NAMPA — In a game of bounces, the final one that fell off the rim gave the Post Falls girls basketball program its first state 5A championship.
And first state title since 2003 — when the Trojans won the second of back-to-back championships at the 4A level.
In a game with eight lead changes — most coming in the second half and overtime — two free throws by Post Falls senior Dani Failor with 5.6 seconds left gave the Trojans the lead for good in a 46-44 win against the Coeur d’Alene Vikings in the state 5A girls basketball championship game Saturday night at the Idaho Center.
Failor totaled 11 points and 11 rebounds, and finished the tournament with 44 rebounds.
“It feels so amazing,” Failor said. “It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. It’s kind of like redemption for losing it (a state title) in volleyball my sophomore year, maybe not. But to be able to pull it off and come out with a win is amazing.”
Saturday’s game was the fourth meeting this season between Post Falls (24-1) and Coeur d’Alene (21-6). Coeur d’Alene won the first meeting, Post Falls the last three.
“I knew from the very start it was going to be like every other game we’ve played,” second-year Post Falls coach Marc Allert said. “We knew it was going to be close. It’s been that way all four times we’ve played them and didn’t expect anything less this time.”
Coeur d’Alene took a 44-41 lead with a little over a minute remaining, but a 3-pointer by Lexi Smith tied the game with 58.6 seconds remaining.
“Unfortunately, the horn went off with them ahead,” said Coeur d’Alene coach Dale Poffenroth, who guided the Vikings to their seventh title game appearance in the last eight years. “I thought our kids played really, really hard.”
5A Inland Empire League teams have now won the last seven state titles. Starting with Lake City winning the in 2007, each of the four teams in the league have won a state title over that stretch. Coeur d’Alene won three straight from 2008 to 2010 and Lewiston the last two in 2011 and 2012.
Now, Post Falls — which won its fourth state title in school history — has joined the club.
“They deserve it so much,” Allert said. “We’ve worked so hard to get here and our seniors pushed us to get here. They really deserve this.”
Coeur d’Alene (21-6) had injuries to Sydni Parker (knee) and Kendalyn Brainard (ankle), which limited them the last month of the season.
“I’m serious about (Coeur d’Alene athletic trainer) Mindy (Newby),” Poffenroth said. “Without her, I don’t know how Kendalyn played this week and it’s been that same way for us for a month. But we rallied really well and it just shows what happens if you work really hard.”
Coeur d’Alene took a 26-22 lead midway into the third quarter, before Post Falls senior reserve guard Whitney Gonzales scored six straight points to give the Trojans a 28-26 lead.
“I’d been struggling a lot,” Gonzales said. “But coach came to my room last night and I was bawling my eyes out because I didn’t have any confidence in myself. He said when you go out there, leave everything on the floor and kick some butt — what’s there to lose. I just made some big shots and had a lot more confidence in myself.”
On the free throws, Failor added that extra practice made it a lot easier to come up big late.
“I was just praying to God they’d go in,” said Failor, who was 1 of 4 from the line before the winning free throws. “I knew it was all on (me). I practice them all the time and had a muscle memory. I’d been making them pretty consistently and it was all about confidence — and I made them.”
Senior Katie King had a tournament high nine points, all on 3-pointers for Post Falls.
“It’s the most amazing feeling in the world,” King said. “I’m not usually a shooter, but it was spur of the moment and it just kind of came at the right time.”
Post Falls will graduate six seniors — with Failor, King, Brooke Litalien, Gonzales, Hallie Gennett and Priscilla Perrin (who tore her ACL) — all exiting with a state title.
“As a team, we couldn’t have made it without them,” King said. “Our seniors just stepped up all weekend and tonight our bench players did also.”
Coeur d’Alene will lose seniors Caelyn Orlandi and Brainard — who in their four years won a state title as freshman in 2009, finished second twice (‘10, ‘13) and third (‘12).
“It was a great tournament,” Orlandi said. “We left everything we had out there. We’ve got no regrets right now. We’ve grown up playing AAU basketball with them (Failor, Litalien, King) and it’s good to know that North Idaho has the best two teams in the state. It’s been a great experience and we’ve brought back a trophy from state every year.”
Brainard, who has signed to play basketball at the University of Great Falls, injured her right knee midway through the third quarter, but returned to finish with seven rebounds.
“This team was so athletic that we knew we’d be here,” Brainard said. “Especially this year. It’s emotional to lose, but it’s OK. We put all our heart and emotion into the game. We gave them one heck of a game tonight. We’ve been back and forth all year long, but I don’t think we’ve got anything to be ashamed of.”
A caravan of champions will be held today at 4 p.m. for Post Falls starting at the Kootenai County Fire and Rescue building located at 5271 E. Seltice Way and looping back to Post Falls High for a ceremony in the school gym.
Coeur d’Alene 5 13 10 9 7 — 44
Post Falls 11 8 9 9 9 — 46
COEUR d’ALENE — Parker 4, Sumner 12, Orlandi 6, Tackett 5, Brainard 2, Williams 15. Totals 16-49 11-16 44.
POST FALLS — Allert 0, Gonzales 8, King 9, Smith 5, Litalien 5, Gennett 5, Runkle 3, Failor 11. Totals 16-53 7-13 46.
Coeur d'Alene High's Madison Sumner, right, battles Hallie Gennett from Post Falls High for a rebound Saturday during the first half of the Idaho 5A State championship game at the Idaho Center in Nampa.
Coeur d'Alene High's Caelyn Orlandi leaps in between Brooke Litalien, background, and Shayna Allert from Post Falls High.
Brittany Tackett from Coeur d'Alene High tries to avoid a collision with Post Falls High's Hallie Gennett.
Coeur d'Alene High's Kendalyn Brainard hugs a teammate after losing the Idaho 5A State championship game Saturday.