By Harvey Brock
The HaysnLodge Pole Thunderbirds blew past the Box Elder Bears, 94-55, at Wednesday night's District 9-C Boys Basketball Tournament opening game.
Hays-Lodge Pole seniors Russell Doney, James Flying and Shawn Shambo each tallied more than 20 points in the victory.
Box Elder jumped out to an early lead and held Hays-Lodge Pole scoreless for the first 3 minutes of the game. Following a timeout by Thunderbird coach Shawn Backbone, Hays-Lodge Pole outscored the Bears 15-7 to take a four-point lead at the end of the first period.
Coach Backbone said he was disappointed with his team's start.
"It seemed like we weren't warm at the start. We had to warm up and it took the first period for us to get going," he said.
Shambo's three-pointers started to fall in the second period, which opened up the inside play of forwards Doney and D.J. Small.
Shambo thought his outside shots took Box Elder out of its game.
"Box Elder wanted to slow it down," said Shambo. "Coach told me to open it up when they doubled down on Russell. I made some shots, and we started to control the tempo."
Box Elder kept the score close the first half, on the inside-outside combination of Chad Parker and Neil Rosette.
Leading 40-29, Hays-Lodge Pole came out on fire to start the second half, scoring the first 17 points of the period. Senior point guard Flying pushed the ball at every opportunity as the Thunderbirds outscored the Bears 34-12 in the third period to blow the game open. Shambo and Flying each pitched in with 10 second-half points as Hays-Lodge Pole coasted to the victory. Doney, who scored 14 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, thought teamwork was the key.
"We came out a little rusty in the first half, but we played good team ball and didn't get mad at each other," he said.
Hays-Lodge Pole's coach was glad for the win.
"Box Elder played a good first half. We picked up our intensity and started to warm up in the second half," Backbone said. "We just need to keep that intensity the rest of the tournament."
Next up for Hays-Lodge Pole Friday night are the Big Sandy Pioneers. The Pioneers split with the Thunderbirds during the regular season, each winning on their home court.
Box Elder coach Bobby Small was astounded by the play of Hays-Lodgepole.
"They played and shot really well. They hit 50 percent of their three's. When a team shoots like that there isn't a hell of a lot you can do about it. They beat us back in transition. We knew what they were doing, but we couldn't stop it."
Coach Small was proud of his team's play.
"We played these guys twice during the year and we were competitive. I told our kids at half time to keep their heads up. Hays-Lodgepole was shooting really well and let's just hope they cool down in the second half. Sometimes you just catch a hot team at a tournament and there isn't much you can do about it. Hays-Lodgepole just played a heck of a game."
Box Elder returns to play tonight against the Turner Tornadoes at 7:30.
Hays-Lodgepole Russell Doney 28, Shawn Shambo 23, DJ Small 6, James Flying 20, Nathan Martin 11, Elmer Fox 1, Glenn Messerly 3, Dennis Stiffarm 2.
Box Elder Neal Rosette 16, Tim Parker 1, George Green 2, Kyle Parker 3, Chad Parker 14, Tim Rosette 8, Dustin Flying 4, Charlie Swan 7.