By Ryan Divish
Cady Arifin didn't have time for her foot to hurt, she barely had time to rest.
The 5-7 senior for KG played all 32 minutes of the game and scored a game-high 28 points to lead the KouGars past the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds, 47-37, in District 9C tournament first round action at the Havre High gymnasium Wednesday afternoon.
Arifin, who has been bothered by a strained arch in the past weeks, knocked down eight field goals including two three-pointers, shot 10-13 from free throw line and harassed the T-Birds best player, Suzie Kirkaldie, all game.
"When you're playing you don't really notice it," Arifin said of the sore foot. "It hurts more when I get done."
Perhaps Arifin didn't notice her foot hurting because she was never really off it. As one of three seniors on a very youthful team, her only rests came during timeouts and breaks in play.
"She's just such a great athlete," said KG head coach Heidi Borlaug. "She doesn't seem to get tired. She can press somebody all game. She might not have got a lot of steals, but she caused quite a few turnovers."
But it isn't just Arifin logging the big minutes. KG used only six players in the game and the starters played the entire second, third and fourth quarters.
"My girls are used to playing the whole game," Borlaug said. "We've had to do it all year."
Another reason, KG had to keep its starters in is because they were in a bit of a struggle with an equally youthful T-Bird squad.
Hays used the size of 6-1 freshman Collette Hawley to cause problems for KG offensively and defensively.
"When our tallest player is 5-8, it's a struggle against bigger players," Borlaug said.
However, when Hawley was saddled with her second foul early in the second quarter, the T-Birds struggled. Hays managed just two points - a Kirkaldie short jumpshot - in the entire quarter.
With Hawley on the bench, the middle opened up for the KouGars. Mandy Rambo picked up a couple of nice score inside, Emily Stewart also scored on a putback while Arifin scored eight points and punctuated the 15-2 run with a three-pointer with five seconds remaining in the half to give KG a 23-11 lead.
The T-Birds wouldn't go away quietly. Hawley and Kirkaldie scored all 14 of their team's points in the third quarter to pull within six points at 31-26.
However, that's as close as they would get. Arifin scored KG's first 10 points of the fourth quarter while the T-Birds missed an excess of close shots and never threatened again in the game.
"We turned the ball over at some key times," said T-Birds coach Andy Smith. "And we missed quite a few layups that hurt us as well. I was really hoping for the girls to get a win in the tournament. We had our chances."
Hawley finished with 17 points for Hays-Lodge Pole while Kirkaldie added nine in the loss.
The first round win for KG moves the KouGars into the semifinals. Unfortunately, top-ranked Big Sandy is waiting there for them.
"We played Big Sandy twice and lost to them by 17 or 18 points both times," Borlaug said. "The girls know we have to play well. The key is their press and not turning it over against it."
Said Arifin: "They have one of the toughest presses in the state. We also have to get back on defense so they don't get any easy shots. We usually play better against good teams."