NAMPA, Idaho – Lake City senior Justin Pratt struggled to find his shooting touch for the first 31 minutes of the 5A State Tournament.
He found it just in time to rescue the Timberwolves. Pratt sank a deep 3-pointer with 34 seconds left Thursday as Lake City survived a 55-52 barnburner with Skyline at the Ford Idaho Center.
The Timberwolves (18-5) advance to play Capital (24-0) in today’s semifinal at 5:15 p.m. Mountain time.
“I didn’t want to go out with a loss like that,” said Pratt, who made just 1 of 3 field goals and 1 of 4 free-throw attempts before burying the go-ahead shot. “I don’t shoot a lot in those situations, but I shot it with confidence. It’s great to be playing (in the semis).”
Post Falls will not join their Inland Empire League 5A counterparts in the semifinals. The Trojans (15-9) were overwhelmed by Rocky Mountain 74-43 in their opener. Post Falls plays Highland in a 2 p.m. consolation game today, while Rocky Mountain (18-6) takes on two-time defending champ Borah (17-7) in a 7 p.m. semifinal.
In addition to Pratt’s late heroics, Lake City was led by seniors Kyle Guice (13 points, eight rebounds) and Jake Vetsch (11 points), who anchored a balanced attack as the Timberwolves rallied to victory.
Skyline led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but Tucker Louie-McGee’s three-point play at the halftime buzzer cut the deficit to 31-24.
“I thought we played tight in the first half,” Lake City coach Jim Winger said. “We talked at halftime about loosening up. We had a big size advantage, so we knew if we just ran our offense and stayed patient, we would get some good looks.”
That’s exactly what happened in the third quarter as Guice and Jacob Dahl knocked down big 3-pointers for the Timberwolves. Chuckie Adams drove baseline for another buzzer-beating layup as Lake City took a 42-41 lead into the fourth.
The game remained tight throughout the final quarter, and Lake City trailed 52-50 with a minute to play. The Timberwolves missed three consecutive shots, but corralled the rebound each time. With Skyline’s defense scrambling after the third offensive rebound, Pratt found himself wide open at the top of the key.
“Justin’s been a three-year starter who has worked his tail off for us,” Winger said. “That’s a huge shot for him, and I thought we showed a lot of guts and determination down the stretch.”
Tyson Baker scored 16 points and Jai Jai Ely added 14 for Skyline, which was making its first state appearance in 14 years. Four starters scored in double figures for the Grizzlies (19-7), but the Lake City bench – led by Dahl’s nine-point, six-rebound effort – provided a big lift for the Timberwolves.
Post Falls, on the other hand, struggled against a deep, athletic Rocky Mountain squad. The Trojans trailed 23-13 after the opening quarter and never seriously threatened in the second half.
Junior guard Dalton Thompson scored 10 points for Post Falls, but the Trojans shot just 31 percent and committed 17 turnovers in the loss. Senior post Corey Kosko added eight points and nine rebounds for Post Falls.
Rocky Mountain – the state runner-up a year ago – controlled the tempo and the scoreboard from the outset. Junior guard Logan Skurdal (18 points, 10 rebounds), senior guard EJ Boyce (20 points, five rebounds) and senior guard John Sherle (12 points, five assists) enjoyed big offensive nights for the Grizzlies, who shot 50 percent and emptied their bench relatively early in the fourth quarter.