Bulldogs come up a single game short of divisional tournament
LIBBY — The Mission Bulldogs played their best basketball of the season at the District 7-B Tournament, but it wasn’t enough to advance to the Western B Divisionals.
Maybe it was the nerves of playing in their first postseason tournament in four years, maybe it was the pressure of being so close to their goal of making it to divisionals, but when it mattered the most the Bulldogs went cold from the field, shooting just 24 percent from the field in a 42-29 season-ending loss to Thompson Falls in the loser-out game in Libby Saturday.
“We just couldn’t get the ball in the basket,” Mission coach Lloyd Phillips said, adding that there could be several reasons for the cold shooting. “We’re young and had players that had never been in a situation like that. They’re (the Bluehawks) were older, more mature and better suited for a physical game. Maybe it was a little bit of pressure. We had one goal this year; to make it to divisionals.”
The Bulldogs went 3-for-22 from the field in the first half with most of their shots coming from close range – the Bulldogs were 3-for-17 from inside the paint in the opening half.
Phillips said it was frustrating to watch his team do everything they needed to do to win the game, except make baskets.
“What can you do, but just hope things change,” Phillips said.
Things did change, but not enough. The Bulldogs finished 10-for-31 (32 percent) from inside the arc, but were 0-for-10 on 3-point attempts.
In their final game as Bulldogs, Jorren Gies finished with 12 points and seven rebounds and Jake Durglo added eight points and six boards.
The Bulldogs opened the tournament with only one player with postseason experience – Gies played in a district tournament as a freshman – and against the Eureka Lions, the team that kept them out of the district tournament the past two seasons. With only five teams in the district before Bigfork joined the conference this season, the fourth and fifth-placed team would have a play-in game to decide who would advance to the district tournament, and the Lions had defeated the Bulldogs twice in a row.
On Thursday, the Lions didn’t have an answer for Gies and Durglo and the two combined for 37 points in a 47-36 victory, which was the Bulldogs’ first postseason victory since defeating the Lions 71-65 in 2005.
The Bulldogs had loss to the Lions 49-38 in the Doghouse Jan. 30, but at the district tournament they used a triangle and two to confuse the Lions. Gies and Durglo ran a high-low game, which the Lions couldn’t stop in the first half – the two teamed up to score 22 of the Bulldogs 27 first half points.
“They weren’t ready for that. They were baffled about that for the first half,” Phillips said of the triangle and two.
Gies finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Durglo added 18 points and 15 boards in what Phillips described as “by far the best effort and game of the year.”
In their defeat to Eureka at home, the Bulldogs sent the Lions to the line 28 times, but Thursday the Lions only shot 14 free throws, making six of them. The Bulldogs went 10-for-17 at the line.
The win over the Lions, set the Bulldogs up against Bigfork in the semifinals Friday night. The Vikings were undefeated in district play and had outscored the Bulldogs 139-47 in their two matchups this season.
Despite only shooting 21 percent in the first half, the Bulldogs only trailed 24-22 at the break. The Bulldogs had a 29-27 lead in the third quarter, when the Vikings hit a 3-pointer after a Bulldog turnover to take the lead and change the momentum of the game.
“It was a big deal. They (Bigfork) were close to going down. They were ready to roll,” Phillips said. “Who knows what would have happened if we went up by five,” he added.
The Bulldogs went 12-for-42 from the field, including 0-for-4 shooting behind the arc. Gies led all scorers with 19 points. He also pulled down 15 boards for a double-double.
“Jorren came to play and everyone that saw the game will remember that,” Phillips said.
The Bulldogs spotted the Vikings 24 points, with four wide-open looks on 3-pointers and six turnovers near halfcourt, and still had a chance to win.
“This game measured how far we have come in three short, quick months. We can be extremely proud of that,” Phillips said.
The Bulldogs finished the season 5-16 a far cry from the one-win team last year.
“We competed and that was a major goal,” Phillips said.
The Bulldogs lose a lot with the departure of Gies and Durglo, who accounted for more than half of the Bulldogs’ offense, but had a lot of sophomores and freshmen gain some valuable experience this season.
“I think our future will be bright,” Phillips said.
Mission 47, Eureka 36
Eureka 9 8 5 14–36
Mission 17 10 9 11–47
EUREKA - Tanner Peterson 2, Ryan Holder 17, Tanner Blankers 8, Bryton Guckenberg 7, Caleb Curtis 2.
MISSION - Dylan Evans 2, Jorren Gies 19, Austin McDonald 2, Gui Silva 3, Jake Durglo 18, Austin Durglo 2, Josh Durglo 1.
Bigfork 56, Mission 40
Mission 8 14 12 6–40
Bigfork 10 14 18 14–56
MISSION - Riley Charlo 1, Dylan Evans 1, Jorren Gies 19, Austin McDonald 2, Spencer Ahlborn 2, Gui Silva 3, Jake Durglo 7, Lakota Matt 2, Josh Durglo 2.
BIGFORK - Carter Sorenson 6, Lael Richmond 4, Ian Lorang 4, Travis Knoll 10, Cody Dopps 3, Christian Ker 16, Keenan Evans 6, Dillon Fraley 2.
Thompson Falls 42, Mission 29
T. Falls 10 12 10 10–42
Mission 4 8 5 12–29
THOMPSON FALLS - Josh Hojem 5, Brandon Wakefield 11, Will Dalby 13, Mike Wood 6, Chris Pavlik 5.
MISSION - Jorren Gies 10, Gui Silva 2, Jake Durglo 8, Austin McDonald 2, Riley Charlo 2, Lakota Matt 2, Josh Durglo 3.