THE FRONT ROW WITH JASON ELLIOTT: No place like the home court

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Hand it to the fans of area basketball teams.

When the games are important, they fill the gymnasium.

And win or lose, they cheer, boo — not a lot — and root for their team until the final buzzer.

Just like sports are supposed to be.

TUESDAY’S 5A Region 1 high school girls basketball championship could have been the biggest game between Coeur d’Alene and Lake City in quite some time.

I know, they’ve played for state championships in bigger settings, and the two also play quite the rivalry game in the annual Fight for the Fish spirit game.

Tuesday was a little different.

Both schools packed the gym with noise, with the winner guaranteed a berth into next week’s state 5A tournament. Lake City won, and will open its third appearance at state in the last four years next Thursday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.

So about all that noise during the game.

“It was so loud for such a big game,” Lake City senior point guard Chloe Teets said. “It wasn’t as big (of a crowd) as Fight for the Fish, but it had a bigger meaning.”

Like the Fish game, it was up to the players on the court to find their way to the finish.

“It was like we kind of had to make our own calls at different points because we couldn’t hear (Lake City coach James Anderson) on defense,” Teets said. “When we had The Den (the school’s student section) behind us, it was so hard to hear him. But when we were on the other end, we were communicating a lot better.”

THE SAME could be said for Thursday’s 3A District 1 tournament championship game between Kellogg and tournament host Timberlake.

Both teams packed the gym, like they always do for games — home or away.

“It was kind of like Brawl for the Ball,” said Kellogg girls basketball coach Jana Nearing-Kothe of Thursday’s championship game, won by Timberlake 52-19. “It’s loud, and the kids can’t hear me, especially when we’ve got younger players out there playing. They rely on the bench to coach them through the offense and defense. When they can’t hear us and they’re (Timberlake) on their home court in a championship game. The whole atmosphere is playing defense on us, and it’s tough to fight through that. But the more we do it, the better we’ll get at it.”

Kellogg is scheduled to travel to Bonners Ferry for the tournament’s second-place game tonight at 6.

WHETHER IT be for a rivalry or playoff setting, gymnasiums should be packed in my opinion.

It just adds more to the game. Players play at their best, and the officials — they’re just as into the games — help make it a memory that will last a long time.

Exactly what high school sports should be.

Just out there having some fun in front of family and friends.

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at jelliott@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.

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