LEWISTON — Merely 72 hours after an emotional rivalry game against Lakeland, the Bulldogs made the three-and-a-half hour drive to Lewiston but eventually fell in a 78-54 loss on Monday night.
But Sandpoint head coach Wade Engelson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m a no-excuses type of coach; if we can drive three hours to play a good team, eat restaurant food and play a game against a team that will make us better and give us regional and state-like experiences, then I’m happy to do it,” Engelson said. “I think our team responded well to [the quick turnaround] tonight.”
Led by junior wing Ryan Roos’s season-high 25 points — good for his second 20-point outing this season — the Bulldogs played it close with the 5A IEL Blue Devils in the first half.
“Although Ryan had an excellent game on the offensive end of the floor, he made a lot of plays for us on defense,” Engelson said. “He was right there when we needed him on both ends of the floor, and I think he had an outstanding game tonight.”
Yet a last-second, desperation three-pointer from Lewiston’s Donaven Santana turned the tide for the remainder of the game. The Blue Devils erupted with a 25-point third quarter, all while raising the pressure on defense.
“They scouted us hard and came out in a full-court press in the third quarter that they executed really well,” Engelson said. “Santana hit an absolute prayer at the buzzer to go into halftime up 34-31, then hit an NBA-plus-range three at the end of the third. They hit almost every shot they wanted. I haven’t seen a high school team shoot that well in who knows how long. So my hat’s off to Lewiston.”
Junior Christian Niemela scored 11 points in his second double-figure game of the season. Engelson lauded Niemela and fellow junior Brandon Casey for their defense and rebounding, respectively.
“It was a game that, if you were a fan of basketball or a Sandpoint fan, you’d pay to see again,” Engelson said. “We played a lot better than we did in the Lakeland game: We executed our stuff, took care of the ball and did a better job rebounding.”
The Bulldogs (6-8, 0-2 IEL) look to snap their three-game losing streak against Priest River on Jan. 26.
Lewiston moved to 6-8 with the win.
Sandpoint 15 16 10 13 — 54
Lewiston 19 15 25 19 — 78
SANDPOINT — Jones 2, Banks 9, Roos 25, Casey 0, Stockton 7, Niemela 11, Larson 0, Vandenberg 0, Bailey 0, Treadaway 0.
LEWISTON — McKarcher 2, Kokenak 0, Lang 10, Johnson 7, Mullikin 2, Spencer 8, Santana 31, Forsmann 0, Forsmann 9, Van Boeyn 6.