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THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: Lakeside boys finding their way with new roles

| December 17, 2020 1:30 AM

Every season is different for a program, no matter how many players a team may return.

There's always a little bit of turnover, and even the slightest amount of change can mean new roles for players this year who were comfortable in their old roles last year.

Lakeside "only" lost two seniors from last year's team that finished 24-0, winning the state title for the first time since 1997. The Knights did it by generally outrunning opponents with a relentless transition attack that featured admirable ball movement and selfless play, leading to easy baskets and runs that crushed opponents.

THIS SEASON, Lakeside is looking to re-create that winning formula as it moves up one class, from 1A Division II to 1A Division I.

It hasn't come easy. the Knights averaged 79.0 points per game last year. This year, they're averaging 61.0 per game — a figure boosted by a 91-point outburst Tuesday night in a victory over Clark Fork.

"We’ve had a hard time scoring this year," fourth-year Lakeside coach James Twoteeth said. "If the press isn't working, we have a lot of grind-it-out games. But we have a couple players that we're hoping they can step up."

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Knights have had to stay within District 1 for its regular season games. That has kept Lakeside from matchups with eastern Washington small-school powers, as well as games vs. a District 2 team such as Lapwai, a contender in 1A Division I for years, and a team the Knights might face at state.

With those options gone, Lakeside was able to book a pair of games with St. Maries, a state contender in 2A in recent years, and Kellogg, which has ruled the 3A Intermountain League the past several seasons.

It was St. Maries, in fact, which ended Lakeside's winning streak at 25 games. The Knights won their season opener this year, then lost at St. Maries 51-40 last Thursday, in a highly anticipated matchup of schools, only 19 miles apart, which hadn't played in years — at least in school ball.

"It kinda humbled us a little bit, which is good," said Twoteeth, who played on Lakeside's ’97 state champs. "It's hard to go undefeated a second year," especially moving up a division.

"It kinda takes the monkey off your back; we can play pressure-free. We're a little more grounded now, a little more focused. I know they (the Lumberjacks) were hyped to play us."

Lakeside is scheduled to play St. Maries in the rematch Feb. 5 at home. The games with Kellogg are slated for Jan. 5 at Lakeside and Jan. 25 at Kellogg.

GONE FROM last year's Lakeside team are a pair of guards — Talon Twoteeth, the coach's son, and Emmitt White. White was a starter most of the season. Talon Twoteeth was one of the Knights' top offensive players, an efficient scorer and shooter and, just as important, one of the team's steadying influences on the court.

But back are the other three starters, now seniors — point guard Kenyon Spotted Horse, the reigning all-Idaho 1A Division II Player of the Year, along with 6-8 leaper Darren "Day Day" Higgins and glue guy Jayson "JJ" Hall.

They're joined by sophomore guard Vander Brown, who provided a spark last year, mostly off the bench, and particularly in the postseason.

Other subs from last year who are also in the rotation this year are seniors Jasper Abuan and Christopher Matt.

Twoteeth is also trying to work in three freshmen — Quincy Hall, JJ's brother, along with Brutis SiJohn and Francis Louie.

"With a new team, we've got to figure out who is who," Twoteeth said. "It's a little bit of growing pains."

Spotted Horse is averaging 18.8 points per game. JJ Hall 10.2, Higgins, dealing with some knee issues in the preseason, 10.0.

Selflessness is usually a good thing for a team.

But Twoteeth had to get on his squad after they scored just 40 points — less than the Knights scored in any game last year — in the loss at St. Maries.

"I told them you've got to shoot," Twoteeth said. "We had some pretty tough practices after that loss. We'll see how that plays out."

Lakeside scored 60 and 91 points in its next two games, and was 3-1 heading into Wednesday night's game vs. the Post Falls junior varsity.

This year, Lakeside will battle Wallace and Genesis Prep for the new Scenic Idaho Conference's lone berth to state.

Coming into the season, Twoteeth said he didn't think scoring would be an issue.

And, as this year's players settle into their new roles, the scoring might take care of itself as the season rolls on.

"I think we’ll be fine; it just might take a couple more games," Twoteeth said.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter @CdAPressSports.