RATHDRUM — This year’s seniors were in the second grade the last time the Lakeland Hawks qualified for the state high school girls basketball tournament.
So the jubilation was particularly understandable Friday night, after top-seeded Lakeland fended off the third-seeded Moscow Bears 42-34 in Game 2 of the 4A Region 1 championship series at Hawk Court to win the best-of-3 series 2-0 and end that lengthy state tourney drought.
“It feels great; I never thought I’d be here,” Lakeland senior guard Lauryn Cooper said. “Especially not my freshman year; I never thought we’d make it to state. It means a lot. I’m proud of my team, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come.”
Lakeland (10-11) qualified for state for the first time since 2009. The Hawks will open state vs. Caldwell (19-5) on Thursday at 5:15 p.m. PST at Timberline High in Boise.
“It’s been a while,” said Steve Seymour, in his 24th season as Lakeland coach. “We’ve had a lot of good kids come and go between the last time we won and now. They’ve worked as hard as anybody else ... and we got a couple pretty good basketball players this year to draw to.
“We knew coming in we should have a good chance to win the district championship. But knowing and saying it coming in is different than being here cutting down the net at the end.”
Sophomore Katy Ryan totaled 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots for Lakeland, which starts three seniors, a junior and a sophomore. At least three times Ryan blocked the shot and almost immediately rebounded it, and several times quickly outletted the ball for fast-break layups.
Cooper added 10 points. Junior Mel Loutzenhiser had seven points despite missing part of the third quarter to get her right wrist bandaged after falling on while taking a charge in the second quarter.
Senior Taylor Elpers had 10 rebounds to go with her four points.
“It means everything,” said Elpers, a three-year varsity player and a first-year starter, of getting to state. “Basketball has always been my first love, and the past two years it just hasn’t worked out very well. But this year we put in a lot of work, and it really paid off.”
Moscow, which started three juniors, a freshman and a senior, was led by Makena Rauch, a senior reserve who scored nine points. Junior Megan Watson added eight.
With the 6-foot-3 Ryan holding down the fort in the middle of Lakeland’s zone defense, Moscow worked the ball around well, but settled mostly for outside shots. The Bears shot 13 of 53 from the field (24.6 percent). That included 24 3-point tries, of which Moscow hit just four (16.7 percent).
Lakeland full-court pressed, and Moscow ran a half-court trap at times. The teams combined for 39 turnovers, 21 by Moscow. Lakeland was just 12 of 28 from the free-throw line, the Bears 4 of 10.
Loutzenhiser scored six of her seven points in a 10-0 run in the first quarter that put Lakeland ahead for good.
Cooper fed Izzy Kirk for a 3-pointer at the buzzer to boost the Hawks’ lead to 26-15 at the half.
Lakeland led by as much as 12 in the second half. Moscow pulled within 37-31 on a 3 by Makena Rauch with 2 1/2 minutes left. The Bears got the ball back with just under 2 minutes left, but Cooper stole the inbounds pass, and the Hawks regained command.
Lakeland was 14 of 43 (32.6 percent) from the field.
Lakeland won Game 1 of the championship series on Tuesday, 51-37 at North Idaho College to earn home-court advantage for Game 2. Had Moscow won Friday night, the deciding game would have been tonight in Moscow.
“We just wanted to finish it tonight, get it done with, so we could move on and start thinking about state, rather than another game with Moscow,” Cooper said.
Moscow 9 6 7 12 — 34
Lakeland 14 12 6 10 — 42
MOSCOW — M. Watson 8, Rauch 9, Verlin 0, Claus 3, P. Watson 0, Anderson 4, Jung 5, Bazzoli 0, Hanson 5.
LAKELAND — Cooper 10, Kime 0, McDevitt 0, Elpers 4, Loutzenhiser 7, Kirk 4, Ryan 13, Pruitt 4, Neff 0.