By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
If you had to point to a game in the opening round of the District 9C boys basketball tournament that might feature an upset, then the matchup between third-seeded KG and sixth-seeded Turner looked like a good pick.
But the KouGars had other ideas as they rolled past Turner 64-36 Thursday night at the Havre High gymnasium.
KG used a stifling defense to shut down the normally solid Turner offense, particularly in the second half. On the other side of the ball, the KouGars were propelled to victory by a stellar night from junior Cody Donoven.
Donoven scored a game-high 33 points and both KG head coach Charlie Robinson and Turner head coach Terry Jones agreed that both factors played a huge part in the outcome.
"I thought we won the game on the defensive end of the floor," Robinson said. "We struggled a little offensively in the first half, but the kids played really hard on the defensive end, and that kept us in the game when we weren't shooting the ball particularly well."
Said Jones: "KG is just so well-coached and they were so well prepared tonight. They really shut us down, especially in the second half and that forced us into taking shots that we didn't want to take. Eventually they just wore us down. They are the best defensive team in our league and it showed tonight."
Despite the lopsided final margin, Turner had it's chances throughout the first half to really put KG on the ropes.
After Drew Kapperud opened the game with a 3-pointer, Turner reeled off seven unanswered points behind the solid shooting of sophomore point guard Chad Jones and the inside play of Emory Hedegaard.
But the 5:37 mark of the first quarter would be the last time Turner would score for the next seven-plus minutes. KG closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run with Donoven scoring six straight points. Donoven then opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer to push the lead up to six points.
Turner was able to rebound from the drought and eventually took the lead down to one, behind six straight points from Hedegaard. Donoven kept the KouGars ahead, scoring all of KG's 13 points in the quarter. By the time the dust settled on a frenzied first half, KG was clinging to a one-point lead, 26-25.
"I thought we played pretty well in stretches in the first half," Jones said. "Our zone was working for the most part and we picked it up offensively in the second quarter. But KG made better adjustments than we did in the second half and things changed pretty quickly."
It only took three and a half minutes in the third quarter for things to change for good. The KouGars opened the second half on a 12-0 run behind six straight points from sophomore Branden Melby and the continued fine play of Donoven.
KG's defense, as it has done all season, put the clamps down on Turner at a critical juncture in the game. The result was Turner getting just one field goal in the third quarter and was outscored 16-3.
Turner's inability to solve the KG defensive puzzle in the third quarter did them in, and Robinson was pleased with his team's efforts in the second half.
Donoven put the finishing touches on his masterpiece in the fourth quarter, opening with another 3-pointer and scoring seven more points as the KouGars breezed home.
"What can you say about Cody Donoven except for that he is the best player in our league," Robinson said. "He and Branden Melby both played great tonight.
"We made a couple of minor adjustments at halftime and the result was that we played much better in the second half."
Said Jones: "KG just really forced us to play the type of game that we didn't want to play in the second half and it really threw us off. They just ran away from us. And Donoven caught fire tonight. He had a tremendous game. But I am really proud of our kids. They played really well in the first half and they didn't quit the whole way."
Donoven's night was nothing short of spectacular. Besides his 33 points, he was in double digits in rebounding. KG also got nine points from Melby.
Turner was paced by Hedegaard's 13 points. Leading scorer Dalton Cornell, who had been averaging 18 points per game, was held to just 10 on the night.
The loss to KG puts Turner into tonight's loser-out game where they will face the Blue Sky/J-I Eagles at 8:30 p.m. KG will be back in familiar territory as it has reached the semifinals yet again. The KouGars will square off against second-seeded Hays-Lodge Pole at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night.
KG 64, Turner 36
KG 13 13 16 22 - 64
Turner 10 15 3 8 - 36
KG - Shawn Hanson 2, Alden Mayes 3, Branden Melby 9, Drew Kapperud 6, Shane Rice 8, Cody Donovan 33.
Turner - Dalton Cornell 10, Colin Jones 6, Emory Hedegaard 13, Logan Fouts 2, Chad Jones 5.
Total Fouls - KG 12, Turner 12. Fouled out - Rice, Hedegaard. 3-pointers - Mayes 1, Kapperud 2, Donoven 2.