COEUR d’ALENE — Coeur d’Alene believed it could.
Then it happened.
Five years after its last state 5A tournament appearance, Coeur d’Alene punched its return ticket with a fury on Wednesday night.
“We just told them we’re only as good as how each of us plays today,” first-year Coeur d’Alene coach Nicole Symons said. “They really bought into the team effort and they’ve worked all year to figure out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Freshman Madi Symons scored 18 points for second-seeded Vikings in a 58-36 romp over the top-seeded Lake City Timberwolves in the 5A Region 1 girls basketball championship game at Lake City High.
Coeur d’Alene (18-4) opens at state against the winner of a play-in game between the fifth-place team from District 3 (Boise) and District 5-6 runner-up next Thursday at 12:15 p.m. PST at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
Lake City (15-7), which was shooting for its second straight regional title, hosts Post Falls (12-10) on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the regional second-place game, with that winner advancing to state.
“It’s a gut check like they’ve never faced before,” third-year Lake City coach James Anderson said. “You can go a lot of different directions from this. It’s a long season, and there’s ebbs and flows. It’s nice to have another chance to make this right.”
Coeur d’Alene 58, Lake City 36: Coeur d’Alene took a 29-20 lead at halftime behind 11 first-half points from Madi Symons.
“We told them in the locker room, ‘It doesn’t matter who thinks we can win or not,’” Nicole Symons said. “If we believe, it can happen. The girls have bought into the system and culture we’re trying to create, and it’s been really cool to see that pay off for them.”
Sophomore Skylar Burke hit a 3-pointer late in the first quarter to give the Vikings a 13-11 lead.
“When the second quarter started, I felt we had a chance to take it and were in control of the pace of the game,” Nicole Symons said. “We kept telling them the faster we go, playing downhill, that’s where our strength is. And we had to keep the pressure on.”
During the 2018-19 season, Coeur d’Alene snapped a 24-game 5A IEL losing streak — beating Post Falls — and finished 3-3 in conference. Nicole Symons, who was a Viking assistant coach, took over as head coach last spring.
“When I got hired, we started open gyms,” Nicole Symons said. “We kept saying this is our year. The future is now and we just told them if they put the time in during the offseason, and keep grinding, it’s going to pay off for you. I’m just so happy it has for them. They’re the ones that have earned it. It’s been great to be in on the process and journey with them.”
“It’s awesome, so awesome,” said Coeur d’Alene junior Jaden Chavez, a three-year varsity player who finished with two points and four steals. “We’ve struggled the past two years and just the change in our pace has been amazing this year. We came out and knew we were going to work hard from the minute it started to the minute it ended. This team really plays for each other for sure this year.”
Burke finished with 15 points, Jaelyn Brainard-Adams 10 points for Coeur d’Alene.
“Coeur d’Alene does a great job of attacking the rim,” Anderson said. “They’re super aggressive and we didn’t do a great job of stopping the ball in the first half. The second half, we were in scramble mode. The game turned a little in the second half when we let them get downhill with their right hand, something we’d talked about all week. Nothing seemed to go right for us tonight.”
Sophomore Kendall Pickford scored 11 points for Lake City.
Coeur d’Alene 13 16 20 9 — 58
Lake City 11 9 13 3 — 36
COEUR d’ALENE — Shebala 0, Matheson 0, Brainard-Adams 10, Whiteman 4, Symons 18, Younker 8, Chavez 0, Froehlich 0, Phenicie 0, Zanetti 0, Burke 15.
LAKE CITY — Pickford 11, Avery 7, Miller 3, Chase 2, Parks 0, Stoddard 0, Shanley 0, Herdon 0, Cogley 0, Roberts 0, Rewers 7, Bowman 0, Hawkins 6, Munoz 0.
Post Falls 59, Lewiston 32: Sophomore reserve guard Alexis Heath scored 14 of her 16 points in the first half for the Trojans in a romp of the Bengals in a loser-out game at The Arena.
Katie Fleming finished with 10 points for Post Falls.
Lewiston finishes 3-19.
Lewiston 5 3 16 8 — 32
Post Falls 15 23 18 3 — 59
LEWISTON — Collins 3, Bausch 8, Grant 0, Grogan 1, Ortiz 5, Johnson 6, Taylor 2, Richardson 7.
POST FALLS — Heath 16, Blake 3, Lovett 3, Johnson 0, Fleming 10, Smith 8, LaFountaine 0, Sims 6, Walton 0, Carpenter 7, Christensen 6.