By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
You can preach and preach, but no matter how often you tell a team that anybody can beat you, it doesn't always register. Especially when you've beaten that team by more than 30 points both times during the regular season.
The second-seeded KG boys basketball team shook off a bit of a sluggish start to defeat a pesky Blue Sky Eagle team 65-39 in opening round action of the District 9C tournament Tuesday afternoon at the HHS gymnasium.
Blue Sky, 1-18 on the season, played very crisp basketball early on taking a 14-10 lead midway through the first quarter and trailing 16-14 at the end of the period.
KG was anything but crisp, missing some point-blank shots, while committing a few silly fouls early on.
"We weren't really sharp to start the game," admitted KG head coach Charlie Robinson. "You know that happens a lot though. The last-place team often times comes out relaxed and plays well in the first-round game. There really is no pressure on them because they have nothing to lose."
Indeed, Blue Sky was able to do something it hasn't done often this season, which is get a shot on almost every possession of the first quarter. The youthful Eagles have been plagued by turnovers and inconsistency during the regular season, but played very poised to start the game.
"When it's going well, we have all five guys involved in our offense," said Blue Sky head coach Brian Campbell. "And we were doing that in the first quarter. But we have spurts where we don't concentrate and don't get guys in the right spots on offense. Then we have guys standing around and our offense breaks down."
One of those spurts came in the second quarter as KG went on a 9-0 run thanks to four consecutive Eagle turnovers. Robinson gave Blue Sky a variety of looks of defensively, which seem to bog down the Eagles' offense.
"We started switching defenses and I think that confused them some," Robinson said. "I though we were still firmly control of the game even if the score didn't indicate it."
But it wasn't just a switch on defense that helped KG. Robinson moved sophomore forward Cody Donoven to the perimeter and senior Luke Antonich on the inside, which sparked the KG offense.
"We had played zone against KG both times in the regular season," Campbell said. "I think it caught them a little off guard. But after that they made some changes and really tried to exploit some one-on-one matchups."
Antonich and Richie Melby got things going inside, scoring on several low-post moves and putbacks.
"They made some tough shots," Campbell said. "Their post players were executing and making great plays."
Said Robinson: "I thought we could take advantage of certain matchups with moving Luke inside and he had a great game. That's the good thing about our kids is that they are all versatile enough to do that."
KG outscored Blue Sky 17-7 in the second quarter to take a 33-21 lead.
At halftime and early in the third quarter, Robinson implored his players to keep extending the defensive pressure. The KouGars shut down the passing lanes, forcing Blue Sky into five consecutive turnovers, leading to 11 points to start the half.
With the lead ballooning to 15 points, KG put Blue Sky away as Tyler Kapperud drained a a three-pointer and Cody Donoven converted a pair of steals into layups to start the fourth quarter.
"When our shots started opening up and we got the lead to 12 points, I thought it was basically over," Robinson said. "We were playing good enough defense that I knew we wouldn't let them back into the game."
Antonich led all scorers with 20 points while Melby added 16 and Donoven chipped in with 10.
Jeremiah Moog led Blue Sky with 10 points and Roald Aageson added nine in the loss.
While Robinson was pleased with win, he admitted it is always a tough situation when his kids play Blue Sky.
"We co-op with Blue Sky in football so all of these kids are good friends," he said. "It's tough sometimes to get that intensity because you don't want to go out there and blow them out. It's just a different situation with all the friendships."
Campbell knows his team is capable of winning a game in the tourney, but it must play a complete game to do so.
"Every game we've lost we have either two good quarters or sometimes even three," he said. "But we still need to put together a good fourth quarter. If we ever get to the fourth quarter with a lead, I think it will take care of itself."
KG will play third-seeded Box Elder on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in semifinal action. Blue Sky drops to loser-out action and will face Rocky Boy tonight at 7 p.m.
Kremlin-Gilford 65, Blue Sky 39
KG 16 17 17 15 - 65
Blue Sky 14 7 12 6 - 33
KG (14-5) - Branden Melby 7, Drew Kapperud 6, Luke Antonich 20, Darby Donovan 6, Cody Donovan 10, Richie Melby 16.
Blue Sky (1-18) - Jeremiah Moog 10, Darius Wendland 6, Conrad Wendland 2, Roald Aageson 9, Alex Frey 3, Levi Wendland 5, Mat Sudan 4.
Three-point goals - Kapperud 2, Moog 2, D. Wendland 1, R. Aageson 1. Total Fouls - KG 14, Blue Sky 18. Fouled out -Joel Fladstol (BS).