Lady Pirates' defense smothers Lady Loggers
POLSON — The Lady Pirates took the battle to the paint and came up with a pair of hoops wins last week.
Post Riley Kenney and forward Nicole Davey led Polson's attack of the rack in victories in Eureka (52-45) and at home against Libby (49-38).
After a 10-10 start in Eureka Thursday, Polson went on a 21-8 run in the second quarter, led by nine points from Kenney.
"The only real adjustment we made was the girls took the ball to the hole. We got a lot of easy looks and Riley got a lot of put-backs," Polson head coach Randy Kelley explained. "She got busy underneath the basket. We got a lot of good looks and we did a pretty good job in our 1-2-2 zone, defensively."
Eureka picked up its intensity on defense in the second half, creating a few Polson turnovers. Polson was held to eight points in the third and 13 in fourth, but the Lady Pirates' zone defense held off the Lady Lions for the 52-45 win.
Kenney led Polson with 14 points and 10 rebounds, with nine of those offensive boards. Davey hit for 11 points, hauled in eight rebounds and had three steals.
"Riley has a pretty good knack for hanging around the basket and she's definitely got a nose for the ball," coach Kelley said. "The rebounding, especially from those two with Sierra (Pete) getting her share, these girls work hard on their positioning."
Breanne Kelley scored nine and had three steals.
The Lady Pirates returned to their stifling 1-2-2 zone defense that shut down teams early in the season.
"We looked at the Glacier tape and we made some adjustments that it worked well. We were kind of overplaying and getting out of position. So we packed it in and made sure we had somebody on the ball all the time," Kelley explained.
And when he says they just watched tape, that's about all it took.
"That's the good thing about this group of girls. They are smart. They can sit down and see it on tape and they don't just to have me hammer it home. They made the adjustments and we had a good weekend," he said.
He admits the team still needs to get back to scoring a bit more, but it's not a particularly complicated problem. They just need to take the shot.
"We didn't make a lot of shots (against Libby), but for the most part they were good shots ... the girls know what a good shot is," Kelley said confidently. "I don't put the kibosh on what they shoot. They are smart ... they're just not making as many buckets as we'd like. They are so unselfish and make that extra pass. Sometimes they don't take the shot that they probably should. But, we had our moments ... flashes of what we were before the break."
Those flashes continued to show up in the Libby game. Polson had two good scoring quarters — 17 in the second and 14 in the fourth — and the Lady Pirates used a box-and-one to contain Jackie Mee, Libby's go-to-gal.
"Our second and fourth periods are our best ones ... seems like it takes a while for us to get going," coach Kelley said, adding that point guard Mariah Hamel got her team's offense rolling in the second period. "Mariah recognized the defense they were in and we had 8 of our 21 buckets in that second period."
Davey and Kenney had another big night with a pair of double-doubles. Davey popped for 14 points and had 15 boards, while Kenney put up 13 points and earned 10 rebounds.
"I can't say enough about those two. They did a great job of getting to the boards," Kelley said. "Mariah (Hamel) did a good job handling the ball. Sierra (Pete) has been good defensively and Breanne (Kelley) has been steady. We're getting close to having four solid periods."
Pete finished with nine points and four steals, while Kelley had seven points.
Polson shot decent, too, going 21-for-46 from the floor.
"I'd take that. Anytime you get somewhere around 20 baskets it usually means success for us," coach Kelley said. "We just don't shoot the three (0-for-2) for some reason."
But the primary goal was to limit Mee and the Lady Pirates did that, limiting her to six points by putting Pete on her all night.
"Sierra did a great job on her. The rest of the girls helped out... they tried a lot of rub picks but the girls did a good job of helping," Kelley said. "They try to go inside (to Mee) so we came up with a plan to put Sierra up front on her and Nicole (Davey) or somebody else behind her to sandwich her. If you give her any room at all she'll make you pay. She's one of the better shooters in the state."
Mee got banged up in the third off a pick set by Hamel, colliding and falling to the floor. She injured her wrist and was clearly bothered by it the rest of the game.
Coach Kelley said he has a new appreciation for what Mee goes through. She is tall and a threat inside, but she can also hit from just about anywhere on the floor. So, the coach became the target for a little while, filling the spot of Mee at Friday's practice.
"I put Sierra on me and even though I'm a little old, I got up and down the court," he chuckled. "And I got to understand what Jackie goes through ... It gets old."
Kelley said he got dogged and bumped and generally harassed throughout the practice by Pete and a whole bunch of teammates who helped out regularly.
Now 7-2 overall and 3-0 in league play, Polson is tied at the top with Columbia Falls, also 3-0. The two teams play almost back-to-back games in February, setting up a pair of big games before the divisional tournament.
But the Lady Pirates will still busy until then. After Tuesday's tilt in Polson against Flathead, coached by former Lady Pirate standout Karly Tait, Polson hosts Whitefish on Saturday.
Polson 52, Eureka 45
Eureka 10 8 9 18–45
Polson 10 21 8 13–52
EUREKA - Tayler Holder 14, Selene Elster 4, Alyssa White 2, Courtney Dickinson 3, Cassidy Morgan 13, Steph Vogelman 9.
POLSON - Mariah Hamel 4, Sierra Pete 8, Breanne Kelley 9, Riley Kenney 14, Kayla Duford 6, Nicole Davey 11.
Polson 49, Libby 38
Libby 6 13 9 10–38
Polson 10 17 8 14–49
LIBBY - LaRona Luscher 6, Alyshia Martin 6, Jaime Gilden 14, Logan Best 2, Jackie Mee 6, Alex Kulbeck 4.
POLSON - Mariah Hamel 4, Sierra Pete 9, Breanne Kelley 7, Riley Kenney 13, Kayla Duford 2, Nicole Davey 14.