Second quarter blues
Lulls sink Lady Pirates at state tournament
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A trip to the state Class A basketball tournament in Hamilton last week turned out to be much shorter than Polson's Lady Pirates had hoped for. After a first round 44-40 loss to Sidney, Polson dropped out of the tournament with a 52-44 loss to Havre on Friday.
But, hopefully the Lady Pirates came back with some valuable experience that will key them toward better preparation for next year's run at a state berth.
"I really hope they learned from it ... Just watching the Friday night games drove me nuts and I hope it drove the girls nuts, too," Polson head coach Randy Kelley said. "I was real proud of what our younger girls did ... and now they've got a taste of it."
What they learned was that state basketball tournaments involve competition at a whole different level. The offensive pressure to score and make every trip down the floor productive is intense and the defenses you face are simply relentless.
State basketball tournaments are also brutally unforgiving.
The Lady Pirates learned that lesson the hard way. Though they played very, very well at times, a couple of lulls on both offense and defense proved to be major game-changers in both losses.
Polson went stone cold in the second quarter of their opener against Sidney, scoring just two points in the final 40 seconds of that eight-minute run. Sidney went up by nine points and held off a late run by Polson to secure the 44-40 win from the free throw line.
Polson took a 12-8 lead over Havre in the first quarter of Friday's loser-out game, but fell out of offensive rhythm and let the Blue Ponies make a 19-8 second quarter run that turned into a 52-44 cruiser for Havre.
"I hope the girls realize that the defense you see at that level is different that what you see in conference. They put two people out on the ball ... and we're used to being able to attack the hoop easier," coach Kelley said. "We just need to get better at our basketball skills ... when you get to state, you face teams that play really good defense. I believe that's why Billings and Sidney were playing in the state championship — they got there because of their defense."
Sidney's defense, which had a distinct size advantage, was evident in Thursday's first-round game. But Polson attacked the basket in the first quarter and either got the inside bucket or earned a trip to the line. Post Riley Kenney (four points) and guards Mariah Hamel (three points) and Breanne Kelley (four points) all converted on drives to the rack or trips to the line in that first eight minutes.
But all that worked well in the first quarter suddenly didn't work in the second quarter. Part of it was Sidney's adjustment on defense, making Polson's looks a little more difficult. But the Lady Eagles also drew two charges on Polson drives inside and tip away the inside passes.
Polson went scoreless the entire second quarter until Nicole Davey stole the ball and sank a breakaway layup with 40 seconds remaining in the half to end the drought.
"Part of that was just a bad run and part of it was Sidney's defense, which was a switching man," Kelley said about the second quarter. "We hadn't seen that much, so it took a while to adjust to that. And we quit attacking the hole. I don't know if that was first-game jitters or what that was."
To their credit, the Lady Pirates charged back late in the second half, nibbling away at Sidney's lead. Heidi Rausch came in off the bench to add some muscle down low and she and Kenney pounded the boards. Their offensive rebounds, put-backs and free throws trimmed Sidney's 11-point lead (39-28) with five minutes to go down to a slim 42-40 lead with Kenney's offensive rebound and put-back with 12 seconds remaining in the game.
But Sidney's Jordan Sullivan hit two free throws with 8 seconds remaining to make it 44-40 and salt away the win for the Lady Eagles.
Kelley lead Polson with 13 points. Kenney finished with 11 points and five rebounds, while Davey totaled 10 points and eight boards.
Polson shot 36 percent from the floor but had 19 turnovers to Sidney's 16.
"Defensively, we did a real good job ... but once you get down like that it's hard to get back into it in a state game," Kelley noted. "I was real proud of how the girls fought and clawed back into it ... It definitely gives us something to build on for next year."
The coach said the second half had a lot of positives.
"Defensively, Nicole (Davey) did a good job on Jordan Sullivan. Riley had some huge buckets in the fourth and some of the younger girls did well off the bench for us," he said. "Macall (Banner) and Heidi did a good job. I was pretty proud of the girls going in and playing as hard as they did."
On Friday afternoon, the Lady Pirates tried to stay aggressive on both ends of the floor, jumping up 12-8 against Havre on the shoulders of Davey, who scored all 12 points.
But while Kenney scored six points in the second quarter and both she and Davey found ways to score in the third, the Lady Pirates were held to single-digit scoring. Meanwhile, Polson's defense couldn't stop Havre's outside shooting or inside conversions over the top and the Lady Blue Ponies outscored Polson 32-17 over the middle two quarters.
Davey led a fourth-quarter charge, but it was too little and too late as Havre made its free throws down the stretch and held off the Lady Pirates for a 52-44 win.
Davey finished her high school basketball career with a game-high 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting. The senior also hauled in 14 of Polson's 26 total rebounds. Kenney hit double-figures with 10 points, five rebounds and two steals, while Kelley had seven points and five rebounds.
"Nicole (Davey) was hot ... but we didn't give her much help offensively," coach Kelley said. "And we had too many turnovers (17). We didn't play great, by any means. I felt like we had a chance of getting into the consolation game. Once again, it was that second period ... in both games, for whatever reason, we didn't play well."
Havre did its part by shooting 49 percent from the floor, including 11-for-18 from three-point range.
"Havre did shoot pretty well but I didn't think we defended as well as we should have. We went man and didn't get a lot of help on their big girl down low ... and then when we did they kicked it out and they hit their outside shot," coach Kelley said. "At least in the Sidney game their man caused us problems. But against Havre we started to look to one person to carry us ... and you can't do that at the state tournament."
Kelley said he'll sure miss Davey, the team's lone senior who was a key team leader and producer for Polson.
"Nicole really showed up at state. What we'll miss the most is her rebounding. We'll definitely miss her there ... and her leadership. She was kind of quiet, but she led by example and did a real good job of that for us this year," Kelley said.
The Lady Pirates certainly never quit and Kelley was proud of how his players kept working hard and made some runs.
"It's just that the runs we had were a little smaller than the ones they had. That's what state basketball is about ... whoever keeps their composure and possession of the basketball. Either of those games we could have won," the coach said.
It didn't help that the Lady Pirates played without one of its best defenders and ball-handlers. Sierra Pete, a junior, tore a knee ligament in the final game at divisionals and was forced to watch from the sidelines at state.
"Hopefully, we'll have Sierra back and healthy ... that will be a huge advantage for next year," Kelley said. "I didn't want to harp on it too much ... but Sierra was a big part of our success this year. But (with Pete out) we got some of those younger girls into it. It gave us a little glimpse of what we've got coming up. I look at it like it's a little blessing in disguise ... and it will be even bigger if we get Sierra back by November."
Montana State Class A Girls Basketball Championship
March 11-13, 2010
Sidney 44, Polson 40
Polson 11 2 12 15–40
Sidney 11 11 11 11–44
POLSON - Mariah Hamel 3, Breanne Kelly 13, Riley Kenney 11, Nicole Davey 10, Heidi Rausch 3.
SIDNEY - Kodi Satra 3, Kayla Lake 1, Alex Hammer 8, Jordan Sullivan 15, Janae Moore 6, Megan Johnson 4, Whitney Thiel 7.
Havre 52, Polson 44
Havre 8 19 13 12–52
Polson 12 8 9 15–44
HAVRE - Jaclyn Evans 13, Cassi Darrah 20, Chris Mck 3, Cali Freler 6, Paighton Gilman 6, Hayley Donoran 4.
POLSON - Mariah Hamel 4, Breanne Kelley 7, Riley