By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Coming into Wednesday night's loser-out game with Box Elder at the District 9C girls basketball tournament, it had been a long time since the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds could say that they have won a game in this tournament.
But the T-Birds won't have to say that anymore, as they overcame a very shaky start and knock off the Bears 61-50 at the Havre High gymnasium.
"This is a really big win for us tonight," said Hays-Lodge Pole head coach Hank Doney. " We haven't won a game in this tournament for a very long time, and I am really happy for our girls right now."It will be a very happy ride home tonight."
Things did not look good for the T-Birds early on. Even though they had defeated the Bears twice during the regular season, the Thunderbirds struggled to find any sort of offense, or defense for that matter in the early going.
Box Elder jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead as turnovers absolutely killed Hays in the first quarter as the T-Birds committed 12 of them.
Box Elder point guard Rebecca Eagleman got off to a hot start, scoring seven first-quarter points to help stake the Bears to a 13-4 lead at the end of one quarter.
However, just before the period ended something happened to the T-Birds that would eventually prove to be too much for the Bears to handle. Sophomore center Colette Hawley scored her first basket of the night, and only the T-Birds second. It was just the first of many.
Hawley would end up being the difference in the outcome of the game. Although, she didn't pick up much of the scoring until the second half, she made her presence felt early. Hawley grabbed key rebounds that started transition baskets and blocked shots with relative ease.
By the time the first half came to an end, the Thunderbirds had outscored Box Elder 15-9, and trailed just 22-19. The comeback was a result of a 9-0 run to start the second period which all but erased the Bears large lead.
"We didn't get off to a good start at all," Doney said. "I think we were pretty tired. The girls sat around most of the day and didn't really get a chance to rest."
"But they fought hard and we were able to stay in the game at halftime," Doney added.
In the third quarter, Eagleman did all she could to keep the Bears from getting beating. But Hays ripped off another 9-0 run in the last two minutes of the period which led to its first lead of the night at 33-30.
In the final stanza, both teams picked up the tempo. Eagleman opened the quarter with a three-pointer and a steal that led to a layup. That short spurt would briefly give Box Elder the lead back.
But it wouldn't last long. Sophomore Sheena Shambo drilled a three midway through the period that sparked the T-Birds to another nine unanswered points and a 51-42 lead.
The Bears would get no closer as Hawley's presence inside continued to keep the Bears at bay. By the time the dust settled on the furious fourth quarter, the Thunderbirds had outscored the Bears 28-20 and grabbed an 11-point win.
"Colette Hawley was definitely the difference tonight," Doney said. "They just didn't have a way to stop her inside. And Sheena Shambo was able to hit some big shots for us in the second half even though she was suffering from a migraine headache."
"You have to give a lot of credit to Box Elder too," Doney added. "We had a definite size advantage, but they battled and fought hard. They played really well tonight and they are going to be a very good basketball team."
Hawley finished the night with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Shambo chipped in with 14 points and Heather Doney added eight. The Bears got a very strong effort from Eagleman. She scored a game-high 22 points and had seven steals. Shaneen Raining Bird also had 12 points in the loss.
The season is now over for the Bears as they finish the year with a 1-19 overall record. Hays-Lodge Pole will now move into Friday's loser-out game where they will either face Blue Sky or Rocky Boy at 8:30 p.m.
Hays-Lodge Pole 61, Box Elder 50
Box Elder 13 9 8 20 - 50
Hays-Lodge Pole 5 14 14 18 - 61
Box Elder - Rebecca Eagleman 22, Gerri Eagleman 6, Ashley Parisian 2, Tasha Parisian 4, Shaneen Raining Bird 12, Sharlene Yellowtail 4.
Hays-Lodge Pole - K.K. Kirkaldie 4, Heather Doney 8, Jennifer Messerly 3, Vanessa Webb 7, Sheena Shambo 14, Colette Hawley 21, Marika Werk 4.
Total Fouls - Hays-Lodge Pole 19, Box Elder 15. Fouled out - G. Eagleman, Kirkaldie. Three point goals - Messerly 1, Webb 1, Shambo 2, R. Eagleman 2, G. Eagleman 1.