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Kendalyn Brainard pulls down a rebound for Coeur d’Alene. Special to (Steve Conner Special to)

All-IEL finale

NAMPA, Idaho – If the Coeur d’Alene High girls basketball team had a true point guard, perhaps it would win the State 5A championship going away.

Ball handling has been the Vikings’ Achilles’ heel this season, but they’ve managed to get by with a guard-by-committee approach.

Highland tested Coeur d’Alene’s resolve in more ways than one Friday, but the Vikings held off the physical Rams 48-39 in the semifinals at the Idaho Center.

It will be an all-North Idaho final for the second time in three years when Coeur d’Alene (21-4) meets Lewiston (21-2) at 7 PST. For the fourth straight year the state trophy will go to a Panhandle team.

CdA will be after its third straight state championship. It’s the fifth consecutive year the Vikings have been in the state final.

Lewiston rallied from a 15-point deficit to knock off Centennial 57-52 in overtime.

In Coeur d’Alene’s game, the Vikings committed 13 turnovers in the first half, and the Rams took advantage.

A basket by Rams freshman guard Dakota Gonzalez with 10 seconds left in the second quarter allowed Highland to knot the score at 21-21 going into halftime.

“We just don’t have that flashy kid out top to make it happen,” CdA head coach Dale Poffenroth said. “We have workhorse kids and they work hard. We have to move the ball. We didn’t move the ball as well as we could have.”

CdA limited its turnovers to four in the second half and that could have been the key. And they got the ball inside to posts Carli Rosenthal and Kendalyn Brainard.

Highland couldn’t stop the tandem. Rosenthal scored a game-high 18 points. Brainard had 16.

Rosenthal and Brainard also were a force on the boards. Rosenthal had a game-high 10 and Brainard had eight. CdA outrebounded the Rams 34-19.

Poffenroth’s message to his team at halftime wasn’t any new revelation.

“I said ‘Shoot the ball and don’t throw it away,’ ” he said. “If you shoot the ball, you’ve got a chance to win the game.

“We did a little more shooting the second half and didn’t throw it away quite as much.”

And they got it inside. Rosenthal and Brainard both scored 10 points in the second half.

CdA’s players were frequently bumped on shots, especially Rosenthal, but the referees let the teams play both ways.

“That style wasn’t very good for us,” Poffenroth said. “They were aggressive, more aggressive than the night before. Their kids did some nice things and forced us out of our (game). We kept trying to run an offense and we got a little bit of one in the second half.”

CdA did something it could control, though, and that was play defense.

“You have to do that when things aren’t going well,” Poffenroth said.

Rosenthal praised Highland, but also applauded her team for persevering.

“They were really physical, but I think we pushed through as a team,” Rosenthal said. “We slowed it down and looked for the open person instead of throwing it to no one.”

Rosenthal expects another test tonight, but is confident her team will fare well.

“If we play really hard and play good defense we’ll do well,” she said.

Lewiston, which topped CdA 53-41 in the Region I final, has two straight wins over the Vikings.

3A: Kellogg and Priest River, both of the Intermountain League, will decide the State 3A championship today after Kellogg knocked off Weiser 33-26 and Priest River stopped Kimberly 59-53 at Skyview High School in Nampa on in the semifinals.

The title game begins at 2:50 PST at the Idaho Center in Nampa.