POST FALLS - Coeur d'Alene and Lake City have gotten most of the attention in 5A Inland Empire League high school boys basketball so far this season.
But it's the Post Falls Trojans, after thrashing Lake City 63-45 on Tuesday night at The Arena, who have moved into position to capture the No. 1 seed to the upcoming 5A Region 1 tournament.
"We started the league 0-2, so that's how you get yourself overlooked, " Post Falls coach Mike McLean said. "Considering where we started, we're improving ... I truly believe the strength of our team is, we have very good chemistry within our team ... when times get tough, and you're 0-2 in league, you can't overlook team chemistry."
Junior Dalton Thompson of Post Falls (11-6, 2-2) scored his team's first 11 points, and finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Senior Matt Hillman added 13 points off the bench for the Trojans, who took control of the game early in the second quarter, and built a 20-point lead late in the third quarter.
"We're all sharing the ball, " said Thompson, who opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers. "No one has to go out there and be an all-star."
Asked about Lake City, ranked No. 3 this week, and Coeur d'Alene, ranked No. 4, getting all the attention, Thompson said, "We're all right. We're always looking to get better in practice ... we just want to go out there and do what we want to do, not what the other team wants us to do."
If Post Falls can win at Coeur d'Alene on Saturday, and beat Lewiston at home the following Friday, the Trojans could grab the No. 1 seed to regionals via a tiebreaker.
Lake City (12-5, 3-2), which had to rally in the closing seconds to beat Post Falls 37-36 at home 11 days earlier, struggled to score again the second time around, shooting 14 of 42 from the field.
The Timberwolves had plenty to play for Tuesday night, as a win over Post Falls, followed by a win over Lewiston on Saturday, would have given Lake City the No. 1 seed to regionals.
"Really disappointed in our defense, " Lake City coach Jim Winger said. "I think we're a good defensive team, and we did not guard tonight at all, from the start to the finish. We felt the last time we played them we were overly conservative, and tonight we were the exact opposite - we didn't run anything, we rushed everything, we were very undisciplined on offense."
Kyle Guice scored all 16 of his points in the first half for Lake City.
McLean said he liked his team's defense against Lake City for the second straight game.
"I think we took away some things I've seen them do against other teams," McLean said - keeping J.J. Winger from getting open for 3-pointers, trying to keep Pratt out of the lane, and contesting Guice's shots "and hope he misses. In the first half I thought Matt Hillman and Dalton Thompson did a good job guarding him, contesting shots - he made them, but we can live with that."
Post Falls led 28-22 at halftime. Nick Hall and Max McCullough opened the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers for the Trojans. Hillman scored on a putback, then added two free throws to boost Post Falls' lead to 49-29 with 1:52 left in the third quarter.
Lake City answered with a 7-0 run, all by point guard Justin Pratt, to pull within 49-36 with 7:07 left. But Post Falls scored the next six points to regain control, and led by as much as 21 points in the closing minutes.
Post Falls made 7 of 15 3-point shots. Lake City was 1 of 9.
"Earlier in the season we were missing shots, but I never doubted our confidence in our shooters," McLean said.
"Like I told them (the team), I would have lost my house," said Winger, whose team had won six straight. "I expected to walk out of here a winner, to play great. We had a lot to play for. We would have put ourselves in the driver's seat. We controlled our fate. I'm disappointed how we played, disappointed how I coached and I am very, very surprised at the effort."
Post Falls plays host to Sandpoint on Thursday. Lake City is home vs. Lewiston on Saturday.
Lake City 12 10 9 14 - 45
Post Falls 16 12 21 14 - 63
LAKE CITY - Adams 7, Pratt 13, Louie-McGee 3, Vetsch 3, Guice16, Turner 2, Dahl 0, Winger 0, Mitchell 1, Hancock 0.
POST FALLS - Hall 10, McKeown 0, Davenport 1, Pfennigs 7, Hillman 13, Gondo 0, Anderson 0, McCullough 3, Franklin 1, Thompson 21, Bowers 0, Koski 7.
Matt Hillman of Post Falls shoots and scores a three-point shot during Tuesday’s game.
Post Falls Max McCullough, a sophomore guard, drives the ball past Tucker Louie-McGee, a senior guard for Lake City, Tuesday night.