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Loggers downs Polson; tied for league lead

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| January 19, 2009 11:00 PM

To veteran Loggers boys basketball coach Wally Winslow, it’s typical to be involved in a tight Northwestern A race.

Libby’s 63-58 victory over Polson on Saturday night created a tie between the Loggers and Pirates atop the conference standings. Meanwhile, Whitefish upended Columbia Falls and those two teams are tied for third with 2-2 marks.

“We’re happy with what we’re doing; happy because we seem to be making improvements every game,” Winslow said. “Every week, we’re getting a little bit better in certain areas.”

The Loggers’ latest triumph showed they could hit free throws under pressure. For much of this season, Libby has struggled a bit at the charity stripe.

“That was a long time coming,” Winslow said. “They hit some big free throws at the end when they had to.”

Libby sank 11-of-15 free throws in the fourth quarter when Polson was fouling to try to catch up. In the final 1:05, Conner Benson hit 4-of-4 and Colton Cannon nailed a pair to send the Pirates home on an unhappy bus.

“Our resolve and competitiveness and hustle have been pretty consistent throughout the year,” Winslow said. “We have to maintain that because that’s going to help us in the times when things aren’t going well from an execution standpoint.”

The Loggers looked sharp for most of the game but couldn’t shake off the pesky Pirates until the final minute. Polson trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter only to rally and pull to within three with seven seconds left. After a full-court pass that caused the Logger crowd to hold its collective breath, Libby ran some clock before Polson’s Waylon Michel issued a hard foul to Cannon.

Officials called it intentional which wrapped up the victory no matter what Cannon did at the free-throw line because Libby would get possession after the foul shots and only 1.9 seconds remained. Cannon sank both for good measure.

Winslow said the Pirates are tough to put away.

“They’re a very well-coached team … they put a lot of pressure on people,” Winslow said. “They’re not going to go away.”

Libby had three players in double figures with 17 by Joel Fuller, 16 from Benson and 15 out of Cannon. But one of the most noticeable performances came from sophomore Kelly May.

“Here and in Troy (on Thursday) he played his best two games of the year,” Winslow said. “He’s capable of a lot of things but he’s young and has to figure out how to fit into everything we’re doing. He handled the pressure well against the press and went to the basket when he needed to.”

May finished with five points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists – both tied for team highs.

The Loggers got out to a 14-6 lead through the first eight minutes and led 28-15 at one point during the second quarter. Libby was hitting well from 3-point range with a pair from Fuller. Cannon also hit one from downtown and Cree Maloney blazed the net with a long bomb of his own. Still, Polson finished the half strong and trailed just 28-22 at the break.

Libby again built some momentum in the third quarter and into the fourth. With 3:59 remaining, the Loggers held a 12-point lead at 53-41. The Pirates went on a 7-1 run with a 3-pointer out of Louis Mohr, who came off the bench for 18 points, and a three-point play by Kyle Bagnell.

The game then turned into a foul-shooting contest over the final 97 seconds. Libby did miss out on a chance to put the game away with 33 seconds remaining with two misses from the free-throw line. But the intentional foul in the final seconds doomed the Pirates.

Libby (3-1, 7-2) heads to Glacier on Thursday. The start time was pushed back to 8 p.m. The Loggers then host Bigfork on Saturday in another Northwestern A battle. The boys are scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m.

It Was Over When …

Polson senior Waylon Michel intetionally fouled Colton Cannon with 1.9 seconds on the clock. Cannon made both free throws to increase Libby’s lead from three to five points.

Game Ball

Libby’s Kelly May may have scored just five points but he came up big in the overall scheme with his ball movement, four assists and seven rebounds.

Stat of the Game

The Loggers converted 11-of-15 free throws in the fourth quarter and 17-of-21 for the game to excel in an area where they have struggled at times this season.

Loggers 63, Pirates 58

Saturday at Libby

Polson (58)

C. Bagnell 4 0-0 8, K. Bagnell 6 3-3 16, Michel 1 0-0 2, Rausch 2 2-2 6, Kelley 1 0-0 2, Rathe 1 0-0 2, Fisher 0 0-0 0, Andrews 1 2-4 4, Mohr 7 0-0 18. Totals 23 7-11 58.

Libby (63)

C. Benson 6 4-5 16, May 1 3-4 5, Fuller 5 4-4 17, Cannon 4 6-6 15, Cislo 3 0-2 6, Maloney 1 0-0 3, Broden 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 17-21 63.

Three-Pointers–Polson 5 (Mohr 4, K. Bagnell), Libby 6 (Fuller 3, C. Benson, Cannon, Maloney). Rebounds–Polson 21 (K. Bagnell 7), Libby 25 (May 7, Cislo 7). Assists–Polson 14 (C. Bagnell 4, Rausch 4), Libby 15 (May 4, Fuller 4). Total Fouls–Polson 22, Libby 13. Technical Fouls–Michel.