Dale Poffenroth has been to enough state tournaments to know that his Coeur d’Alene girls basketball team should fare well when the State 5A tournament begins today.
“If this team that showed up (last Friday) shows up (at state), we’ll be in every game,” Poffenroth said after the Vikings handled Lake City 63-42 to earn a state berth a week after losing to their crosstown rival 41-35.
If Coeur d’Alene (18-5) plays anywhere close to how it did in the final regional game, it will do more than be in every game at state. The Vikings should challenge for a fourth straight state championship.
CdA opens in the final of four games against District III runner-up Boise (19-4) at 7 p.m. PST. In an earlier game, the Lewiston Bengals (19-3), the Inland Empire League and Region I champs, take on Capital of Boise (18-6), the fifth-place qualifier from District III.
The Vikings have been the prohibitive state favorites the last three years. This year, Inland Empire League and Region I champ Lewiston (19-3) heads to state as arguably the favorite.
Lewiston swept CdA in league by 55-48 and 41-33 counts.
Bengals coach Pat Teichmer is deflecting the tab as favorites.
“Until someone beats Coeur d’Alene at the state tournament, they have to be considered the favorite,” Teichmer said. “If we can get to the title game it would be a great accomplishment, and the same for Coeur d’Alene. It would again show how strong our league is and that these northern girls can play some quality basketball.”
The IEL foes met in the state final last year and it’s likely they’ll meet again Saturday in the title game at the Idaho Center.
The Vikings head to state expecting nothing less than to be playing for the title again.
“I think this is the best game we’ve played all year by far,” CdA junior guard Kyeli Parker said following the Vikings’ state-qualifying win.
CdA senior 6-foot-3 post Carli Rosenthal, a four-year starter, agreed.
“I think we’re going to do really well,” Rosenthal said. “Our league is one of the toughest leagues (in the state). We’re ready, we’re prepared.”
CdA has defeated two top-ranked teams from Washington. The Vikings rallied to knock off 4A Federal Way 70-69 in the Holiday Inn Express final and slipped past 2A Prosser 43-42 on Martin Luther King Day at the SunDome in Yakima.
Both Washington teams were undefeated at the time. They remain ranked atop their respective classifications.
CdA’s first loss came against Clackamas (Ore.) at a tournament in Portland. Then there were the two defeats to Lewiston, one to Mead and the loss last week to LC.
So a challenging nonleague schedule and a difficult league has CdA well prepared for state.
“The schedule we played this year didn’t give us a great record, but I think it made us a better team,” Poffenroth said. “The kids have gotten better and we’ve played some tough teams. Every team we played this year other than our league was a team that could beat us.”
A young CdA team has grown up. In early January, the Vikings welcomed back sophomore forward Kendalyn Brainard, who was lost to a knee injury last summer. She returned from anterior cruiciate ligament surgery in five months.
“We’re still trying to put everything together,” Poffenroth said, noting that the win over LC was Brainard’s 11th since returning.
One thing that’s emerged is balanced scoring. Rosenthal averages a team-leading 13.5 points, but Parker (9.4), Brainard (8.1) and junior guards Caelyn Orlandi (9.0) and Erin Legel (8.0) have frequently scored in double figures if not led the team in scoring on a given night.
One other 5A team has won four straight titles – Meridian (1980-83).
The Intermountain League was well-represented at state last year when Priest River topped Kellogg in an all-IML state final.
The Timberlake Tigers (18-4) hopes to continue the league’s recent success when the tourney begins today at Skyview High School in Nampa.
Timberlake, the IML and District I champ, meets District III champ Fruitland (13-8) at 2 p.m. PST. IML and District I runner-up Priest River (13-10) meets District VI champ Sugar-Salem (18-5) at 5:15.
1A Division II
Co-North Star League champ Clark Fork (12-8) opens tonight against play-in qualifier Mackay (12-9) when the tourney begins at Nampa High School.