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State 4A boys basketball: Lakeland without key piece for state

by MARK NELKE
Sports Editor | March 4, 2021 1:25 AM

Despite its barely-above-.500 record, the Lakeland Hawks have the talent and unique skill set to challenge for a state 4A boys basketball title this weekend.

But that talent and uniqueness took a hit earlier this week when star forward Jalen Skalskiy was suspended for violation of team rules, according to Lakeland High principal Trent Derrick, and did not make the trip to state.

Skalskiy scored 30 points in Lakeland's victory over Moscow last Saturday that sent the Hawks to state for the first time since 2016.

How will that affect the Hawks?

We'll find out in a hurry, when Lakeland (11-9) takes on Bishop Kelly (16-5) of Boise, the District 3 runner-up, in the first round at state today at 1 p.m. PST at Rocky Mountain High in Meridian.

Without Skalskiy, Lakeland is down to one high-flying 6-foot-8 forward in senior Noah Haaland. And the Hawks have other offensive weapons in senior guard Carson Seay and junior guard Bryce Henry.

A few weeks ago, Lakeland coach Dave Stockwell had the Hawks play primarily a zone defense. With Haaland and Skalskiy guarding the wings, and Ammon Munyer (6-6) and reserves Grant Roth (6-4) and Alden Waddington (6-6) protecting underneath, opposing teams have a difficult time getting off a thought, much less a shot.

Without Skalskiy, Lakeland still has the height and length to give other teams fits.

"That’s as good a high school zone as you’ll EVER see," Stockwell said.

"We just have long bodies. It’s hard to get through that," Haaland said of the zone. "I knew it made sense because of our size and our length."

About that barely-above-.500 record?

With the 4A and 5A Inland Empire League schools deciding to combine into one big league this school year, Lakeland played nine games vs. 5A IEL schools. The Hawks only went 1-8, but four of those losses were by three points or less.

So while the losses hurt, the games helped.

"It helped us tremendously," Seay said. "It showed us how to finish games, and just work hard throughout the whole game."

"It helps with competitiveness throughout the whole game," Haaland said. "Going to play the 3A schools and winning by 30, you can kinda take your foot off the gas … you kinda play slower. It’s nice that we could hang with those (5A) teams this year."

Haaland has attended Classical Christian Academy, a private school in Rathdrum, his entire life. He started playing at Lakeland in the seventh grade because, if he wanted to play for a public school, he had to play at one in the same district.

"I didn’t know if I wanted to stay; I just wanted to play a little bit, and ended up loving it, loving all these guys — in my class and the ones below," Haaland said. "I didn’t know anybody. It was kinda difficult for the first 2-3 years, but once sophomore year came along, I knew all those guys and they’re all great kids."

Haaland has been on varsity all four years, and a starter the last three. Stockwell noted Haaland, Seay and Skalskiy were part of an eighth-grade team at Lakeland Junior High that beat most of the other eighth-grade teams in the area.

"We have a great team, and we all love each other," Haaland said. "It’s a tight-knit community on this team."

Noah's father, Dale Haaland, played at Gonzaga University in 1985-86 and 1986-87. A 6-8 center, Dale Haaland averaged 10.0 points and 6.7 rebounds and shot 57% from the field in 56 career games with the Bulldogs.

Compared to dad, Noah's game, in high school is "a lot better than his, from what he’s told me," Noah said. "But we’ll see where it goes."

Was dad a high-flyer too?

"Yeah, from what he said," Noah said. "I haven’t seen film; it was a while ago when he played."

Lakeland has never won a state title in boys basketball. But this talented group, despite being shorthanded, is poised to change all that.

Lakeland has never won a game at state as a 4A school; the Hawks are making only their third appearance at state since moving up from 3A after the 2003-04 school year. In 2015 and '16, Lakeland went two-and-out.