LAPWAI — As the Lapwai Wildcats were building a 25-point lead during the first half of a district championship game, the most frequent words out of coach Zachary Eastman’s mouth were, “Play together.”
Why? Because they didn’t really need to.
The Wildcats often complied anyway, blending sharp passes with unsurprising displays of scoring talent Friday as they defeated Prairie 83-54 at Lapwai High School in the title game of the Class 1A Division I boys’ basketball tournament.
Lapwai freshman Kase Wynott scored a career-high 30 points while junior Titus Yearout added 20 points and surpassed 1,500 for his career as the Wildcats (17-4) secured a berth in next week’s state tournament at Vallivue High School in Caldwell. They open at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Prairie (16-5) hosts Genesee at 6 p.m. today in Cottonwood for the district’s second and final state berth.
During a three-minute span of the first quarter, the fast-improving 6-foot-4 Wynott parlayed a putback, a baseline jumper, a foul-drawing Euro-step and a 23-footer into a 10-point individual flurry.
When Yearout tacked on three driving layins in the final two minutes of the quarter, Lapwai led 28-11. It was about that time that Eastman’s “Play together” mantra became more audible.
“The reason I say that is, we have so much talent on one team, it’s easy for our guys to want to do it themselves,” Eastman said. “But when they learn to use their teammates, it makes the game easier for all of them. We want everyone on the basketball court to be a threat.”
Afterward, Yearout was singing a similar tune about playing with cohesion.
“That’s what we’ve got to do if we’re going to get one of those up there,” he said, pointing to a banner from one of Lapwai’s 10 state championships.
It helps that Yearout, a 6-2 guard who has started every Lapwai game since his freshman year, is already developing a chemistry with Wynott, a frosh transfer.
“Even though it’s our first year playing together, we’re both skilled players and we kind of feed off each other,” Yearout said.
With Wynott’s help, Yearout passed the career 1,500-point mark early in the second half with a three-point play that pushed the gap to 52-26. He finished with nine rebounds and six assists, while Wynott grabbed 11 boards and AJ Ellenwood nine. Kross Taylor encountered some foul trouble and was held to nine points.
The Wildcats wound up outscoring Prairie 262-171 in their three matchups this season.
Cole Schlader scored 19 points for Prairie and gave the finesse-oriented Wildcats something to think about with his aggressive drives.
“We’re still a young team,” said Eastman, who will bid farewell to only two seniors, both backups. “They have the skills but we’re trying to build a physicality and the pace of a varsity game.”
Prairie coach Shawn Wolter liked his team’s attitude but was forced to watch a lot of errant floor shots and 15-for-34 foul-shooting. The Pirates’ turnover totals could have been worse but they were nonetheless affected by Lapwai’s menacing zone defense.
“A real good team, very disciplined,” Wolter said of the Wildcats. “They move the ball very well, rebound very well and they’re great shooters. It’s an all-around good team.”
Cole Schlader 8 3-9 19, Wyatt Ross 2 1-2 5, Kyle Schwartz 1 0-1 2, Zach Rambo 2 0-0 4, Lane Schumacher 1 2-5 4, Tyler Wemhoff 3 2-4 8, Shane Hanson 0 1-2 1, Brody Hasselstrom 2 5-9 10, Lee Forsmann 0 1-2 1. Totals 26 15-34 54.
Terrell Ellenwood-Jones 2 5-5 10, Titus Yearout 8 4-7 20, Kross Taylor 3 3-5 9, Chris Brown 0 0-0 0, Jenz Kash Kash 1 0-0 2, JC Sobotta 0 0-0 0, Kase Wynott 9 6-7 30, Ahlius Yearout 1 0-0 3, AJ Ellenwood 4 0-1 9. Totals 28 18-25 83.
Prairie 11 12 19 12—54
Lapwai 28 17 22 16—83
3-point goals — Hasselstrom, Wynott 6, Ellenwood-Jones, A. Yearout, Ellenwood.
Grummert may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2290.