Maidens end 29-game losing streak with a 42-32 conference victory over Whitefish Saturday
You would have thought they had done it too many times to count. With their teammate at the line with less than a second to play and the Maidens holding on to a 42-32 lead over Whitefish at home Saturday night, Alice Van Gunten, Nina Orozco and Taylor Lynch stood stoically at the center of the court.
After the ball bounced off the rim and the buzzer sounded to give the Maidens their first win in nearly three years, the three calmly ran off the court showing little excitement. But, once in the locker room they were overcome with the emotion that comes with snapping a 29-game losing streak.
“We tried to keep our cool, but most of us, or at least one of us started to cry. It got really emotional,” said sophomore point guard Orozco, who finished with 10 points, five assists, four steals and was instrumental in handling the Lady Bulldogs’ full-court press in the final minutes.
Orozco started her career at Ronan 0-22 and knows how losing game after game damages a team’s esteem. But she said the win changes everything.
“... After this win I don’t think it will be like that anymore,” Orozco said.
The Maidens’ last victory was a 58-43 win over Columbia Falls Feb. 8, 2008. Ronan coach Doug Fisher took over the team this year trying to change the culture that comes with a nearly three-year losing streak. The 42-32 conference victory will go a long way in helping him do that.
“It’s huge, no doubt about that. Anytime you can get a conference win you never can tell how it will motivate your team,” Fisher said. “Our kids are working hard and they have bought into what we’re doing. It’s difficult at times, when you’re trying to change something and you’re not having any results, but they came out tonight and executed. That was really the difference tonight. We came out and executed our game plan.”
In the Maidens’ two losses leading up to the Christmas break they only scored one point in the first quarter. But against the Lady Bulldogs they came out hot, connecting on seven of their 11 shots in the first quarter to take a 15-6 lead into the second quarter.
“Anytime you can get out of the gate rolling and get the momentum going, the intensity level follows and good things happen,” Fisher said.
After starting out hot, the Maidens lost their touch in the second quarter and only connected on one of their eight shots in the period, when junior Jonna Grant put back a rebound to give the Maidens a 19-13 lead with less than two minutes to play. Whitefish scored two baskets before halftime and the Maidens only had a 19-17 lead heading into the third quarter.
Grant finished with a game-high 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
“In the first half they really didn’t have an answer for Jonna inside. We adjusted our offense and started pounding it inside. Jonna did a great job in not being selfish and if it wasn’t there she’d dish it outside,” Fisher said.
One of the Maidens Grant would dish the ball to was freshman Courtney Clairmont. Showing no nerves in her first varsity start, Clairmont finished with five points, which included a 3-pointer at the 5:50 mark in the third quarter after Whitefish tied the game at 19. Clairmont’s trey started an 11-5 Maidens’ run to close the quarter.
Just 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, Grant picked up her fourth foul and had to sit on the bench for nearly three minutes. During that stretch the Maidens watched their 30-24 lead dwindle to 31-28.
Checking back in with about five minutes to play, Grant immediately made an impact, breaking the Bulldogs’ press with a pass to a wide-open Taylor Lynch under the basket. Lynch’s layup gave the Maidens a 33-28 lead. The Bulldogs cut the lead to 33-30, but that would be as close as they would come. Lynch finished with nine points.
In foul trouble most of the game, Van Gunten only finished with five points, but four of them came in the final four minutes to help secure her first win since her freshman year.
“Big Al (Van Gunten) got in foul trouble early, but she went out and hit some big shots for us at the end. She played really well with minimal minutes,” Fisher said.
After hosting the Lady Pirates Tuesday, the Maidens (1-5, 1-0) travel to Libby Saturday.
Ronan 42, Whitefish 32
Whitefish 6 11 7 8–32
Ronan 15 4 11 12–42
WHITEFISH - Olivia Nagler 4, Jessica Slaybaugh 11, Karissa DeMarco 7, Shelby Backer 7, Danielle McCully 2.
RONAN - Courtney Clairmont 5, Jonna Grant 13, Alice Van Gunten 5, Nina Orozco 10, Taylor Lynch 9.