Twenty minutes in a corner for North Idaho was struck narrowly over the goal and with five minutes remaining in the half Hamidou Kante took the ball to the endline and crossed it into the six toward Alec Maldonado (Coeur d'Alene, ID) only to see the play disrupted.
"Kante has been an incredible finisher for us. We are just starting to get to the point where we are linking up better as we counter," said NIC Head Coach Ken Thompson. "Honestly we didn't really see that tonight, but the last two or three games we have linked well and Kante - the final pass has usually been to him and he's been putting them away."
Spokane nearly had a few chances on free kicks taken by Ivan Adame, but one slipped narrowly over the bar and the other was stopped by goalkeeper Tanner Horton (Coeur d'Alene, ID).
"He can really get some movement on that ball. We had some good saves," Thompson said of Spokane's chances. "They were in earlier than us on the one down at this end (in the first half). I think they used their depth more than we did, and that kinda showed near the end of the game where they were in our third and we were trying to hang on. But, good road result on turf - been on turf twice this year. Those adjustments, we weathered them and got a good result today."
Early in the second half the Bigfoot had a couple good chances. In the ninth minute Eric Sanchez-Flores sent a shot on goal from 19 yards that took a slight deflection before going over the bar. On the following corner from the right, Adame got the ball at the top right of the box and missed just wide.
Four minutes later Kazuki Tateishi fired from the top left side of the box, but sent it wide of the left post.
"Not a lot of flow to it. Pretty direct and straight forward to it in the first half. Stop and go, both sides committing fouls," CC Spokane Head Coach Kenny Krestian said. "I think the guys after the break took what we talked about at halftime and started to try to put that forward on the field. I felt we had the better flow of the second half, and unfortunately didn't get the ball in the back of the net."
As time wore out and the intensity increased, Spokane earned a free kick just outside the area with about two minutes remaining. Roberto Esquivel (Post Falls, ID) launched a swerving free kick from about 25 yards over the wall and as it appeared to be dipping under the bar Horton rose and knocked it away with the save.
"He's big time," Thompson said of his keeper's performance. "We've got incredible depth in goal this year. Mitchell Markovetz (Boise, ID), our returner, was fantastic for us last year. He had nine shutouts, maybe. Tanner is a local transfer coming back to the area. He was fifth in the nation for lowest goals against in NAIA last year. And then our freshman redshirt - Garrett Boyce (Coeur d'Alene, ID) is maybe above average in the conference so we are very deep in that spot.
The result kept NIC unbeaten in the division at 2-0-2, even with Walla Walla and a point ahead of 2-1-1 Spokane.
"Honestly we feel like we have underachieved a little bit," Thompson said of their recent results. "Tonight was a good result, but we felt the previous two or three games we played positively for a while and then kinda lose focus. But tonight was a good - mentally I think we were there most of the game, and that was a good step forward for us."
A few match highlights...
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