By Ryan Divish
Make it seven in a row. The KG boys basketball team is flat rolling. The KouGars made it look easy as they dropped the defending Class C state champion Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds, 73-35, to win their seventh consecutive game in District 9C tournament first-round action at the Havre High gymnasium on Wednesday afternoon.
KG used an aggressive 2-3 zone defense, relentless work on the offensive board and picked apart the T-Bird zone defense to move into today's semifinals.
"The big key was we came out aggressive defensively," said veteran KG coach Charlie Robinson. "It took our mind off the opening game jitters and allowed us to get some easy baskets. Once we got a little lead, we relaxed and really started to play."
Indeed, the KouGars grabbed a 2-0 lead on a Luke Antonich putback and steadily built on it. Thomas Marshall scored 10 of his 17 points in the first quarter as KG pulled away.
The first quarter was an indication of things to come. KG pounded Hays on the offensive glass, getting second and third opportunities. Sixteen of the KouGars' 38 points came on second chance points. Defensively, KG extended its zone well past the three-point line and contested every T-Bird pass.
"We jump pretty well and were pretty athletic," Robinson said. "It gives us an added edge. We'll block a shot, or get a putback or tip a pass because of that athleticism."
Because of KG's athleticism, Hays was rendered largely to a two-player team. Trevor Boushie and Nathan Martin scored all but two of the T-Birds' points in the first half. The two remaining contributors from last season's championship team still had to work for every shot they took. Martin scored only seven points in the game, but set up most of Boushie's game-high 19 points.
All 10 of the KouGar players scored in the contest, with four players scoring double figures led by Marshall with 17 points. Casey Crites and Antonich scored 13 points apiece, while Richie Melby chipped in with 10 points.
KG will now face Box Elder in semifinal action today at 2:30 p.m. Hays-Lodge Pole will face the loser of that game. The KouGars' last loss came against the Bears on Jan. 18.
"It's going to be a very tough game," Robinson said. "We were ahead in the third quarter, but made some mistakes down the stretch."
If one team could match KG's athleticism and speed it's Box Elder, while the Bears are one of the few teams that KG has a distinct size advantage over.
"Box Elder will be ready," Robinson said. "Bobby (Small) does an excellent job with his kids. We need to take care of the ball a little better. In the last game, they seemed to get their hands on a lot of passes."
KG may have a bit of an edge, Robinson admits, having played a game in the tournament while Box Elder had a first-round bye.
"They've beat us twice this season," Robinson said. "Maybe now its our turn."