By Harvey Brock
The Rocky Boy Northern Stars jumped out to an early lead and held off a game KG KouGar squad for an 81-64 win in Thursday night's District 9-C Boys Basketball Tournament opener.
The Northern Stars started the game with a 10-0 lead, using a half-court trap that caught KG a little flat. Longtime KG coach Charlie Robinson called timeout and settled his young team.
Coach Robinson said youth and nerves were a factor at the start. "I thought we came out a little tight. For most of our guys this is their first big tournament like this. After the timeout we settled down."
Rocky Boy's trap and the play of senior Mike Morsette and junior Marcus Standing Rock helped the Stars open up a 15-point halftime lead.
Leading 39-24 at the start of the half, Rocky Boy built its lead and appeared to have the game in hand several times, but the KouGars clawed their way back. Rocky Boy finally pulled away at the end for the 17-point win.
Both coaches said they thought the game was a game of spurts. Robinson said it was the difference in the game.
"Rocky Boy got the early lead and we fought our way back. Every time we got close, Rocky Boy would go on a run. They did it in the first, second and third periods," Robinson said.
Robinson was proud of his team's effort. "This a young team. The guys could have quit several times when they got down by 20 or more, but they didn't," he said. "I couldn't be more proud of a group of kids. They played really hard, and other than those few short spells they were right in it. I told the kids that if they play with the same intensity in their next game they will do really well."
KG on Saturday will play the loser of tonight's semifinal between Big Sandy and Hays-Lodge Pole.
Rocky Boy coach Tim Henry thought it came down to a numbers game. "We played a lot of kids, and I think we wore them down a bit," said Henry. "I feel comfortable playing nine guys. We wanted to make them play the whole 90-foot floor, and I thought our guys ran our half-court trap effectively."
Coach Henry was pleased with the way his team played most of the time. "We played really well at times," he said. "We would build up a big lead, then get complacent, and let them back into it. That has been the pattern of this team all year long."
Rocky Boy plays No. 1 seed Blue Sky Eagles in tonight's semifinal game. Henry said he likes his team's chances.
"Blue Sky beat us twice during the regular season. They're a good team, but they will have to play a good game to beat us three times in the same season," he said.
KG Casey Crites 15, Luke Antonich 4, Thomas Marshall 13, Tyler Kapperud 11, Kyle Donoven 1, Darby Donoven 3, Richie Melby 17.
Rocky Boy Josh Seaton 4, Marcus Standing Rock 18, Adam Demontiney 5, Mike Morsette 16, Jeff Henry 1, Dustin Sunchild 9, Justin Four Colors 6, Clayton Houle 6, Mike Seaton 6, Charles Walking Child 8, Randall Whitford 2.