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THE FRONT ROW WITH MARK NELKE Dec. 2, 2010

| December 2, 2010 8:00 PM

In its nomadic travels to places like Gillette, Wyo., and Wilmington, Del., the Coeur d'Alene High girls basketball team has played in some pretty good tournaments in recent years.

But Viking coach Dale Poffenroth says the one they're playing in this year - the Nike Northwest Invitational, which runs today through Saturday at Southridge High in Beaverton, Ore. - might be the best one they play in yet.

Coeur d'Alene opens vs. host Southridge tonight at 8:15 p.m. Southridge won an Oregon state title last year.

The tournament also includes South Eugene (Ore.), Auburn Riverside (Wash.), Central Catholic (Ore.), Potter's House Christian (Fla.), Clackamas (Ore.) and Edmonds Woodway (Wash.).

"The Florida team is not attached to a league and plays about 60 games a year around the country," Poffenroth said. "They are ranked in the top seven nationally by several polls. Southridge is ranked in the top 10 on the West coast."

Southridge lost half its team to graduation, and its coach moved on as well. Auburn Riverside also won a state title last year, but lost its top player - the state player of the year - to graduation. The Florida team has two players who have committed to Division I schools.

In 2006 and '07, Coeur d'Alene played in the Gillette (Wyo.) Energy Classic and in '08, they played at the Diamond State Classic in Wilmington, Del. The Vikings went 2-1 both years at the Gillette tourney, and won the tourney in Delaware.

Poffenroth said this field is "much better overall than the Wyoming tournament, but that team we played from Mandan, N.D. (in the first round in 2006) was as good of a high team as I have seen. In Delaware we played a team that was ranked in the top 25 the second day and Oregon City in the championship game and they were ranked in the top 12 nationally."

Coeur d'Alene beat Oregon City in the title game.

"But I think overall all the eight teams (in the Nike tourney) are better than the other tournaments," Poffenroth said. "You have four of the traditionally best in Oregon, two top teams from Washington, a nationally ranked team from Florida, and little old us."

Coeur d'Alene, the three-time defending Idaho 5A champions, comes into this tournament with a 2-0 record.

All games in this tournament can be seen online at http://www.ihigh.com/southeugeneaxemen/

IT'S NOT a tournament, but Lake City's boys basketball team is playing in the Findlay Auto TipOff Classic - five games on Saturday at Lewis and Clark High in Spokane. The Timberwolves (1-0) play Mead at 4:45 p.m.

Other matchups - Shadle Park vs. Enumclaw (Wash.), 1:30 p.m.; University vs. Pendleton (Ore.), 3; Lewis and Clark vs. Richland, 6:30; and Rogers vs. West Valley (Spokane), 8.

Lake City plays host to Enumclaw on Friday. Enumclaw lost in the state 3A title game last year.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via e-mail at mnelke@cdapress.com.

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