RATHDRUM — With a raucous Lakeland crowd and the Battle for the Paddle on the line, the young Sandpoint Bulldogs seemed overwhelmed by the gravity of the rivalry game in a 49-35 league loss.
“Our kids struggled with the moment to start the game,” Sandpoint head coach Will Love said. “It continued through that first half and we couldn’t get settled.”
The Bulldogs turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, while only managing 8 points. Meanwhile, Lakeland cruised behind 12 first-half points from 6’4 sophomore Katy Ryan, who finished the game with a 21 point, 15 rebound, five-block performance. Even with Lakeland starting point guard Lauryn Cooper tied to the bench for the majority of the second quarter, Sandpoint’s guards struggled setting up the offense and getting good looks.
“Lakeland was ready for the moment,” Love said. “I have a lot of respect for Coach Seymour and what he does with his kids. You can see that they were more ready than we were.”
Yet just as they did against St. Maries on Tuesday night, the Bulldogs made a game out of things in the third quarter. Junior guard Maddie Morgan led the way with eight points in the third in order to cut the Lakeland’s 20-point lead down to nine. Morgan was the rising tide that lifted all boats: Kaylee Banks contributed to the cause with five points, Dawson Driggs became more aggressive getting to the rim and Brooklen Steiger grabbed a few key defensive rebounds to spark the surge.
“It’s tough to say one person that sparked the second half comeback,” Love said. “Because that’s the biggest difference between this team and our past teams. We’ve had Division I type players who we can just clear out and let them take over the game. But that’s not how this group is. They work best when all five girls are playing at a high level. But I think Brooklen Steiger did a good job — she ended up with eight rebounds, which was huge for us. Kaylee Banks also did a good job in the second half.”
Despite outscoring the Hawks in the second half, the Bulldogs’ slow start dashed the would-be comeback.
“Our girls have to understand that they can be tough and be ready to compete. There will definitely be some adjustments between now and the next time we play. We’ve gotta figure out some stuff with [Katy] Ryan; she did really well tonight.”
The Bulldog reserves came through for the third straight game, giving a silver lining to this week’s two-game losing streak. Banks finished with eight points and Brooklen Steiger added a team-high eight rebounds off the bench.
Taylor Elpers came off the bench to add 11 points for the Hawks.
After years of failing to record a win in IEL regular-season play, Lakeland is in pole position with a 2-0 record. Sandpoint fell to 3-12 (1-1 IEL) with the loss.
Sandpoint 5 3 16 11 — 35
Lakeland 10 13 12 14 — 49
SANDPOINT: Driggs 5, Morgan 11, Edwards 2, Larson 3, Petit, 0, Banks 8, Anderson 0, Lisa 0, Steiger 0, Phillips 5.
LAKELAND: Cooper 0, Loutzenhiser 9, Kirk 4, Ryan 21, Boyer 0, Kime 0, Pruitt 2, Elpers 11, Cooley 2, McDevitt 0.