Lakeland Achieves Four-Peat in Sandpoint


Unmatched energy filled the air in the small, sweaty Sandpoint gym as two schools screamed chants and competed nonstop for seven hours. For the fourth straight year, the Lakeland Hawks outperformed the Sandpoint Bulldogs in Battle for the Paddle and brought the paddle back home on Jan. 20. 

“I couldn’t imagine attending a school for four years and not coming close to winning the paddle once. Personally, I would be embarrassed,” said Lakeland junior Roan Reilly. 

The 2023 Battle for the Paddle kicked off with the girl’s basketball game. After Sandpoint defeated Lakeland 59-40 previously this season, many expected the girl’s game not to be very close. The Lady Bulldogs led 25-16 at halftime, and the Sandpoint student section was ecstatic. 

Lakeland chipped away at the lead in the second half, eventually taking a five-point lead toward the end of the third quarter. Kenna Simon dominated the Bulldogs in the paint, scoring eleven points and snagging ten rebounds. 

Simon feels that she should have played more aggressively down the stretch but that it was the team’s best game of the season. 

“Both teams played hard, and we weren’t able to hold the lead. We knew we could hang with them and we were determined to show that in the second half,” Simon said. 

The game went back and forth in the fourth quarter, and Sandpoint was able to take a two-point lead due to a string of three-pointers. The game was tied with under a minute left, and Lila Kiefer was thrown to the ground by two defenders, only to get a no-call from the referees, who evidently were not watching the play. 

“The refs were tough and didn’t call a foul when Lila got whacked, but we should not have let it be so close,” Simon said. 

With time running out, Sandpoint drove down the court, and Aliya Strock put up a free-throw line jumper with no time on the clock, getting bailed out with a controversial shooting foul on Ziya Munyer. Strock missed her first free throw, but sunk the second, giving the Bulldogs a 44-43 win to kick off the event. 

The Lady Bulldogs’ win gave them the #1 seed in the 4A IEL district. 

Following the game, Sandpoint defeated Lakeland in the decibel reading, starting off the event strong. 

The momentum began to shift when wrestling started. The Lakeland crowd erupted with pin after pin from coach Will Edelbute’s wrestlers. 

Duke Williamson, Matt Williams, Kaleb Hammer, Owen Rose, Dylan Scott, and Preston Jeffs all won due to pins, as the Hawks dominated the Bulldogs 51-30. 

“It was a fun match, but I probably should have ended it sooner. I will beat him again in districts,” said sophomore Dylan Scott. “We could’ve got pinned a lot less, but I am proud of our boys for wrestling hard and getting it done.”

The Lakeland boy’s basketball team got it done, holding a lead from the start, led by BTFP MVP Scotty Hocking, scoring a career-high 34 points. The Hawks led by 14 at the half, and Sandpoint was not able to recover, losing 70-62 to Tony Hanna’s squad. 

“Starting strong is key in an environment like Battle for the Paddle, and I was luckily able to hit some early shots,” Hocking said. “After playing badly last time around against Sandpoint, we knew we had it this time. Nobody can guard me one-on-one.”

Hocking credits his success to working out with a trainer every day for the last six months. He says that this game was the best performance of his life and Rusty Lee and Parker Petit had no chance of guarding him. 

Lakeland won fundraising, band, paddle drawing, spirit posters, cheerleading, school spirit, and sportsmanship. Sandpoint won dance, lip sync, paddle babble, decibel reading, and row race. 

Fundraising is worth the most points, and Lakeland raised a record $30,000, while Sandpoint raised $13,000. 

A fundraising performance like this from Sandpoint allowed Lakeland to win the paddle for the fourth straight year. 

There has been talk from many about Sandpoint High School potentially backing out of the Battle for the Paddle event. It is not uncommon for schools to put a stop to an annual lopsided event. This is especially relevant after Lakeland beat Sandpoint in fundraising by $17,000, clinching the paddle for the Hawks. 

“I used to wonder why everybody didn’t like Sandpoint; the second I walked into the gym, I could feel the toxicity right away. Their students threw trash on our cars and trashed us all night. I can’t say it didn’t feel good to humble them with a 4-peat,” Lakeland junior Jordan Bucaroff said. 

Battle for the Paddle is a keystone event each year for Lakeland and Sandpoint, and it was once again a success for Lakeland.