Beating the same team twice in three days is a tall order for any girls basketball program. But it’s an even bigger task when success hasn’t exactly come easy for during the last decade of play at the District 9C girls basketball tournament.
Yet, that’s exactly what the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds did. On Saturday afternoon at the Havre High gymnasium, the T-Birds bested the North Star Knights 51-47 in the 9C consolation game. The win was the second in three days fro HLP over the Knights and it was also the T-Birds best finish at the 9C tourney in nearly a decade.
“I’ve been here for three years now and I’ve watched these kids come up through our middle school program,” HLP head coach Cory Morgan said. “So to see how well they played this weekend, and what they accomplished, I’m very happy for them. They deserve it.”
And not only did the T-Birds deserve it, they earned it on Saturday.
HLP had beaten North Star in the first game of the tournament back on Thursday night, and the T-Birds got off to another good start on Saturday. HLP led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter in what was a physical, intense battle all the way.
The second quarter was nip and tuck, as North Star’s Taylor Warren hit a 3-pointer to put the Nights ahead 23-21. But Kallie Martin and Anita Denny made shots down the stretch to give HLP a one-point lead at halftime.
Things got hectic in the second half as it was anybody’s game. But the T-Birds ripped off six unanswered points, including a Kayla Shambo three and led 40-36 with eight minutes left to go.
“We felt like we gained a little control in the third quarter,” Morgan said. “And again, our half-court trap was very effective. It worked against them on Thursday and it worked again tonight. It didn’t work much all year, but it worked in this tournament. And I think that’s because of how hard our kids played, how hard they worked on defense.”
But North Star wasn’t going away without a fight of its own. And the Knights were able to come back and tie the game at 45-45 with 1:55 left when Shelby Lipp capped off six straight free throws, including a pair of technical foul shots after an HLP player was whistled for one.
But just like on Thursday night, the Thunderbirds showed resolve again on Saturday. Following the technical, the T-Birds’ trap forced a Knight turnover, and freshman Kristie RunsAbove hit a jumper to put HLP up two points at 47-45. Then, Shambo got another steal and made two free throws to put the T-Birds ahead 49-45 with :21 left. The Knights had one last gasp when Lisa Carlon made a shot with :11 left to make the score 49-47, but RunsAbove sank two cool free throws to give the T-Birds the win.
Denny led the T-Birds (7-14) with 18 points and eight rebounds, while RunsAbove added nine points in the third-place finish. The Knights (7-14) got 12 points and six rebounds from Lipp, 11 by Bridjour Han and 10 each from Carlon and Warren.
The win gave HLP a chance at a Monday night challenge game, but Chinook’s 9C championship dashed those hopes, as the T-Birds have already played Box Elder. Still, HLP’s season couldn’t have ended on a more positive note.
“I think we’ve come a long way this year,” Morgan said. “The kids have really started to understand the game and understand how to win. I’m really happy for them and they played great this weekend.”
T-Birds Soar to best 9C finish in years
HLP 51, North Star 47 (3rd)
North Star 8 20 19 11 — 47
HLP 12 19 20 11 — 51
North Star — Jordan Spicher 0-7 1-2 1, Haylee Anderson 0-2 1-2 1, Lisa Carlon 4-7 2-6 10, Kali Twedt 1-8 0-3 2, Taylor Warren 3-10 2-3 10, Bridjour Han 4-13 2-4 11, Tande Smith 0-0 0-1 0, Shelby Lipp 3-14 6-10 12. Totals: 15-61 15-28.
HLP — Anita Denny 7-13 4-9 18, Kayla Shambo 0-1 5-5 5, Coco Moore 1-6 3-4 5, Kallie Martin 2-4 1-1 5, Shaney Chief Stick 2-3 0-0 4, Shakayla WhiteCow 2-3 1-1 5, Kristie RunsAbove 3-6 3-5 9. Totals: 17-37 17-35.
3-pointers: Warren 2. Fouls: North Star 20, HLP 28. Fouled out: Spicher, Denny, WhiteCow.