At the outset, an Idaho Class 1A Division I district tournament final between Potlatch and Lapwai on Tuesday at the Activity Center might have appeared a virtual tossup.

But that impression quickly faded, as Potlatch stormed to a double-digit lead in the opening minutes and never looked back en route to a resounding 67-50 title-clinching victory. Both teams will advance to the state tournament that starts March 5 at Vallivue High School in Caldwell.

The rival teams had amassed matching 11-1 records in regular-season Whitepine League Division I play, with the only losses coming in a pair of tight contests against each other. The media poll, released earlier in the day, had Potlatch ranked No. 1 and Lapwai No. 2, suggesting the possibility of a state tournament clash yet to come. If such an encounter does come about, the memory of this showing should imbue the Loggers (20-2) with ample confidence.

“I think we did a little better job offensively of attacking them on transition and getting some easy baskets early in the game,” Potlatch coach Ryan Ball said. “... I think defensively, we did a good job on their whole team. We didn’t allow them some easy looks.”

Potlatch built its early momentum behind the leadership of Brayden Hadaller, who found one inside basket after another and ended the opening quarter providing six consecutive points on drive-in layups to propel his team to a 24-6 lead. The Loggers cooled off slightly in the second as Lapwai (20-3) found its feet, with each team scoring 11 for a 35-17 halftime score. A Connor Akins putback just before the buzzer preserved the 18-point Potlatch margin.

Potlatch shot 14-of-23 for 61 percent from the field in the first half, compared with Lapwai’s 7-of-26 for 27 percent.

Akins continued his momentum to start the second half. He added six points in the third quarter, which ended with Jerrod Nicholson hitting a 3-pointer to give the Loggers their biggest lead of the game through that point at 46-23.

Akins ended with 21 points in total, while Hadaller tallied 18 and Justin and Jerrod Nicholson each provided eight for Potlatch.

The Loggers slowed the pace of play in the third, dribbling and passing at their leisure until Lapwai was forced to adopt a frantic full-court press to keep them from running the clock down. The fourth turned into an offensive free-for-all in which Titus Yearout of Lapwai reeled off 19 of his game-leading 35 points, but it was too little too late for the Wildcats, the rest of whom struggled from the field.

“It just comes down to making shots,” Lapwai coach Zachary Eastman said. “We shot a lot of 3s tonight, and we’re going to work on that as a team and get more options going inside.”

Yearout, who was the only Lapwai player to reach double digits, converted 12 total field goals, including three from outside the arc, and shot 8-for-9 from the foul line.

Each of the first three quarters had concluded with a Potlatch basket to stamp the Loggers’ authority and send their fanbase into a frenzy in the closing seconds. The fourth, however, ended with Akins simply ceasing to dribble on the final possession and letting the ball come to a rest as he grinned at his teammates, who stood poised and ready for the on-court pileup celebration to follow.

It was Potlatch’s first district title in Ball’s four years as coach — the Loggers placed fourth in his inaugural season, third the next year and second last year before claiming the prize this season.

“We’ve kind of mountain-climbed,” said Ball. “It’s been a long time since Potlatch has won a district championship, so it’s a neat thing for these kids and the community. It’s a nice win.”

POTLATCH (20-2)

Brayden Hadaller 8 1-4 18, Justin Nicholson 3 0-0 8, Jerrod Nicholson 3 0-0 8, Teegan Schmidt 0 0-0 0, Tyler Wilcoxson 2 6-8 10, Elijah Bouma 0 0-0 0, Connor Akins 8 5-12 21, Dylan Andrews 0 0-0 0, Ty Svancara 1 0-0 2, Caleb Kerns 0 0-0 0. 25 12-24 67.

LAPWAI (20-3)

AJ Ellenwood 0 0-2 0, Terrell Ellenwood 1 0-0 3, Titus Yearout 12 8-9 35, Kross Taylor 1 0-0 3, Chris Brown 0 0-0 0, Lydell Mitchell 4 0-0 8, Robert Denunzio 0 1-2 1, JC Sobotta 0 0-0 0, Samuel Ellenwood 0 0-0 0, Simon Henry 0 0-0 0, Sincere Three Irons 0 0-0 0, Alexander Ellenwood 0 0-0 0. 18 9-13 15.

Potlatch 24 11 11 21—67

Lapwai 6 11 7 26—50

3-point goals — Hadaller, Justin Nicholson 2, Jerrod Nicholson 2, Ellenwood Jones, Yearout 3, Taylor.

Kamiah 46, Genesee 33

Kamiah rallied from a slight early deficit and blew the game open in the third quarter en route to a win in the third-place game against Genesee.

Titus Oatman led the Kubs (16-8) with 13 points, while Kavan Mercer and Luke Krogh added nine apiece. Dawson Durham of Genesee (10-15) was the overall high-scorer at 17 points.

Kamiah will play in a loser-out game, while Genesee is done for the season.

“It’s a great team effort,” Kamiah coach Aaron Skinner said. “We’re really playing well when we need to.”

KAMIAH (16-8)

Titus Oatman 4 3-4 13, Sam Brisbois 2 2-3 6, Trent Taylor 1 0-0 2, Kavan Mercer 3 0-0 9, Jace Sams 3 1-1 7, Wyatt Wilcox 0 0-0 0, Luke Krogh 3 2-3 9. Totals 16 6-8 46.

GENESEE (10-15)

Owen Crowley 2 1-1 5, Lucas English 0 0-0 0, Cy Wareham 2 0-0 4, Dawson Durham 7 2-4 17, Truman Renton 0 0-0 0, Jared Ketcheson 1 0-0 2, Dillon Sperber 1 1-1 3, Carson Schwartz 0 0-0 0, Jacob Odenberg 0 1-2 1, Cooper Owen 0 1-2 1. Totals 12 6-10 33.

Kamiah 9 9 18 10—46

Genesee 11 6 6 10—33

3-point goals — Oatman 2, Mercer 3, Krogh, Durham.

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