Chiefs break through with pair of victories, on four-game winning streak
RONAN — A little confidence can go a long way.
At least the Ronan Chiefs are hoping it does. With a pair of wins last week, the Chiefs look to use that new, albeit short, string of victories as a springboard into the final weeks of the season.
The Chiefs started off their winning streak with their first conference win of the season, a 60-56 victory at home over Whitefish on Thursday.
After trailing 11-9 through the first quarter, the Chiefs kicked it in gear in the second quarter and took a 25-21 lead at the half. Ronan's press and fast breaks created a lot of transition opportunities and the Chiefs took advantage.
"We pressed the whole game ... that's our style. We have to. We try to take their size out of the game so we pushed the ball up the floor and made the extra pass," Ronan head coach Steve Woll explained. "I thought we did a very good job in transition. People try to offensive board on us, but we got out and ran ... that helped a lot."
Whitefish came back in the second half, nibbling away at Ronan's lead. Late in the game as the Bulldogs started to close the gap, Woll called a timeout to get his players focus on closing the game out.
"We let Whitefish back in it a little late ... but, hey, we haven't been in that situation a lot this year," Woll chuckled. "They were so excited and they wanted to keep going with the pedal to the medal. But I reminded them that sometimes we have to be smarter, not just faster."
So the Chiefs settled down and focused on their half-court set and controlling the pace of the game. They took good care of the ball, too, giving up just 10 turnovers on the night.
Seven Chiefs scored on the night, led by Lucus Black with 17 points to go with his six assists, four steals and four rebounds. Kevin Wroblewski hit for 11 points and hauled in eight boards, while Justin Dusty Bull scored 10 points, dished out five assists, earned four rebounds and stole two balls. Also scoring seven apiece were Jerod Tanner and Marcus Hungerford.
"We ran some nice (offensive) sets. Our kids are starting to run the system as a reaction, not a think. They ran in control, too, and they were pretty poised for three and a half quarters," Woll said. "We didn't turn it over and got good shots. Funny how that works, huh? We just played as a team. And that's what it takes for us to win. It's really nice to see them coming together."
The Chiefs' confidence soared on Saturday as they cruised to an 81-50 non-conference win in Superior.
Every player on the roster scored for Ronan as the Chiefs scored 20-plus in each of the first three quarters.
Hungerford led Ronan with a career-best 20 points, plus five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Wroblewski scored 13 and had five rebounds, while Black hit for 11 points and have five assists.
Ronan shot 38 percent from inside the arc, but hit 10 of 16 three-ball attempts.
"We shot the ball pretty well. Again, it's sharing the ball in transition and making good decisions," Woll said.
Woll said the confidence just kept growing after the win over Whitefish.
"We just worked hard last week. It's just a team deal. They are starting to have fun and believe and react. It's starting to be a lot of fun," Woll explained. "We've got a lot of work to do, but the kids that want to be here are showing up and working hard. I think the biggest thing is team defense and getting used to the offense. They're coming to every practice and their attitudes and work ethic are great. I'm proud of them for sticking in there ... we could have folded a long time ago. But now they've got a taste of winning and they're like piranhas with blood in the water. They're just getting what they deserve for not quitting."
The Chiefs, now 1-4 in Northwestern A league play, are hoping to continue winning as they host the Libby Loggers on Saturday in a doubleheader at the Ronan Event Center. The girls play at 5 p.m. and the boys follow at about 6:45.
The Loggers are 3-1 in conference play and handed the Chiefs a 55-39 loss in Libby during the first week of January. But this time around, they'll be facing a different Ronan team, one that's got a bit more confidence and experience.
"It's a big one," Woll noted.
Ronan 60, Whitefish 56
Whitefish 11 10 16 19–56
Ronan 9 16 15 20–60
WHITEFISH - Mac Roche 13, Austin Green 6, Cole Havens 2, Gage Vasquez 9, Trevor Olson 8, Connor Silliker 16, Drew Galbraith 2.
RONAN - Jerod Tanner 7, Gordon North Piegan 6, Marcus Hungerford 7, Lucus Black 17, Justin Dusty Bull 10, Kevin Wroblewski 11, Colten Cheff 2.
Ronan 81, Superior 50
Ronan 23 21 22 15–81
Superior 11 16 14 9–50
RONAN - Jerod Tanner 7, Gordon North Piegan 2, Robbie Gauthier 6, Marcus Hungerford 20, Lucus Black 11, Justin Dusty Bull 8, Kevin Wroblewski 13, John Buckendahl 4, Marley Tanner 1, Colten Cheff 3, Brady Oakland 1, Jordan Franklin 5, Chris Clary 2.
SUPERIOR - RJ Federick 14, Tanner Coon 2, Eric Steinbach 25, Ryan Bowers 9.