Havre Daily News
The Turner girls basketball team was able to withstand Rocky Boy's offensive assault for little more than half of the first round of the District 9C girls basketball tournament Tuesday night.
Like a levee trying to keep the water out, the Tornadoes held a slim lead as long as they could, until finally the barrier broke and the Morning Stars overtook them in a tidal wave.
The third-seeded Morning Stars earned a hard-fought 56-47 win over the Tornadoes at the Havre High gymnasium.
The game got off to a very slow start before Turner's Ashley Van Voast got a couple of old-fashioned 3-point plays to give the Tornadoes an early 9-4 lead.
Down 9-6, Tori Belcourt nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, including one as time expired, to give the Morning Stars a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Turner quickly tied the game with a Kelsey Klindworth trey and took the lead on a Cheryl Cowan layup at 14-12. The Morning Stars quickly answered with a 7-0 run, giving them a 19-14 lead.
Then, Van Voast asserted her dominance in the low post. She muscled her way to nine consecutive points, putting Turner back out front at 23-19.
By halftime, the Tornadoes' lead swelled to 27-22, and it appeared a possible upset was brewing.
“Early on in the game, we were able to establish Ashley Van Voast inside and got some easy baskets,” Turner head coach Brenda Mohar said. “Eventually they took the inside away from us and we just didn't hit any shots from the perimeter.”
After exchanging baskets to open the second half, Cowan scored to put the Tornadoes up 31-24. Facing their largest deficit of the game, the Morning Stars had to make a run, and that is exactly what they did. The Morning Stars scored eight straight points to reclaim the lead 32-31, and the game was on.
Cowan would hit two free throws and score another basket, answering the Rocky Boy spurt and putting Turner in front 35-32.
That's when Tori Belcourt began to take over.
Belcourt scored 10 of the Morning Stars' next 14 points, sparking a 10-0 run and giving them back the lead at 42-35.
Sensing that Turner was back on its heels, Rocky Boy began to apply some full-court pressure that would eventually give the Morning Stars some easy scoring opportunities, as the Tornadoes began turning the ball over left and right.
“We rely heavily on our press not only for our offense, but it also gets our team fired up to play,” Rocky Boy head coach Deb LaMere said. “We pressured them into making some turnovers, and I think that we just eventually began to wear them down as the game wore on.”
While the Tornadoes couldn't seem to buy a basket in the second half, the Morning Stars were scoring at will as both Tori Belcourt and Loni Belcourt found open lanes to the basket and took advantage of a fatigued Turner defense. Rocky Boy continued to build on their lead, getting ahead by as much as 11 points.
“The big thing was that we just turned the ball over way too much in the second half,” Mohar said. “You just can't turn the ball over that many times. That really took us out of our offense and out of the game.”
Turner made a small push late in the game cutting the lead to eight, at 53-45, in the fourth period. But Rocky Boy was just too much for the Tornadoes to handle, and the Morning Stars held on for the win.
Tori Belcourt led all scorers with 24 points in the win, including a pair of treys. Loni Belcourt pitched in with 14.
Turner was led by Van Voast, who notched an impressive 23 points, and Cowan contributed with 17 points in the losing effort.
“Tori is our point guard and she is obviously someone we rely heavily upon not just to score, but to handle the ball as well,” LaMere said. “She had a really good night scoring for us tonight. Loni also played really well. She has such a good first step and she is just a great scorer.”
Said Mohar: “We were just flat-footed tonight,” Mohar said. “We were flat-footed on both offense and defense. After they started pressuring us, we just eventually ran out of gas.”
After blowing an opportunity for an upset, the Tornadoes will now move on to loser-out action tonight at 8:30. against Box Elder.
In loser-out play, the winner moves on and the loser goes home, so both teams can't afford to dwell too long on their opening round losses.
“We just have to take better care of the ball and finish games better,” Mohar said. “These girls will turn it around, and we will be ready to play.”
Rocky Boy moves into the 9C semifinals for the third straight year. The Morning Stars will take on North Star Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to the championship game.
“We feel pretty good about our chances,” LaMere said. “We played them (North Star) tight during the season and if we just go out and play 32 good minutes of basketball, we will be in good shape.”
Morning Stars 56, Tornadoes 47
Rocky Boy 12 10 16 18 - 56
Turner 9 18 8 12 - 47
Rocky Boy - Shaneen Raining Bird 6, Loni Belcourt 14, Tori Belcourt 24, Frances Eagleman 3, Apryl Webster 3, Erinn Broncho 6. Totals 19 9-14 56.
Turner - Chelsi Jones 2, Ashley Van Voast 23, Cheryl Cowan 17, Kelsey Klindworth 3, Krista Chambers 2. Totals 16 12-16 47.
3-pointers - Rocky Boy 3 (T. Belcourt 2, Webster), Turner 1 (Klindworth). Total Fouls - Rocky Boy 18, Turner 16. Fouled out - Kelsey Klindworth.