With a little luck, some locals could get the opportunity to celebrate some success at the national level, whether that be the NAIA or NJCAA level in the coming days.
Then again, it’s not luck if you go out and back it up.
AS THE No. 1 seed in the Duer Bracket at the NAIA Tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in Billings, Mont., the Lewis-Clark State women’s basketball team improved to 33-1 with a 69-58 win over Bethel, Tenn., in its second round game on Friday afternoon.
It has been well documented that stars Caelyn Orlandi, Brittany Tackett and Brooke Litalien are local products, with Orlandi and Tackett playing at Coeur d’Alene High and Litalien in Post Falls. Sam Runkle, another Post Falls product, joined the program in the offseason after transferring from Grand Canyon University for her sophomore season.
If you need proof of just how much big game experience they have, all you have to do is rewind to the state 5A girls basketball championship game in 2013, where each of those players played key roles in the Trojans’ 46-44 win in overtime at the Idaho Center in Nampa. While two of them had to lose that night, someone did, and it just so happened that it wasn’t the Vikings’ year that year. Coeur d’Alene, sans Orlandi, won the title in 2014 in Tackett’s senior year.
On Friday, Orlandi paced the Warriors with 29 points and five assists, Tackett 13 points and four rebounds and Litalien 11 points as the Warriors beat Bethel, Tenn., by a score of 69-58.
Since Orlandi and Litalien joined the program for the 2013-14 season, Lewis-Clark State has posted a 104-22 record.
Something that didn’t happen by accident.
NEITHER WAS former North Idaho College men’s basketball coach Jared Phay getting his new team at College of Southern Idaho back to the NJCAA Tournament starting next week in Hutchinson, Kan.
CSI was the second seed to the Region 18 Tournament in Salt Lake City, having to beat the Bruins on their home floor to open the tournament, then beat Snow College just to advance to a chance to compete in a national play-in game.
CSI didn’t beat Snow during the regular season, and with its loss at regionals, Snow was left out in the cold when it came to nationals this year.
CSI opens at nationals on Monday.
Just in case you forgot, the NIC men beat Snow in the championship game of the Portland Community College tournament.
With another year and getting used to the style of play of the other teams in the more regionally-based Northwest Athletic Conference, don’t expect NIC basketball — both the men’s and women’s teams — to be this quiet when it comes to college basketball in these parts too much in the coming years.
Of the top four teams from the East Region in the men’s tournament, only one — Walla Walla — advanced past the first round of the conference tournament.
Chances are, that won’t be something that will happen again.
Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JEPressSports.