting away Coeur d’Alene 53-41 in Tuesday’s 5A Region I tournament title game.
The top-seeded Bengals (19-2) won their 13th straight game and knocked off the two-time 5A state champions for the second time in a week. They erupted for an 8-0 run to start the fourth period and then salted away the win at the free-throw line.
“Our kids weren’t even born in ’89,” LHS coach Pat Teichmer said. “All they know is that they haven’t gone to state for three years or four years or two years. … We tried to downplay it because it’s not our history. Our history is what’s going on right now.”
The Vikings (18-4) will host rival Lake City on Friday for the district’s second ticket to state. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
Coeur d’Alene, playing with just two seniors, was derailed by 18 turnovers and a 2-of-12 shooting performance in the final quarter. It was held without a field goal for the first seven minutes of the fourth.
“(Teichmer’s) kids are more experienced than mine and we got a little tighter than they did,” Vikings coach Dale Poffenroth said.
The poise and experience of Redd and Kramer was especially evident late. The guards helped the Bengals go without a turnover almost the whole second half and combined for three 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Redd registered 15 of her game-high 24 points in the second half and proved key as Lewiston broke open what had been a taut, back-and-forth contest. Before the Bengals’ late flurry, there had been eight lead changes and seven ties.
“We were definitely focused,” Redd said. “There was no doubt we were the better team and focused the whole way through.”
Redd started the Bengals’ fourth-quarter run with a nifty reverse layup over Coeur d’Alene post Carli Rosenthal. After a jumper from Kramer, Redd connected on two free throws and nailed a 17-footer.
Right as Lewiston put things together, Coeur d’Alene coughed up the ball on three straight possessions.
“Nicole Redd was fantastic tonight,” Teichmer said. “Every time we struggled to score, that girl made a shot. … In the biggest game of her life, I thought maybe she played her best game.”
Rosenthal led the Vikings with 16 points, nine coming in the first half. Guards Amanda Buttrey and Dayna Drager combined to go 2 for 10 from the field for eight points.
Lake City 48, Post Falls 40: Gina Mitchell scored 19 points and hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Timberwolves (15-7) erased a four-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Trojans (13-9) 22-9 in the third in CdA.
Dani Failor led the Trojans with 16 points but could not save them from postseason elimination, as the Timberwolves advance to play Coeur d’Alene for the final state tourney slot.