By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
There are three things you can't do in the basketball postseason and expect to win. You can't turn the ball over, you can't miss layups and you can't miss free throws.
You can get away with doing one or two and still have a chance at winning. Unfortunately, the Turner Tornadoes committed all three as they were soundly defeated by the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds 66-52 in first-round action of the District 9C tournament on Wednesday afternoon at the Havre High gymnasium.
The combination of the T-Birds pressure defense and the absence of Turner's leading scorer, Clancy Kegel, led to Turner's offensive woes.
"We wanted to play at an up-tempo pace," said T-Birds head coach Ken Morin. "We knew they weren't comfortable playing at a fast pace and we knew that Kegel was hurt, so we just tried to keep running to wear them out."
Indeed, Hays came out running from the opening tip, rolling to a 17-9 first-quarter lead. Turner looked just a little out of rhythm offensively without Kegel, who twisted his knee against Box Elder last weekend and still has quite a bit of fluid built up in it.
"It makes a big difference for us not having him out there," said Turner head coach Tim Conlan. "We lose a senior, our best and most confident outside shooter, and 11 rebounds per game."
Even Morin admitted as much as the same.
"Kegel scored over 20 points against us both times against us in the regular season," he said. "Not having him out there gave our kids a little more confidence defensively."
Still, even without Kegel, the Tornadoes started getting some pretty good shots in their half-court offense. But there was one small problem - they weren't going in. Turner missed a plethora of wide-open shots, several from point-blank range, which allowed the T-Birds to build the lead.
Even though the shots weren't falling, Turner was still within striking distance in the second quarter.
The T-Birds' aggressive defense was beginning to have repercussions as they started picking up fouls, putting the Tornadoes into the bonus with over five minutes left to play in the half. Turner capitalized, sinking six of 10 free-throws while getting some solid play from Duane Hofer and Evan Hauge to keep the game somewhat close.
The T-Birds maintained their lead throughout the quarter, picking apart the Tornado zone with Joe Small, Dwight Flansburg and Lance Brockie all hitting three-pointers to hold a 29-21 lead at halftime.
"We've been executing really well against the zone lately," Morin said. "We're a pretty good outside shooting team and our kids know what to do to get those open looks."
But the eight-point lead wasn't enough for Morin. He decided to turn up the T-Birds' full-court pressure in the second half to hopefully get the game moving at an even faster tempo. Hays forced Turner into several turnovers and was able to get some easy baskets in transition. Robyn Doney and Delaine Ariwite scored six points each in the quarter as Hays extended its lead to 47-33.
Even though Turner's shooting woes continued, Hays couldn't quite put its foe away until early in the fourth quarter when a 45-second stretch early on ended any Tornado rally hopes.
The T-Birds forced Turner into four consecutive turnovers with their full-court press that led to a pair of layups Michael Gray, a short jumper for Flansburg and a three-pointer for Garrett Morin. Hays' 49-36 lead ballooned to a 60-34 lead, putting the game out of reach.
"We really started clicking on our press," Morin said. "We were filling the passing lanes and getting some steals. It got our running game going."
Said Conlan: "It's the same story for us all year. We miss layups, we turn the ball over and we miss too many free throws. That's a bad combination to have during tournament time. You won't win any games doing that. We made stupid mistakes and they capitalized."
Hays placed 10 players in the scoring column, led by Robyn Doney's 12 points while Steven Shambo added 10. Turner got a game-high 17 points from Evan Hauge, 11 from Dalton Cornell and 10 from Brandon Simons.
The Tornadoes move into Friday's loser-out action to face the loser of the KG-Box Elder semifinal. The T-Birds will face No. 1 Big Sandy in today's semifinal.
"This is the biggest game of their lives," Morin said. "We know they have three players that might be equal to six of our players. We need to rebound and hit from outside or they are just going to pack it in on us and dare us to shoot."
Hays-Lodge Pole 68, Turner 52
Hays-Lodge Pole 17 12 18 21- 68
Turner 9 12 12 19 - 52
Hays-Lodge Pole - Joe Small 6, Garrett Morin 3, Delaine Ariwite 8, Cody Main 2, Andrew Walker 6, Robyn Doney 12, Michael Gray 8, Steven Shambo 10, Dwight Flansburg 7, Lance Brockie 7. Totals: 25 11-15.
Turner - David Jones 6, Brandon Simons 10, Dalton Cornell 11, Duane Hofer 7, Evan Hauge 17, Emory Hedegaard 1. Totals: 17 18-26.
Total fouls: Hays-Lodge Pole 26, Turner 13. Fouled out: Simons. Three-point goals: Ariwite 2, Small, Morin, Shambo, Flansburg, Brockie 1, Jones, Cornell 1.