By Tiffany L. Rehbein
They trailed for 22 minutes, but when the buzzer sounded, the Big Sandy Lady Pioneers had a 48-47 game-winning lead over the KG KouGars in District 9-C action Friday at Gildford.
It wasnt pretty, but it was still a win, head Big Sandy coach Roy Lackner said.
Big Sandy improved to a perfect 13-0 record in conference play and 17-0 overall.
KG, the second-place team in the district, slipped to 6-2 in the conference and 11-5 overall.
However, the KouGars, with their only conference loss coming at Big Sandy earlier this season, was out to win at home on parents night.
The Pioneers sprung for a 6-2 lead midway through the first quarter.
Sasha Ritter and Amy Silvan sank one free throw each, while Silvan and Celeste Darlington nailed a field goal for the early lead. Ritter finished with 12 points, Silvan added seven and Darlington chipped in four in the victory.
Freshman KouGar Kim Berg tallied two free throws for KG three minutes into the game. That, in turn, sparked a five-point surge that lifted the KouGars to a 7-6 first quarter lead.
Berg had 12 points in the balanced KG scoring attack. Amy Melby had a team-high 14, while senior Jen Siefert added 13 in the contest.
They played awfully well, Lackner said. We had a little more depth than they did and they got a little tired at the end.
KG continued to pour on the offense as they added six more unanswered points to open the second quarter.
Berg hit two more free throws with 7:37 on the clock, and two successions later, KGs Marisa Hanson snatched an offensive rebound and fed Berg for the score.
With 5:02 remaining in the half, KGs Melby grabbed an offensive board, and the missed put-back. However, Lindsey Johnson, who came off the bench, seized the board and tallied the points to give the KouGars a 13-6 lead.
KG played really hard and made some big shots, Lackner said. Everybody is going to play well against Big Sandy, because everybody is after us. But, this competition was good. I actually got to coach a little.
Last weekend, Big Sandy scored 110 points against Hays/Lodgepole. In an impressive defensive effort on Oct. 4, the Pioneers held the J-I Rams to just 13 points in the game.
Friday, with 4:31 remaining in the half, Big Sandys Kathryn Bitz, who came off the bench for the Pioneers, grasped an offensive rebound and notched the put-back points to bring the Pioneers within five points.
The basket ended a nine-minute scoring drought for the Pioneers that began in the first quarter. Bitz finished with a game-high 16 points in the contest, including 14 scored in the second half.
At the end of two quarters, KG led, 16-12. Big Sandy shot a mere 6-of-33 from the field in the first half and notched just 12 points. In the third quarter alone, the Pioneers bloomed offensively, scoring 19 points in the quarter.
KGs Melby opened the third quarter with a burning 3-pointer to give the KouGars a 19-14 lead just seconds into the half.
However, Big Sandy exploded for 12 points, led by Bitz who smoked four 15-foot shots in the surge. Silvan and Ritter notched the other points for the Pioneers who grabbed a 27-25 lead with 1:47 remaining in the quarter.
It was really hard, Bitz said about the win. We werent focused in the first half, but we settled down and came out strong in the second. We needed this type of experience, playing in this close of a game.
In the final minute of the quarter, KGs Berg nailed two free throws to even the game at 27-27.
To answer, Big Sandys Darlington drove inside and scored to lift the Pioneers by a basket.
But Melby refused to be outdone, and she scored for the KouGars with :35 remaining.
In turn, Big Sandy refused to go quietly, as Kristi Upham tallied an offensive rebound and dished the ball to Tiffanie Jamieson who scored with :17 remaining in the quarter, lifting the Pioneers to a 31-29 lead.
Jamieson tallied five points in the contest, while Upham notched four.
Defensively, Upham held KG power Jen Siefert to just two points in the fourth quarter.
It was better to go man-to-man with her, switching from a zone, Upham said. Then, I always knew where she was. But, I think we stepped it up as a team and finished it off in the end.
Both teams picked up the pace in the fourth, with Ritter scoring on a drive to lift the Pioneers to a four-point lead.
Jamieson nailed a 3-pointer, Eryn Darlington tallied a basket, Bitz notched two more 15-footers and Ritter tallied another bucket for the Pioneers in the quarter. Ritter tallied nine of her 12 points in the second half.
Melby, Siefert, Hanson and Berg scored for KG to come within three points near the end of the game.
With less than one minute on the clock, Berg sank two free throws to bring the KouGars within one point, but KG was forced to foul with :08 remaining. Berg went 8-for-12 from the line in the effort.
Although Bitz missed the free throws, Silvan pulled down the offensive rebound, thwarting any KG attempts to push the ball offensively for the score.
With a non-conference win over the Geraldine Tigers Saturday, the No. 1-ranked Class C team in Montana, Big Sandy, will head into the district tournament with a first-night bye and an 18-0 unmarred record. The tournament will be held at the Havre High School gymnasium Nov. 11-13.
KG downed Rocky Boy in conference action Saturday and sealed a second-seed spot in the tournament.
Because there are only six teams in the district, KG will also receive an opening-night bye at the tournament.