By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
There is something about the opening game of the postseason tournament that winds players up just a little tighter. Consequently, the rim sometimes looks as if it will barely fit a basketball.
It was no different during Wednesday afternoon's first-round game of the girls District 9C tournament between Turner and Rocky Boy. Early on, it appeared if neither team could make a shot in the back of a dump truck, let alone a 10-foot basket.
But the Morning Stars broke out of their shooting funk, something that the Tornadoes never could as Rocky Boy picked up a 54-19 victory.
The HHS gym looked more like an ice hockey rink as the two squads skated to a 4-4 tie in the first quarter.
"Neither team could really get into the flow of the game," said Rocky Boy head coach Derek Small. "They wanted to play at slow pace and we wanted to run and no one could hit a shot."
However, Rocky Boy warmed up in the second quarter, outscoring Turner 15-2. Tori Belcourt's three-pointer from the top of the key sparked the Morning Star run. It could have been even more, but Rocky Boy made just two of eight free throws in the quarter.
"I told our girls to keep working hard for good shots and not forcing shots," Small said. "As long we kept taking good shots, they were going to start to fall."
While Rocky Boy was getting hot, Turner was throwing up enough bricks to build an igloo.
The Tornadoes scored the opening basket of the game on an Ashley Van Voast layup, then waited for almost six minutes before Britney Jones nailed a short jumpshot. Turner's only basket of the second quarter came on another Van Voast score inside. The Tornadoes also didn't help themselves by missing all six of their free-throw attempts in the first half.
"It wasn't pretty," said Turner head coach Joyce Van Voast. "Once again, we couldn't anything going offensively. We just couldn't make any shots. And the more we missed, the more frustration set in."
With Turner firing blanks, Rocky Boy put the game away in the second half as junior Marty Rae Stiffarm took over. Stiffarm almost outscored Turner by herself with 12 second-half points as the Stars' lead ballooned.
"Marty wants the ball in that situation," Small said. "She can really hold her own and she showed good leadership."
Rocky Boy used its full-court pressure to force turnovers and push a faster tempo, a pace with which Turner isn't comfortable with.
"We started turning the ball over and making silly fouls out of frustration," Van Voast said. "They really forced the tempo and we didn't make enough shots to slow it down."
Rocky Boy was really rolling in the fourth quarter with Turner on the ropes. The Stars scored 24 fourth-quarter points as the game got out of hand.
Eight Rocky Boy players scored in the game led by Stiffarm's 14 points. Loni Belcourt added 10 and sister Tori had eight.
Turner got nine points from Cheryl Cowan and eight from Van Voast in the loss. The Tornadoes will face the loser of the KG-Big Sandy semifinal on Friday.
"It comes down to confidence," Van Voast said. "We know we can play much better than that. We just have to relax and play like were capable of."
Rocky Boy will face top-seeded Blue Sky today in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m.. Small's concerns will turn to slowing down the Eagles' duo of Lindsay Anderson and Kaila Warren.
"We have to find a way to slow them down as much as possible," Small said. "We need to carry over the way we played at the end of the game to the first beginning of our next game."
Rocky Boy 54, Turner 19
Turner 4 2 8 5 - 19
Rocky Boy 4 15 11 24 - 54
Turner - Britney Jones 2, Ashley Van Voast 8, Cheryl Cowan 9. Totals: 8 3-12 19.
Rocky Boy - Allie Sunchild 2, Leiloni Belcourt 10, Ronnie Jo LaMere 5, Tori Belcourt 8, ShoShanna Saddler 4, Deidra Sunchild 6, Chelsey St. Pierre 5, Marty Rae Stiffarm 14. Totals: 24 4-13 54.
Three-point goals - R. LaMere 1, T. Belcourt 1, D. Sunchild, M. Stiffarm.