Havre Daily News
In every loser-out game, one team's season comes to an end, while another's will continue.
One team lives to fight another day.
Box Elder and Turner squared off in loser-out action in the District 9C girls basketball tournament Wednesday night at the HHS gymnasium, and after a hard-fought game, the Bears outlasted the Tornadoes, 59-55.
Just before the start of the contest the Tornadoes got some crippling news : Their top player, Ashley Van Voast, came down with flu and would be nowhere near 100 percent in the season's most important game.
With Van Voast stricken with flu, someone would have to step up and fill her role.
That someone would be Cheryl Cowan. Cowan scored six of Turner's first eight points, establishing that she was up to the challenge.
Matching Cowan's early domination was Latasha Wolfchild, who used her sharp outside shooting to keep the Bears within striking distance as Turner led 15-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Wolfchild hit a couple of big 3-pointers in the second quarter to give her team its biggest lead at that point, 25-19. They momentarily gave her the leg up in the dual that was developing between her and Cowan.
Cowan answered as the first half was came to a close. Cowan scored the final four points of the half, pulling the Tornadoes into a 25-25 tie.
“Latasha Wolfchild definitely brought her ‘A' game tonight,” Box Elder head coach Shiloh Schwab said. “She stepped up big for us throughout the game and she was able to change the game in our favor.”
Said Turner coach Brenda Mohar: “Losing Ashley Van Voast to the flu really hurt us tonight. But Cheryl Cowan was able to really step up and fill in for us.”
Turner struggled to hang around with the Bears in the first half of play, but as the second half started the Tornadoes seemed poised to make a run and take firm control of the contest.
The Tornadoes scored six straight points to open the third quarter, including four points by Cowan, and took a 31-25 lead.
The Bears snapped out of their sudden hibernation when Wolfchild drilled a three to cut the lead to three points.
Turner answered when Kelsey Klindworth found the bottom of the net, and the Tornadoes had a 33-28 lead.
The Tornadoes could not hold their lead for long as the Bears, led by Rokki Parker and Wolfchild, scored both inside and outside.
In all, the Bears went on a 15-2 run, ending with a 3-pointer by Wolfchild from nearly 30 feet as time expired in the third quarter. The Bears had a comfortable 43-35 advantage heading into the final quarter.
“I called that play at the end of the third quarter and it was actually designed to go down low,” Schwab said. “But Latasha just stepped up and took the shot. It wasn't like she didn't run the play correctly or anything like that. She just saw an opportunity to hit a big shot and that was exactly what she did.”
As the fourth quarter began, hope was fading fast for the Tornadoes. But once again, Cowan was there to revive their hopes. She quickly scored four unanswered points to pull Turner within four points at 43-39.
All game long Cowan and Wolfchild had gone back and forth matching each other point for point and shot for shot. The ultimate difference was that one player acquired some help late in the game and one player didn't.
Parker, a 5-10 sophomore, scored eight enormous points in the fourth quarter, giving the Bears the second scoring option they needed to put them over the top.
For Turner, that second option never came. Cowan tried to carry the team all by herself and eventually the load became too heavy.
“If we would have had Ashley at full strength, it may have been a much different story,” Mohar said. “We did have some other girls who stepped up and played well. Everyone did what they could. It just was not quite enough tonight.”
Turner got as close as four points on a couple of occasions but could never get closer.
After Wolfchild hit six straight free throws in the final minute, the game was over and the Bears had survived.
Wolfchild led the Bears as she had a game-high 27 points, including an astounding seven 3-pointers. Parker added 14 points, including 10 big points in the second half.
For the Tornadoes, Cowan also had 27 points, and Van Voast managed to reach double figures with 10 points.
“With Van Voast out, we had to take some outside shots and we just didn't knock them down,” Mohar said. “It's an especially tough loss for our seniors, but we lost and now we are done.”
Surprisingly, it is not the Bears, who finished in last place in the regular season, who are done.
The Bears will take on the loser of the Big Sandy and Chinook game, on Friday at 2:30 p.m. with a berth in the consolation final on the line.
“At least now we can say that we aren't in last place anymore,” Schwab said. “We would love to play in the consolation game. That would just be a big confidence booster for our kids. We can't be the dark horse anymore after this win, but we can still finish strong.”
Bears 59, Tornadoes 55
Turner 15 10 10 20 - 55
Box Elder 12 13 18 16 - 59
Turner - Chelsi Jones 3, Ashley Van Voast 10, Kelsey Klindworth 9, Cheryl Cowan 27, Krista Chambers 6. Totals 17 12-18 55.
Box Elder - Rokki Parker 14, Sharlene Yellow tail 2, Tasha Parisian 8, Latasha Wolfchild 27, Arielle Wolf Chief 8. Totals 19 14-25 59
3-pointers - Turner 3 (Klindworth 2, Jones) Box Elder 7 (Wolfchild 7, Parisian 2) Total fouls - Turner 17, Box Elder 18.