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Pirates win shootout over Yellowjackets 75-70

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STEVENSVILLE — There were a lot of sore necks in the stands Saturday night after the Polson Pirates came down to the Bitterroot to take on the Stevensville Yellowjackets. Fans had to keep their head on a swivel all night as two run-and-gun basketball teams did just that for 32 minutes of play.

Stevi jumped out to an 18-13 lead, looking like they weren't going to miss anything. But Polson closed out the final minute of the first quarter with an inside bucket by post Tyler Krell, a pair of three-pointers by point guard Vince DiGiallonardo, and a Kyle Bagnell steal and lay-in at the buzzer to give the Pirates a 21-19 lead.

The blistering pace of the first quarter kept up through the rest of the game, but there was a lot more defense going on than what fans might have noticed.

"We're trying to get up and down and so are they ... and they're not too big. It didn't seem like a lot of defense was being playing, but it was more of a case of them shooting the ball well," Polson head coach Brad Pluff said.

Pluff had his team playing man-to-man early, but Stevensville's Price Miller used his quickness to score seven quick points on Krell so Polson switched to a 2-3 zone. The strategy worked well as Polson's pressure picked up on Stevi's shooters and suddenly the Jackets couldn't hit the side of a barn in the second quarter. 

While Stevi scored just seven in the second quarter, Polson put up 10 to take a 33-26 lead into the half.

"In the second, our zone worked well. With Tyler inside, they had no inside game at all. They live or die by their outside shot," Pluff noted. "We felt pretty good at half ... we thought we recognized where their shooters were and we got out on them. We knew the 23 kid (Josh Schultz) could shoot and the (Price) Miller kid we didn't know about, but we got out on him. We just stretched things out and tried to get a hand in their face."

In the third quarter, the wheels really came off Stevensville's offense as they chuck rock after rock but came up with just 10 points. That might have been okay if it hadn't been for Bagnell, who lit up the board with four three-pointers in the first four minutes of the third quarter, giving Polson a 49-29 lead with 3:57 remaining in the third.

"When he starts feeling like that, its hard to stop him," Pluff said of Bagnell. "He's a tough player to guard ... he's so quick."

Polson had a 56-36 lead heading into the fourth, but the Jackets started to find their range from outside again. Schultz, who ended with 30 on the night and six threes in the fourth, led the charge with trey after trey. His third-straight three with 2:04 remaining cut Polson's lead to six (68-62).

Another three by Stevi freshman Brendan Jones cut the Pirates' lead to four (72-68) with :55 remaining, then Jones sank two free throws with 44 seconds remaining to cut it to two (72-70).

But that's when Stevi's touch ran out. As they missed three more three-point attempts, Bagnell sank two free throws and Derrick Rathe hit one of two attempts from the line to extend Polson's lead and secure the win 75-70.

"We stayed in zone (defense) and they were setting some high picks that worked and Schultz just couldn't miss. We tried to get out of it and tried to get in man but he just kept hitting shots," Pluff said of Schultz' finish. And every Stevi hit a three, Jacket coach Keith Chambers would call a timeout to regroup his defense. 

"It seemed like they had an infinite number of timeouts," Pluff joked. He and Chambers were teammates and classmates at Polson High, graduating in 1984. "We go back a long way and I'm sure he didn't want to lose. There was a little extra incentive there."

Bagnell led the Pirates with a stellar 30-point effort, plus four steals. Tim Rausch netted 17 by attacking the bucket and either scoring or hitting his free throws. DiGiallonardo had all 10 of his points in the first quarter, but they were all crucial. 

"Vince is just so steady ... he does so much for us. And he's just a sophomore and still learning," the coach said. "Those 10 kept us in the game, but he brings the ball up for us every time ... We're real happy with how he is playing for us."

Rausch and Rathe had nine rebounds each, plus Krell finish with six boards to go with eight points.

"Tyler had a good game. It didn't show up in the stats, but Stevensville didn't have anything inside," Pluff said.

There's still a lot to improve on, though. The Pirates had a season-high 19 turnovers, which perhaps is more a result of playing against an in-you-face man defense. 

But the other part the Polson boys will need to learn is how to close the door after getting a lead.

"It's frustrating when you lose that momentum. We relaxed a little bit, I think," Pluff said. "I thought we were going to put Whitefish away and we didn't. I thought we were going to put Big Sky and we didn't put Stevensville away. We scored 19, but geez ... they hit some shots."

The good part is that the Pirates shot well, hitting 47 percent from the floor, and didn't panic when the Jackets made a run.

"It was physical, but our team played hard and didn't panic. We hit some free throws down the stretch and held them off," Pluff concluded.

After Tuesday night's conference game in Ronan, the Pirates will host Class AA Glacier High on Saturday in a doubleheader, with the boys playing at 4:30 p.m. and the girls playing at 6.



Polson 75, Stevensville 70
Polson 23 10 23 19–75
Stevi 19 7 10 34–70

POLSON - Vince DiGiallonardo 10, Kyle Bagnell 30, Ian Laimbeer 2, Sheldon Fisher 3, Tim Rausch 17, Derrick Rathe 5, Tyler Krell 8.
STEVI - Brendan Jones 4, Austin Kelling 9, Josh Haynes 1, Josh Schultz 30, Tyler Garlak 10, Price Miller 16, 

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