The Hays-Lodge Pole girls basketball team has been a factor at the District 9C tournament. But it’s been a while.
However, on Thursday night at the Havre High gymnasium, the T-Birds may have announced that their back, as they took out perennial 9C power North Star 70-65 in the opening game of the 2011 9C girls tourney.
And the T-Birds did it in thrilling fashion.
The Knights played a flawless first half and were ahead 36-19 at intermission. But with Anita Denny dominating in the post, and 3-pointers raining in from all over the court, the T-Birds stormed their way back in a wild second half.
“It’s a great win, I’m extremely proud of the kids,” HLP head coach Cory Morgan said. “To come back from 20 down and to beat a very good team like North Star, a team that beat us twice this season, I’m just really proud of them for that.”
And it was an epic comeback indeed.
The Thunderbirds had all kinds of trouble stopping North Star junior Shelby Lipp, who scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Lipp dominated the first half as the Knights ripped off a 17-2 run in the first quarter and held the T-Birds without a field goal for nearly eight minutes in the first half.
But slowly, the T-Birds gained momentum in the third quarter. Kayla Shambo opened the second half with a three, and when Shakayla WhiteCow hit another triple with 3:40 left in the period, the T-Birds had cut the lead all the way down to seven points, and they would trim that margin to three at the end of the third.
And while Shambo dropped in another long-range bomb to start the fourth quarter, and tie the game, something else was happening which Morgan says was becoming a big key to the comeback.
“We were able to get some of their players in foul trouble, some of their big girls down low,” Morgan said. “And when that happened, Anita Denny was just able to have her way inside, and when she didn’t, we were making those 3-pointers. So it just really came together for us right there.”
After scoring 24 points in the third stanza, and Shambo hitting two three’s to start the fourth, the T-Birds had the lead at 49-48. From there, they went on an 11-2 run and led 60-50 with 4:14, about the same time Lipp fouled out, which meant the Knights now had to try and mount a comeback of their own without their leading scorer.
And North Star did make one last run. The Knights, behind a couple of big plays from Kali Twedt, trimmed the lead back to 66-65 with :48 second to play. But they missed some opportunities from there, and after a free-throw parade, in a game which saw 55 total fouls, the T-Birds were able to put away their first 9C tournament first-round win in nearly a decade.
Denny finished the night with 23 points for the T-Birds and Shambo added 18, including a 4-for-5 performance from the 3-point-line. The Knights were paced by Lipp’s double-double, while Twedt added 14 points.
“That was great shooting by Kayla Shambo,” Morgan said. “To shoot it like that in a tournament game is pretty incredible. And I think we also played much better defense in the second half, that was another key. We got some stops and created some turnovers and that really helped us.”
North Star (6-12), which played for last year’s 9C title drops into loser-out play Saturday morning at 8 a.m., somewhere it looked like the T-Birds would be at halftime of their miraculous comeback. Instead, the T-Birds (7-11) will play for a spot in the championship game when they take on top-seeded Box Elder tonight at 6:30.
“We talked at halftime about the fact we could come back,” Morgan said. “We told them this was their time to shine and their time to play well. We asked them if they want to come back and win on Saturday morning or if they want to come back and win this game. So I’m very proud of how they came out and played the second half.”
The 2011 District 9C girls basketball tournament will run through Saturday night with the championship game slated for 6:30 p.m. The top two teams move on to the Northern C Divisional.
Thunderbirds fly high
Hays-Lodgepole 70, North Star 65
Hays-Lodgepole 10 9 24 27 — 70
North Star 25 10 11 19 — 65
Hays-Lodge Pole — Anita Danny 9-13 6-10 23, Kayla Shambo 9-13 4-6 18, CoCo Moore 2-7 3-4 7, Saundra ChiefStick 2-2 0-0 3, Kaille Martin 1-11 1-2 3, Chasanna Donay 1-2 1-2 3, Shaney ChiefStick 1-1 0-0 2, Shakayla WhiteCow 3-13 3-8 8, Kristie RunsAbove 1-8 0-0 1-2. Totals: 29-70 19-34.
North Star — Jordan Spicher 2-16 4-13 6, Haylee Anderson 0-6 1-4 1, Bettie Carlon 1-8 0-0 2, Kail Twedt 7-18 2-7 14, Taylor Warren 4-17 0-2 7, Bridjour Han 1-9 4-4 6, Tanda Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Shelby Lipp 8-14 11-13 27. Totals: 23-87 22-43.
Fouls: Hays-Lodge Pole 30, North Star 25. Fouled out: Martin (H), WhiteCow (H), RunsAbove (H), Han (N), Smith (N), Lipp (N). 3-pointers: Danny 1, Shambo 4, ChiefStick 1, WhiteCow 1, Twedt 2, Warren 1.