Pirates' defense confounds Chiefs in 54-45 win
POLSON — The Polson Pirates split a pair of games last week, but won the one that counted the most.
Polson picked up a conference win to improve to 2-0 in league play by topping Ronan 54-45 last Tuesday on the road. But the Pirates' defense struggled against Class AA Glacier Saturday night in Polson as they dropped a 74-61 non-conference game.
Polson built on a 29-27 halftime lead with a 13-4 run in the third quarter, then held off Ronan in the fourth for the Northwestern A win. A third quarter man-to-man defense threw off the Chiefs.
"In the first half, we sat in a zone (defense) and thought we'd press a little," Polson head coach Brad Pluff explained. "We thought that would slow them down, but it didn't work out well. They shot well against our zone. So we came out in man in the second half and for some reason they didn't do well against it."
Ronan shot 32.7 percent from the field and went 11-for-16 from the line, while Ronan hit just five of 11 free throw attempts. The Pirates also out-rebounded the Chiefs 37-28.
Post Tyler Krell led Polson down low with nine points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. On the outside, guard Tim Rausch hit for 19 points and Kyle Bagnell hit for 12, plus stole three balls.
Ronan was led by Jerod Tanner's 15 and Kevin Wroblewski's nine points.
Coach Pluff was hoping his team would take better advantage of the size advantage Krell gives Polson in the paint.
"We're still a work in progress trying to get the ball inside, but we harped on it all night. We're getting better at it," Pluff said. "Where Tyler (Krell) really helps us most is defensively. They just get nothing inside and that makes such a big difference. Then we can get out on their shooters."
Polson was scoring well again on Saturday night, trailing by just two points (36-34) at the half against a sharpshooting Glacier squad. But Glacier came out of the locker room with a 1-3-1 half-court trap that produced three Polson turnovers. The Wolfpack converted them, too, building a 45-36 lead in the first three minutes of the second half.
"That was the difference in the game. They came out in that half-court trap and we just didn't handle it well," Pluff said. "They built up a 10-point lead and they just held on from there."
The Wolfpack's deep bench also had a big impact down the stretch as they rotated all of their players onto the floor, giving Glacier fresh, experienced legs down the stretch. Meanwhile, Polson substituted some pretty young kids off the bench. They worked hard — Will Davey's two three-pointers in the finally two minutes of the game closed the gap down the stretch.
"They have so many kids ... The difference in depth was big," Pluff said.
Bagnell finished with 16 points and four steals for Polson, while Rausch hit for 15 and Krell notched 10 points.
Glacier's Shay Smithwick-Hann, a 6'4" senior forward was also hard to stop, netting 27 from both outside and inside.
"Smithwick-Hann is tall and we tried to guard him with Tyler (Krell), but he was quicker outside. We just didn't match up with him at all. Polson shot decent from the floor at 35 percent, but hit just 13 of 25 free throws. But the big difference in the game was on the boards — Glacier out-rebounded Polson 38-20.
"They killed us rebounding. We've really got to address that in practice," coach Pluff emphasized. "They boxed out good ... but we're not that small. They got a lot of miss-rebound, miss-rebound, miss-put-back opportunities. Those are killers."
Now 5-2 overall and 2-0 conference, the Pirates host Eureka for a non-conference game on Thursday night, then host Libby for a big conference matchup on Saturday.
Unfortunately, Rausch will be gone on a baseball recruiting trip this weekend.
"That won't help," Pluff noted.
Polson 54, Ronan 45
Polson 10 19 13 12–54
Ronan 11 16 4 14–45
POLSON - Vince DiGiallonardo 5, Kyle Bagnell 12, Cody Fischer 4, Tim Rausch 19, Derrick Rathe 5, Tyler Krell 9.
RONAN - Jerod Tanner 15, Gordon North Piegan 7, Marcus Hungerford 4, Lucus Black 6, Justin Dusty Bull 4, Kevin Wroblewski 9.
Glacier 74, Polson 61
Glacie r22 14 21 17–74
Polson 18 16 12 15–61
GLACIER - Bryan Chery 4, Grahm Schmaltz 14, Freddie Blodnick 2, Colter Hanson 12, Shay Smithwick-Hann 27, Trey Griffith 6, Connor Fuller 10.
POLSON - Vince DiGiallonardo 7, Kyle Bagnell 16, Cody Fischer 4, Tim Rausch 15, Will Davey 6, Derrick Rathe 3, Tyler Krell 10.