The Coeur d’Alene boys basketball team found its comfort zone Friday night.
Trailing most of the night, the Vikings switched their defense to a 2-3 zone and shut down Lewiston 59-41 in the opening game of the 5A Region I playoffs at Lake City High School.
The reward: Two chances to make it to state, starting with Tuesday’s 7 p.m. showdown at top-seeded Lake City, which beat Post Falls 53-36 in Friday’s nightcap. The winner of that game advances directly to the state tournament, while the loser must win two more playoff games to reach state.
“One win from state,” pondered CdA coach Darren Taylor, who took over the team earlier this month after Kent Leiss resigned. “It’ll be a tough one – we’ll see.”
The Vikings (13-8) trailed 29-24 early in the second half against Lewiston (6-15), but outscored the Bengals 35-12 the rest of the way by using a high-energy zone defense.
“That seemed to stifle them a little bit and they struggled to get off a good shot,” said Taylor.
Taylor said the team had practiced the zone earlier, “but we didn’t know when we were going to spring it.
“I guess the surprise factor worked well tonight, but we probably won’t have the surprise factor Tuesday night.”
Lewiston which had won 4 of 6 games after a 2-12 start, jumped ahead early. The Bengals led 13-7 early in the second on a layup by Rafa Hewett-Steiger, who had 11 first-half points and a team-high 17 on the night.
But the Vikings got a spark from Ryan Walde and Tony Naccarato just before intermission. Walde’s 3-pointer forged a tie at 19 with 2:40 left, then he put CdA ahead 21-19 a few seconds later with a pair of free throws.
Walde led the Vikings with 17 points.
Hewett-Steiger stopped the rally with two buckets in the final minute to give the Bengals a 24-22 lead at halftime.
Lewiston will host Post Falls in a loser-out game Tuesday night at 7. The winner will face the Lake City-Coeur d’Alene loser on Thursday, with the winner advancing to a state play-in game on Feb. 23.
Lake City 53, Post Falls 36: The Trojans hung around for better than a half, but Lake City pulled away in the third quarter en route to a home win with a dozen points each from Justin Pratt and J.J. Winger.
Lake City (16-5) led just 28-22 three minutes after halftime, but Winger hit a 3-pointer and Riley Moreen made a nice rebound and putback to give the T-Wolves a 33-22 advantage. The lead was still 11 in the final seconds of the third quarter, when Moreen stole the ball and fed Pratt for a fastbreak layup that made it 40-27 entering the fourth quarter.
Less than a minute later, Moreen took a defensive rebound and again found Pratt, who made two free throws after a foul.
The Trojans (8-13) couldn’t find the range in the second half and Lake City led by as many as 18 in the final minutes.