The Libby High School boys basketball team had a rollercoaster night on their way to a 48-42 win over the Polson Pirates at home Saturday.
The first quarter started off strong for the Loggers, as they quickly took a 12-3 lead, in part by drawing the Polson defense out and making some big openings that they capitalized on.
“We had good energy to start with, and we were taking care of what we needed to do, getting the ball in the right places, doing some things,” Libby Head Coach Josh Bean said.
The Loggers beat up the Polson press, which they had prepared for, he said.
“We knew that’s probably what they were going to do. That’s what they’ve been starting out in, almost every game — that 1-2-2 trap,” he said. “They’ve got some athletes to be able to do that, but it’s vulnerable in the middle.”
With junior Keith Johnson and freshman Caden Williams taking care of the middle, the Loggers were able to get a good lead early.
Still, Bean said he felt the Loggers may have missed some opportunities at getting better looks in the first quarter.
“We got a lot of looks, and we put the ball in the hole alright,” he said.
But Polson rallied about halfway through the second quarter, when Libby had a comfortable 20-10 lead. By half, the Pirates had whittled that lead down to 22-17.
“I think Polson settled in,” Bean said. “They’re a good basketball team, and they settled into what they wanted to do, and they kind of changed some things up on us.”
The Loggers also struggled more than usual with some wild passes that led to turnovers in the second quarter.
“You know, the number one thing we talk about all the time is taking care of the basketball, so, we kind of got out of character there a little bit,” Bean said. “And they got going. They got some momentum.”
Libby managed to keep ahead of Polson in the second half, though the score stayed close into the early minutes of the third quarter.
Back-to-back three-point shots from Libby senior Ryggs Johnston pushed the Loggers back into a comfortable advantage by the middle of the third quarter, though the Loggers still had little luck with the Polson defense shortly after.
At the end of the third quarter, the Loggers were still holding Polson off, 34-29, in no small part thanks to the nine points that Johnston contributed that quarter from outside the arc, as the Loggers probed the Pirate defense for weaknesses.
“They changed defenses quite a bit on us, so we had to be recognizing what they were doing — they went to a box-and-one there in the fourth quarter,” Bean said.
The Loggers tried to slow the game down a bit once they were up by about eight points, but the players had a hard time relaxing, he said.
“We were just trying to press into it,” he said.
In the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, sophomore Jay Beagle broke the jam the Loggers were in as the Pirates crept to within two points of overcoming Libby’s lead.
Coupled with a nearly flawless performance at the free throw line, the Loggers were able to keep ahead of the Pirates for the 48-42 win.
“I was really proud of the way the guys held their composure, and made some big plays down the stretch, both offensively and defensively,” Bean said.
Much like their win at Frenchtown, Bean credited the the Loggers for nailing their free throws and rebounding well in the final minutes.
Bean agreed that the team looks good on the court, showing a cohesive mindset in how they play together and function well as a team.
Since they have had everyone back healthy after a bout of sickness, Libby has put out some really good basketball, Bean said. “Everybody’s settling in to what we need to do and how we need to do things.”
With the final home game for Libby and senior night, Bean said he wanted to thank his seniors for their contributions during the season and over the last four years.
“They’ve done a great job, and they’re great young men and good men of character, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for them, going forward,” he said.
But he also wanted to thank the parents of all of his players.
“I’m a very demanding person,” Bean admitted. “Sometimes it’s hard, to release your kid to that, and I just want to thank those parents for doing it.”
“I don’t have any kids of my own, so whenever I’m coaching, it’s kind of like those boys are my kids, and I try and do right by them most of the time,” Bean said. “And just like parenting, I don’t always get everything right, but I appreciate everything that everybody has done.”
Even with the emotion of the night, though, Bean said he reminded the players before the game: “We’re not done yet. We’ve still got some things we want to accomplish.”
Saturday, Feb. 9
Libby 48, Polson 42
L: 12 10 12 14 - 48
P: 3 14 12 13 - 42
Libby: JJ Davis 3 points, 3-4 FT; Chandler Bower 1 points, 1-2 FT; Ryggs Johnston 20 points, 5-6 FT; Jay Beagle 12 points, 2-2 FT; Keith Johnson 10 points, 2-2 FT; Kevin Barnes 2 points, 0-2 FT.
Polson: Ryker Wenderoth 15 points, 6-9 FT; Robin Erickson 6 points, 2-4 FT; Parker Toth 3 points; Bo Kelley 5 points; Colton Graham 6 points, 3-4 FT; Trevor Lake 2 points; Micah Askan 5 points, 1-2 FT.