THE FRONT ROW with JASON ELLIOTT: Tests taken while on vacation

Coaches know.

They just do.

Games in early to mid-December may mean something as much as wins and losses, but the lessons they learn from these games can go a long way and they will go a long way when the postseason begins in February.

LAKE CITY took its girls’ basketball team to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Mesa, Arizona, earlier this week, going 2-2.

“Honestly, we got what we came for,” said Lake City girls’ basketball coach James Anderson. “We wanted to play faster and play strong teams and faster teams. We wanted to take on those tough games, be beaten by 25 to 30 points and get better at the things we need to improve.”

In 2021, Lake City went 3-1 at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas, falling in the Diamond League championship game.

“Doing fundraisers and playing in tournaments like this, you want to be up for the challenge,” Anderson said. “It’s easy to go to the Championship and win a few games and not take anything away from that. We have a lot of things we can improve and get better from here.”

While they may have lost 56-24 to Folsom, Calif., in the semifinals from Joe Smith Brackett, Anderson was pleased with what he saw after reviewing the film later Wednesday.

“This is the first time we’ve played a match where there are a lot of things we can improve,” said Anderson. “Going back, we overpowered them and fought as hard as we could.”

Lake City shot 9 of 47, including 3 of 27 from the 3-point line.

“If we had done a few more shots, we could have played them,” Anderson said. “We need to find a way to get the ball inside the basket when those shots are down and pave that path forward.”

Especially in tournaments during the holidays, sometimes things come up that are a little bit out of the coach’s control.

On Wednesday, the depth of the Coeur d’Alene boys’ basketball team was tested in a 68-56 win over Monterey Trail High of Elk Grove, Calif., at the Spalding Bracket in the Tark Classic.

“We were short with Gunner Larson due to injury and Jonos McGraw,” Coeur d’Alene boys’ team coach John Adams said. “(Post) Alexander (Nipp) didn’t have a great game, but it was great to see the next player off the bench step up. We played really well with Kanyon Smith and Kai Wheeler. They didn’t play a lot of minutes, but they did step in and contribute on the defensive end.”

Coeur d’Alene won 3-1 in his bow, the third highest level of play in the tournament.

“It was a great experience for our players and great for creating another identity for how we win games,” said Adams. “The guys are adapting and playing really well at the moment.”

Like the boys, the Coeur d’Alene girls ventured into the Tarkanian Classic to challenge them.

On Wednesday, that challenge was in the form of Sierra Canyon in Chatsworth, California.

Fighting as hard as they could, the Vikings fell short to 73-47 in the Diamond Bracket semifinals, then lost again in the third-place game to Mater Dei 66-55 on Thursday to finish 2-2 in the tournament’s highest level of competition.

According to the MaxPreps rankings, Sierra Canyon High is the number two team in the country.

JuJu Watkins, a 6-foot senior guard, committed to USC. The 5-9 junior guard, Izila Arenas, is the daughter of former NBA star Gilbert Arenas.

“We fought Sierra Canyon really hard,” Simmons said. “We played them probably the best of any team here. After our first loss of 25, it was tough for the girls mentally because they are all competitive and they like to win. But you can learn a lot about losses and when you win 30 or 40 points, you don’t get a chance to work on Stuff. That game has exposed us to where we need to work on some things.”

Sierra Canyon beat Putnam City West of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73-33 in the championship game on Thursday.

“Losing at 25 is tough, but this is the best team we’ve seen and it’s No. 2 in the nation,” Simmons said. “It’s probably the best team we’ll play in. We won’t shy away from high competition. I’m OK with losses because we play in a different style. It’s been a great experience for us and I’m very happy with the way the journey has gone and paid off.”

And most likely when the time comes, strike back with a little more force than their opponents can handle.

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the press. He can be reached by phone at 208-664-8176, ext. 2020 or by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.