The end of the season is now in sight for the Priest River girls basketball team.
After falling to No. 1 seed Timberlake, one of the top 3A teams in the state, 75-20 in the first round of the 3A District 1 tournament on Monday, the Spartans (5-15) are now facing a win-or-go home scenario.
In order to keep their hopes of making it to state alive, Priest River will have to beat No. 3 seed Bonners Ferry 5:30 p.m. tonight at Timberlake High School.
If the Spartans win that game, they will face the loser of Wednesday’s championship game between the Tigers and No. 2 seed Kellogg 6 p.m. Thursday at that team’s home-court. With a victory in that matchup, Priest River would advance to a state play-in game.
It’s a tall task, but one head coach Gary Stewart said the Spartans have had to face in the past.
“It’s very similar to four years ago when we went through the same thing,” he said. “We had to play a Timberlake team that was probably even better than this one and we got thumped but we rebounded the next game and beat Kellogg. I told them that story.
You just got to put those bad experiences away and then focus on the next opponent because I said we can play with the next two teams, whether it’s Bonners or Kellogg, but you got to believe in it.”
Priest River will face a Bonners Ferry team tonight that they were swept by in the regular season, losing by a combined score of 125-57.
In the game with Timberlake, things went wrong for the Spartans right from the opening tip as they fell behind 31-4 after one quarter and were never able to recover.
“They have 300 more kids in their school and it felt like we were playing 300 girls,” Stewart said.
Karah Fink led the team with 5 points and Maddy Rusho, Makia Fitzmorris and Lilly Freitas each added 4.
Prior to Monday’s game, the Spartans played their final regular season game at home against Genesis Prep.
It was an emotional night as Priest River bid farewell to its six seniors; Maddy Rusho, Heather Pound, Karah Fink, Tierra Radan, Cassidy Prudek and Adrie Minish.
And the team was able to honor their seniors by capturing a 53-21 victory over the Jaguars in a game they led from start to finish.
Stewart said this group of seniors has been instrumental to the team’s success this year and is especially proud of the dedication they have shown throughout their careers.
“I’m their fourth coach in four years so that takes a lot of guts and determination to just stick it out because I had a lot of girls quit this year but not these six,” he said. “These six were here every practice, stuck it out in the lopsided losses so its nice to have a game like this to solidify, we win as a team when we play as a team.”
Fink had 13 points, nine rebounds and three steals in the game and Minish tallied 13 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Spartans. Fitzmorris added 8 points and Rusho notched 7 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Stewart wishes he had more time with the six seniors.
“I’ve been telling everybody, that if I had one more year with these girls I think we could make some noise in North Idaho,” he said.