By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
You wouldn't know it by the look on her face as she walked off the floor amid celebrating teammates, but Sheena Shambo had just won the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds the game.
The intense senior shooting guard didn't look like a player who had buried four 3-pointers in overtime and carried her team to a 72-71 overtime victory over the Turner Tornadoes in Wednesday's first round action of the District 9C tournament at the Havre High gym. The T-Birds advance in today's 1 p.m. semifinal against Rocky Boy.
Nope, she looked like someone had ran over dog. Maybe it was the look of a winner.
"It feels good," said an unusually calm Shambo after the game. "This is a big win. Hays hasn't been this far before. It puts us one game closer to the championship."
It looked for awhile as if Hays may be one game closer to ending their season. The T-Birds stared possible losses in the face late in the fourth quarter and overtime, but never blinked.
Turner appeared headed for its first 9C tournament win in some time, grabbing a 58-55 lead following a Kelsey Klindworth steal and a lay-up and a Cheryl Cowan free throw.
T-Birds head coach Rick Adsit called a timeout after his team got the ball in the front court, leaving 10.8 seconds remaining.
Hays inbounded the ball to senior Jean White Cow, who dribbled towards Shambo on the wing. However, Turner had Shambo defended well, and White Cow reversed the ball to junior Suzi Kirkaldie at the top of the key with time running out. Kirkaldie was basically wide open and buried the 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
"We did exactly what we drew up in the timeout," Adsit said. "We wanted to have two options. Sheena was guarded and Suzi was open. It makes us look really smart, but she hit a big shot in a big situation."
While the Hays bench was celebrating the extra period, Turner could only count the missed opportunities.
The Tornadoes decimated their chances of putting the game away in regulation from the free-throw line. Turner made just three of eight attempts in the game's final two minutes, allowing Hays to fight back into the game.
In the overtime period, things didn't appear to be going the T-Birds way from the start.
Klindworth scored the first three points of the extra frame on one of two free throws and a breakaway lay-up.
Shambo answered with her second 3-pointer to tie the game, but Klindworth dribbled down on the next possession and banged home a three of her own to push the lead back to 64-61.
Hays answered as White Cow picked up a steal and lay-up and Shambo nailed another three to go up 66-64. But that's when things got really interesting for the T-Birds.
Star center and Hays' leading scorer Colette Hawley fouled out with 1:22 remaining. Klindworth made one of two free throws from the foul and Ashley VanVoast took advantage of Hawley's absence by scoring on a putback to give Turner a 67-66 lead.
Hays was once again dealt a setback as Kirkaldie fouled out, leaving the T-Birds just one starter on the floor - Shambo.
"I felt kind of alone out there," Shambo said. "I'm not used to playing without them."
It didn't seem to matter much as she buried her third 3-pointer of the overtime from the wing to put the T-Birds back up 69-67.
Still, Turner simply wouldn't go away and the free throws that weren't falling in the fourth quarter started falling late in the game.
Cheryl Cowan sank a pair of free throws with 57.3 seconds remaining to tie the game 69. Twenty-four seconds later freshman Chelsi Jones hit the two biggest free throws of her brief high school career, draining a pair to put Turner up 71-69.
But Shambo wasn't through. With one final possession, there was little doubt who would take the final shot. She broke free at the top of the key with less than 10 seconds remaining and didn't hesitate letting the potential game-winner fly. The shot was true and didn't touch a hint of the rim.
"I felt really confident," Shambo said. "Coach told me to have confidence in myself and my shot."
It was a far cry from two weeks ago when Shambo couldn't seem to make anything.
"She was really struggling two weeks ago," Adsit said. "But she had 16 against Turner a week ago and she really shot it well tonight. We knew she was capable of it."
Shambo finished with a game-high 27 points, including seven 3-pointers. Kirkaldie had 17 points with three 3's, despite sitting out most of third quarter with four fouls. Hawley was her normal dominant self, scoring 15 points despite being double-teamed for most of the game.
"They were doubling up on Colette a lot, but Suzi and Sheena stepped up and hit some threes which kind of opened things up for Colette in the second half," Adsit said.
The trios heroics overshadowed a tough effort from the Tornadoes, who were trying to beat Hays for the first time this season, after falling twice in the regular season.
Turner jumped out to 16-7 first-quarter lead as Cowan and Klindworth combined for 12 points in the run.
The Tornadoes led for the next three quarters as Cowan and Klindworth scored in a variety of ways and they took advantage of T-Bird foul trouble. Turner scored 27 points in the game from the free-throw line. Unfortunately, the Tornadoes attempted a whopping 45 free throws, which meant a ton of missed opportunities.
Cowan finished with a game-high 28 points, while Klindworth added 21. VanVoast, who sat out much of the game with foul trouble, still added 12 in the loss.
Turner will take on the loser of the Big Sandy/Blue Sky semifinal on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Hays-Lodge Pole will face the top-seeded Rocky Boy Morning Stars in today's semifinal at 1 p.m. A place where a T-Birds' girls squad hasn't been since 1986.
"It's been a long time since Hays has been this far," Shambo said.
Said Adsit: "This win gives us 10 wins for the season. I think the last time a Hays team won 10 games was in 1986 when they made it state. It really shows that we're starting to build something here."
Hays-Lodge Pole 72,
Turner 71 (OT)
Hays-Lodge Pole 7 21 15 15 14 - 72
Turner 16 15 15 12 13 - 71
Hays-Lodge Pole - Jean White Cow 2, Suzi Kirkaldie 17, Sheena Shambo 27, Colette Hawley 15, Yolanda Ereaux 7. Totals: 26 10-25 72.
Turner - Celeste Hedegaard 7, Cheryl Cowan 28, Kelsey Klindworth 21, Ashley VanVoast 12, Chelsi Jones 3. Totals: 22 27-45 71.
Total Fouls - H-LP 33, Turner 19. Fouled out - Kirkaldie, Twai Werk (H-LP), Hawley, Ereaux, Cowan, Hedegaard. 3-point goals - Shambo 7, Kirkaldie 3,