Earlier this month, Coeur d’Alene junior Erin Legel asked coach Dale Poffenroth to take her out of the starting lineup.
“I was too nervous starting,” Legel said. “I’d get out there and be frazzled and I wouldn’t play very well. Not starting has really helped me a lot. It’s made me more confident.”
In her fifth game since coming out of the starting lineup, Legel had a career night Saturday.
The 5-foot-6 guard scored a team-high and personal-best 19 points to lead the Vikings to a 64-41 win over the visiting Lewis and Clark Tigers in a foul-plagued, physical nonleague game between the winningest programs in the region in recent years.
“It’s not a matter of who starts necessarily but who finishes,” Poffenroth said. “And she’s finished a lot of games lately. She told her dad she gets nervous when she hears her name on the P.A. (public address) system. She’s done a great job. She drives to the hole and shoots from outside. She does a lot for a small package.”
The game featured a first half with little flow. Both teams were called for 11 fouls. By halftime, CdA had four players with two each and LC had two players with three and two with two.
The referees ended up calling 39, 23 on LC.
“I thought we’d be here until midnight the way it was going,” Poffenroth said.
CdA (15-4 overall) opened a 20-9 lead late in the first quarter. But the Tigers (10-4) chipped away at the deficit, finally tying the score at 30-30 when Hayley Hendricksen got a basket inside with 23 seconds left in the second.
A basket by Legel with 5 seconds to go gave CdA a 32-30 lead at intermission.
LC, which has lost three of its last four, struggled mightily in the second half, scoring just 11 points. CdA, meanwhile, flourished.
The Tigers pulled within 39-35 on a basket by Hendricksen with 3:30 to go in the third quarter. But LC would go nearly a quarter without scoring, and the Tigers didn’t score another basket until 2:52 remained in the game.
CdA took advantage, going on an 18-0 run. The Viks built a 57-35 lead when Devyn Galland made two free throws with 3:42 to go.
A 3-pointer by Legel 30 seconds later gave the Viks their biggest advantage at 60-37 – only matched by the final score.
CdA senior post Carli Rosenthal, who went over 1,000 career points on Friday, had 11 to go with nine rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Kendalyn Brainard, who returned from summer knee surgery this month, had 12 points and five rebounds.
LC junior guard Julia Morevec single-handedly kept the Tigers in the game in the first half with 17 points. She was scoreless in the final two quarters. Hendricksen had 13 to go with nine rebounds.
“I think we’re playing better but I said that once before and we lost to Lewiston and played so bad,” Poffenroth said. “We’re making progress and things are headed in the right direction.”
LC couldn’t get untracked in the second half. Galland, the Tigers’ leading scorer, finished with nine points including just one field goal. She was in foul trouble most of the game.
It was the second quality win of the week for CdA. They traveled to Yakima on Martin Luther King Day and beat Prosser, unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in 2A, 43-42.
“Those were two really good games for us and good preparation for the (postseason),” Poffenroth said.
CdA finishes regular-season play at home Thursday against Lake City.