The 5A Inland Empire League boys basketball season concluded Wednesday and the only thing settled in the four-team league is the fourth seed.
Coeur d’Alene had a chance to capture the league championship outright, but the Post Falls Trojans had other plans.
In a game that was borderline football, wrestling and hockey with a little basketball sprinkled in here and there, the Trojans used zone defenses to bottle up the Vikings 40-29 at The Arena in Post Falls.
Post Falls’ win coupled with Lake City’s 53-45 victory at Lewiston means there’s a three-way tie for the league championship.
Before the seeding can be decided for the Region I tournament, Post Falls (17-2 overall, 4-2 league) must take care of business Saturday against 4A Moscow. CdA (13-5, 4-2) and Lake City (11-7, 4-2) each swept Moscow and those games count as a tiebreaking criteria since all three 5A teams scheduled two games against Moscow.
Should Post Falls complete a sweep against Moscow, then a coin flip(s) will decide seeding. The No. 1 seed plays host to a doubleheader the first night of the regional.
In the media rankings released Wednesday afternoon, CdA and PF were appropriately tied for second. Perhaps the voters knew something.
It was evident from the get-go that PF and CdA weren’t going to give an inch to each other. There were several skirmishes and a couple of near fights in a game with a palpable intensity.
The Trojans did what other teams have done successfully against the Vikings – played exclusively zone. PF switched between a 1-2-2 and 2-3 throughout, inviting CdA to shoot from the perimeter.
In the tense and telling moments of the fourth quarter, the Trojans kept their composure while the Vikings let the intensity get to them.
CdA, which trailed the entire game, pulled within 28-26 with less than 5 minutes to play.
PF guard Marcus Colbert hit a fadeaway 3-pointer from the top of the arc to provide some separation. That’s when tempers flared again, and CdA was on the short end of things.
CdA’s Chad Chalich was called for a technical after committing a foul. However, PF’s Luke Thoreson, who missed the front end of the 1-and-1 bonus, made just one of the technical shots. Still, PF led 32-26.
The Vikings didn’t make another basket until Deon Watson got into the key for a short shot with 33 seconds remaining. Before that shot, though, PF had built a 38-26 lead.
“If you weren’t sincere in your effort, that wasn’t a game to be in,” PF coach Mike McLean said. “It was intense from the opening tip. It had college physicality. In the past few years we were pretty aesthetic, we flowed up and down the court. This team may not be as pretty, but we don’t mind slowing down and banging into people.”
CdA coach Kent Leiss thought a poor start shooting from the field and an equally poor effort at the free-throw line (8 of 16) handcuffed his team. The Vikings were 9 of 31 overall from the field.
“When you shoot like that in a game where the teams are valuing possessions, holding the ball and trying to get a good shot, you’re not going to probably win if you can’t cash in on your easy shots,” Leiss said. “Credit them. I thought their (zones) were pretty good. They were sagging and daring us to make shots.”
Thoreson made just one field goal, but he was big at the foul line where he made 9 of 11 to finish with a team-high 11 points. Colbert added 10.
“We knew it was going to be intense, we just wanted to stay calm and stay focused and execute,” Thoreson said. “We kept our cool and they lost their cool. And we hit free throws when we needed them.”
Thoreson expects similar battles among the three co-champs at regionals.
Joe Roletto led CdA with 12 points.
McLean praised his team for adapting to the zones.
“Typically, in my coaching career, we’ve played nothing but man-to-man defense,” McLean said. “Zones aren’t something I prefer. We held our composure in that atmosphere very well.”
Lake City 53, Lewiston 45: The Timberwolves posted their biggest road win of the season.
“I thought we played really well,” LC coach Jim Winger said. “The only bad thing was we shot 6 of 16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.”
LC led 33-22 at halftime and extended it to 45-22 going into the fourth.
Luke Ness led LC with 14 points and Riley Moreen had 13. Ben Havens led Lewiston (7-12, 0-6) with 12.
Lewiston cut LC’s lead to seven points in the fourth, but JJ Winger hit a 3-pointer to push the T-Wolves’ lead to 10.