By Ryan Divish
It's a bittersweet memory for Blue Sky girls head coach Liz Olsen that she didn't want her players to experience anytime soon.
During Olsen's high school playing days, she was a member of a second-seeded team that was upset in the first round of the district tournament by a seventh-seed.
"You never know what's going to happen during tournament time," Olsen said.
However, it didn't happen to her team. The Eagles shook off a slow start to rout the Rocky Boy Morning Stars, 68-46, in first round action on Tuesday afternoon at the Havre High gymnasium.
Things didn't look good early for the Eagles. Blue Sky managed just five points in the first six-minutes of the game and at one stretch turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions. However, a tough drive from Natalie Strissel, a putback by Jessica Patrick and five consecutive points from Lindsay Anderson shook the Eagles from their offensive funk.
"We have girls that really like to create their own shots and shoot off the dribble," Olsen said. "I told them to take advantage of that, relax and shoot the ball."
While Blue Sky offense came alive, Rocky Boy's offense was slowed up by the Eagle's full-court pressure. After scoring their fifth point at the 3:10 mark of the first quarter, the Morning Stars didn't score again until mid-way through the second quarter. During that stretch, Blue Sky scored 21 unanswered points to put the game away early.
"The press didn't bother us as much," said Rocky Boy head coach Martin Parker. "It slowed us down, but when we got it past half-court we just threw it away."
Blue Sky cruised in the second half, leading by as much as 29 points. However, Rocky Boy didn't pack it in. The Morning Stars even went on a 10-2 run to keep the game respectable at the end.
"Our girls played hard," Parker said. "We got really blown out by Blue Sky the two times we played them this season. I am happy with the way we played today."
Blue Sky was led by Anderson's game-high 24 points while Patrick added 21. Rocky Boy got 13 point from Marty Rae Stiffarm and nine points apiece from Shaneen Raining Bird and Deidra Sunchild.
For Olsen the main thing was winning the game they were supposed to win and not looking ahead to Thursday's semifinal matchup with Box Elder, who knocked off Blue Sky on Jan. 31.
"We tried to focus completely on the first game," Olsen said. "You can't ever assume anything in a tournament. Still, we are excited to see Box Elder again. We definitely wanted another shot at them."
The Eagles will have to contend with Box Elder's duo of Tami Infante and Brandy Lawrence. Infante scored 24 points against Blue Sky in the win while Lawrence added 13 points, many of them key down the stretch.
"Infante's tough," Olsen said. "You try to slow her down, but she's going to get her points. We just have to keep the rest of their players, especially Lawrence, off the boards."
Blue Sky and Box Elder will meet in one semifinal at 7 p.m. on Thursday night while Rocky Boy will face Turner in loser-out action tonight at 7 p.m.