Sandpoint withstands Priest River’s hot start to win 57-46

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  • (Photo courtesy of JASON DUCHOW) Priest River's Brandon McCracken backs down Sandpoint's Brandon Casey.

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    (Photo courtesy of JASON DUCHOW) Caden Brennan shoots over Sandpoint's Christian Niemela.

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    (Photo courtesy of JASON DUCHOW) Bulldogs Christian Niemela and Wilson Vandenberg trap Spartan Jantzen Lucas.

  • (Photo courtesy of JASON DUCHOW) Priest River's Brandon McCracken backs down Sandpoint's Brandon Casey.

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    (Photo courtesy of JASON DUCHOW) Caden Brennan shoots over Sandpoint's Christian Niemela.

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    (Photo courtesy of JASON DUCHOW) Bulldogs Christian Niemela and Wilson Vandenberg trap Spartan Jantzen Lucas.

PRIEST RIVER — For a moment, it looked like Priest River would pull an upset, as the Spartans blitzed Sandpoint in the first half with hot shooting and tenacious defense. But Sandpoint’s second-half surge proved to be too much for the Spartans, as Priest River fell in a 57-46 non-league game.

“I was actually very happy with the way we started the game,” Priest River head coach Kevin Wylie said. “To see us start out defensively and offensively strong and have a lead at the end of the quarter was huge.”

Going into the game, Priest River needed someone to help the Spartans keep pace with Sandpoint’s tandem of high scorers, Ryan Roos and Kobe Banks. Caden Brennan answered the call. The junior went on his own 6-0 run in 40 seconds late in the first quarter, which helped give Priest River its largest lead of the night. Brennan was able to get any look he wanted that night and led all scorers with 21 points.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, the five-point cushion was not enough: Sandpoint outscored Priest River 7-2 to start the second quarter while the Spartans’ offense stalled. During a crucial 90-second stretch midway through the quarter, Priest River turned the ball over on three straight possessions — two of which were unforced errors. The Bulldogs took advantage of these extra opportunities en route to a 28-22 lead at halftime.

Like Sandpoint has been wont to do this season, the third quarter saw the Bulldogs extend its lead to as many as 16 points, while the Spartans struggled to re-find their first-quarter mojo. Aside from Brennan, who put up nine points in the third, Priest River had trouble against Sandpoint’s defense.

Although the Spartans made two quick field goals to start the fourth quarter, Christian Niemela found Kobe Banks on consecutive possessions to spark another Sandpoint run. Priest River would outscore Sandpoint 9-2 down the stretch, but couldn’t get closer.

“It was a closer game than the score indicated,” Sandpoint head coach Wade Engelson said. “It could’ve gone either way for a large chunk of the game. I thought they were very well-coached, had a really good game plan and they challenged us throughout the game. My hat’s off to [Priest River]. I have a lot of respect for their program.”

Sandpoint put up its most balanced effort of the year: 10 of the 11 Bulldogs scored, while only Banks (14 points) and senior guard Bruin Jones (10 points) finished in double-figures. Ryan Roos nearly missed a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.

Brennan’s 21 points, four rebounds and four steals were all team-highs for Priest River. Brandon McCracken was hampered with foul trouble, but filled the stat sheet with 11 points, three boards and two steals.

Sandpoint 14 14 18 11 — 57

Priest River 16 6 11 13 — 46

SANDPOINT — Jones 10, Roos 9, Niemela 2, Casey 3, Stockton 6, Larson 4, Banks 14, Vandenberg 2, Treadaway 4, Bailey 3, Thielbahr 0.

PRIEST RIVER — Anselmo 0, Hegel 6, Brennan 21, Lucas 3, McCracken 11, Bell 5, Zapfe 0, Parks 0, Kreager 0, Matthews 0.

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