When it comes to tournament time, momentum can mean everything.
It seemed that after Thursday afternoon's 62-55 semifinal win over the top-seeded Box Elder Bears, the KG KouGars have all the momentum they need to propel them to a possible District 9C championship.
The win over the Bears was the eighth-straight victory by the streaking KouGars and it advances them into Saturday night's championship game against the Big Sandy Pioneers.
"I feel like we are playing very well right now," said KG head coach Charlie Robinson. "We came out today and played very solid against a very good Box Elder team. Now we'll just have to see what happens on Saturday night."
While Robinson and the KouGars were feeling good after their upset win, Box Elder head coach Bobby Small was left wondering what had happened to his team.
"This is a tough loss for a lot of reasons," Small said. "But our kids are positive. They will be able to get up for the next game because we still feel like this tournament is not over for us."
Things looked good for the Bears early in the contest as they started off the game going a perfect five for five, grabbing a quick 10-0 lead. They continued to stay hot as they pushed the lead to 15-4 before the KouGars finally got their offense on track. KG chipped away at the lead with a 8-0 run in the period's final minute.
It was crucial moment for KG and didn't allow Box Elder to blow the game open.
"We knew that Box Elder was going to come out fired up and they shot the lights out early," Robinson said. "We talked about withstanding their early burst and we did that. The kids responded from having the composure to take that early blow."
Not only did the KouGars take the Bears' best first-quarter punch, they countered with a 12-0 run in the final five minutes of the second quarter to take a 29-21 lead into the locker room. The run was sparked by a pair of Casey Crites three-pointers and back-to-back layups from Richie Melby.
"We have had trouble putting teams away all season," Small said. "I felt like we had some good chances in the first half to get in front. Instead, we made some mistakes and KG took advantage."
In the third quarter, the KouGars extended their run from the first half to 22-0 as Crites drilled two threes early and the lead ballooned to 17 points at 39-22.
However, the lifeless Bears came alive to go on a 14-0 run in the final four minutes of the period. The run was capped by seldom-used Aaron Henry, who was filling in for the injured Marcus Standing Rock. Henry drilled a wild three at the buzzer to cut the KG lead to 39-36 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, both teams went on mini-runs of six points to keep the game at a one-point margin. But the KouGars benefited by a host of Bear fouls that sent them to the free-throw line and allowed them to ice the game by shooting 9-12 in the final 1:30.
"They (KG) made their free throws all game long," Small said. "That makes it tough when a team goes to the line 27 times and they shoot the ball that well. But we still had chances late in the fourth quarter and we couldn't get the shots to fall when we really needed them."
Said Robinson: "I just thought that we executed our game plan well today. We got good shots on offense. Defensively, we were able to force Box Elder into some shots I don't think they wanted to take and some of their kids just didn't hit them."
The KouGars also got a balanced scoring effort from Crites and Melby as well as Tyler Kapperud. Crites led the way with 18 points while Kapperud added 15 and Melby chipped in with 14 points, including a 6-6 performance from the foul line. The Bears got 18 points from Neal Rosette while the conference's leading scorer, Standing Rock, was held to 10.
Box Elder will face Turner this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in loser-out action. The KouGars and Pioneers will square off in Saturday night's final contest at 8:30 p.m.