By Kim Staudinger
The Chester Coyotes' tough press established the feverish pace early for the Highwood Mountaineers, accomplishing a feat that both coaches do not recall ever seeing before two consecutive 10-second violations in the backcourt.
Chester, which took advantage of numerous Highwood turnovers early, rolled into tonight's semifinal-round action with a 67-39 win Thursday afternoon at Havre High School.
"Especially in the first four minutes when we had the two 10-second calls with the press, that certainly set the tone for the game," Chester coach Linda Van Dyke said. "We take a lot of pride in our defense and work hard on it. Today it showed."
Chester faces Box Elder, which knocked off Winifred in the first game of the tournament, tonight at 6:30. With the loss, Highwood fell to the losers' bracket today at 12:30 p.m. to face Winifred.
Van Dyke said that although her team is considered likely to advance to Saturday night's championship game, her team isn't taking any of the competition lightly. "I always feel when you underestimate a team is when you run into problems. It helps us to play hard. We know we have to go out and give it our all.
"We need to stop (Tami) Infante and (Kristie) Pullin. They are quick shooters who make a lot of things happen for Box Elder."
The Coyotes dominated in the first half Thursday, creating a 20-point halftime lead that increased to 28 at game's end.
The Mountaineers' struggles with the full-court pressure carried over to their shooting, with only 17 points before halftime.
"They're tough," Highwood coach Dave Bahnmiller said. "They have five solid senior starters. You can tell they play together year-round. Their press hurt us, too. They are a hounding pressure team."
Bahnmiller said that after his team began to look up the floor in the second half, the scoring difference was only three points 17-14 in the third quarter.
"The second half was much better than the first," he said. "We got just as aggressive as they did."
Senior Chasi Buffington was the unstoppable Coyote Thursday afternoon, dominating the press and coming away with key rebounds en route to her game-high 20 points. Buffington scored eight points in the second quarter and seven in the third.
"I thought Chasi Buffington had a great game for us," Van Dyke said. "She really stepped it up today."
Fellow seniors Maci Tempel and Heidi Cicon also scored in double figures for Chester, scoring a combined 25 points.
Despite the loss, Highwood is excited to play Winifred in loser-out action today.
"The girls are pretty pumped up to play Winifred," Bahnmiller said. "We have confidence knowing we can win. This is the first trip to divisionals for these girls and we don't want to go home in two games."
Highwood Josey Jordan 7, Tamariel Townsend 2, Jessalyn Bahnmiller 12, Kristen Schipf 6, Justine Edwards 8, Jenna Jordan 4.
Chester Maci Tempel 13, Jamie Graham 9, Heidi Cicon 12, Chasi Buffington 20, Katy Engstrom 4, Michelle Van Dyke 6, Jillien Johnson 3.