The first three quarters of the Post Falls-Lake City boys basketball game Tuesday served as the appetizer.
The final 8 minutes and overtime were nothing short of dramatic and entertaining as the No. 1-ranked Post Falls Trojans outlasted the Lake City Timberwolves 77-76 in a 5A Inland Empire League game before an estimated crowd of 1,300 at LC.
Two free throws by Luke Thoreson with 30 seconds left in overtime provided the tying and go-ahead points for Post Falls. But so many factors figured in the outcome.
The league-leading and defending state-champion Trojans broke out of a first-half malaise and caught fire from 3-point range in the fourth quarter. The Timberwolves matched Post Falls shot for shot from everywhere but the free-throw line.
“That’s probably as good a basketball game as you’d see at the high school level,” said Post Falls coach Mike McLean, whose team improved to 14-2 overall, 3-1 in league. “It had a little bit of everything. It had strategy, contrasting styles, players stepping up and hitting big shots. There’s the chess match from the bench, the stars making big shots and the role players doing their roles to the best.”
It was a tight game throughout. After a methodical first half – LC led 22-21 at halftime – things broke open in a hurry.
Still, LC (12-5, 3-3) took a 41-38 lead into the fourth period.
Post Falls proceeded to make 7 of 9 from 3-point range in the final 8 minutes, but the Trojans couldn’t shake the T-Wolves. That’s largely because Chris Wheelock almost single-handedly answered the Trojans’ long bombs.
Wheelock made 3 of 3 3-pointers in the fourth and two more in overtime to finish with a career-high 35 points.
Thoreson made 4 of 5 treys in the fourth quarter, his final one giving Post Falls a 63-61 lead with 1:29 to go.
Wheelock answered from deep 24 seconds later to put LC ahead 64-63. Moments later, Wheelock hit 1 of 2 foul shots for a 65-63 lead.
Post Falls tied it at 65 when Thoreson hit a wide-open Connor Hill for a shot behind LC’s defense with 11 seconds remaining.
LC had two more shots before time expired.
The teams answered each other in OT before Thoreson’s final free throws.
LC, which made just 13 of 28 free throws in a 43-38 win at Coeur d’Alene last week, struggled again, hitting just 17 of 30.
“I’m disappointed in our seniors,” LC coach Jim Winger said. “That might sound crazy, especially with how well Chris (Wheelock) shot, but in a big game like this our five seniors on the floor couldn’t muster up a free throw. We had a chance to seal the deal in our gym.”
Winger acknowledged that, his team’s poor free-throw shooting aside, both teams battled.
“From a fan’s point of view, it was one of the better ones,” Winger said. “I was real impressed with Post Falls. It was a pretty gutsy effort on the road in a tough environment. You have to recognize that.”
Hill led the Trojans with 28 points and Thoreson had 19. Both made five 3s.
Mark Smyly scored 20 for LC.
“Since I got here (as head coach) four years ago, all I talked about was attacking the basket,” McLean said. “We were tentative in the first half. We came out in the second half and attacked the basket and tried to put the pressure on them.”
Sandpoint 57, Lakeland 53: Blaine Shultz hit 7 of 8 from the field and scored 15 points as the Bulldogs (9-7, 3-0) had three players finish in double figures in their win over the visiting Hawks (3-15, 0-4) in IEL 4A action.
Cole Fuhrman added 13 points for Sandpoint, which plays at Moscow Saturday, needing a win to clinch sole possession of first place. Hunter Arno had a game-high 17 points for the Hawks.
Moscow 72, Coeur d’Alene 71 (OT): Sam Lewis scored 19 points and Josh Helbling added 17 points as the host Bears (5-10) outscored the Vikings (11-7) 10-9 in overtime to earn the win in IEL nonleague action.
Jake Matheson hit four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 28 points for the Vikings, who outscored Moscow 23-16 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Deon Watson added 24 points in the loss for the Vikings. Aaron Donaldson tallied 17 points for the Bears, who finished with four players in double figures.