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LHS girls drop 2 straight in tourney

by Western News
| March 2, 2009 11:00 PM

The Western News

Following regular-season sweeps over Bigfork and Polson as part of an 8-2 record in the Northwestern A, the Libby High School girls basketball team was at least on paper favored to reach the championship game against top-seeded Columbia Falls.

But the games are not played on paper and many will say it’s difficult to defeat the same opponent three times in one season. Whatever the case, the Lady Loggers saw their season end at last weekend’s divisional tournament with a 56-33 loss to the Valkyries in the semifinals and a 48-47 setback to the Pirates in an elimination game.

Libby coach Jim May didn’t make any excuses about the 23-point loss to Bigfork in Friday’s semifinals.

“Give Bigfork all the credit in the world,” May said.

“The reason we didn’t play well is because they played well,” he added. “They got us on our heels. They came out and got in our faces and we couldn’t handle their pressure like we wanted. … Those Bigfork girls just came out and played like gangbusters.”

Bigfork came into the tourney as the defending Northwestern A champions. Realignment sees the school going to Class B next season. The Vals lost in the championship game to Columbia Falls, 55-53 in overtime, and then beat Polson on Monday, 50-42, to reach state.

Bigfork hit well from 3-point range in the win over Libby.

“I thought we did a nice job. We knocked down some shots,” said Bigfork coach Mark Hansen. “It’s always nice when you knock down some 3s. That just opens the game up for Kailey (Fierro) and everybody inside. … When we do that, we’re able to get in our press. Things work a little better for us if we can do that.”

May said his team came out flat and passive and committed nine turnovers in the first quarter. The team trailed just 24-17 at halftime but then had trouble handling Bigfork’s defensive pressure, got too far behind and abandoned its game plan while playing catch-up.

Hansen indicated it was important to stop Libby’s Jackie Mee and Brittany Martin.

“Just run and spread the floor, play good defense,” Hansen said about Bigfork’s strategy, “and watch out for Jackie Mee and (Brittany) Martin, the 3-point shooters.

“Obviously, you’ve got to recognize where Jackie is, she’s so tough,” Hansen added. “I thought the girls did a great job on that and also on Brittany Martin.”

Caitlin Charlebois led all scorers with 19 points. Roxy Thurman added 12 and Fierro had 10 for Bigfork.

Mee led the Loggers with 16 points. Jaime Gilden added 11.

On Saturday morning, Libby got out to a 27-14 lead in the first half against Polson but struggled in the third quarter in the 48-47 loss.

“They were passing the ball well and our defense was giving Polson fits,” May said.

But in the third quarter, the Pirates went on a 19-5 run – including the first 11 of that 8-minute stretch – and then held on for the upset. Libby rallied a couple times in the fourth and held the lead on two occasions. Polson got the game-winner on a free throw with 2 seconds left.

Mee scored 14 for the Lady Loggers and Alyshia Martin added 13.

“This was not a fitting way for our season to end,” May said. “The girls were improving weekly and it just didn’t show at tourney. Overall, though, I am extremely proud of how they improved and competed during the season. Our young kids performed well in spite of their inexperience and Jackie and Brittany were great leaders.”

Libby finished with a mark of 13-8.

“We are going to miss the heck out of Brittany,” May said. “She led by example and was so important to our success. I’m convinced that these girls are hungry for more success and will put the time in that will be needed to get were they want to be.”

(Dixie Knutson of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell contributed to this story).

Northwestern A Girls Tournament

Feb. 26-March 2 at Kalispell

Thursday’s Scores

Whitefish 68, Polson 65

Bigfork 58, Ronan 32

Friday’s Scores

Columbia Falls 54, Whitefish 33

Bigfork 56, Libby 33

Saturday’s Scores

Polson 48, Libby 47

Whitefish 51, Ronan 33

Third-Place Game

Polson 39, Whitefish 34

Championship Game

Columbia Falls 55, Bigfork 53, OT

Monday’s Score

Challenge Game

Bigfork 50, Polson 42

Vals 56, Loggers 33

Friday at Kalispell

Bigfork (56)

Knoll 2 2-4 6, Paine 0 3-4 3, Shults 3 0-0 6, Thurman 4 1-3 12, Charlebois 7 1-1 19, Fierro 4 2-3 10. Totals 20 9-15 56.

Libby (33)

B. Martin 1 0-0 3, Gilden 3 5-8 11, Best 0 3-4 3, Mee 6 4-7 16. Totals 10 12-19 33.

Three-pointers–Libby 1 (Martin), Bigfork 7 (Charlebois 4, Thurman 3), Total fouls–Libby 17, Bigfork 17. Fouled out–None.

Pirates 48, Loggers 47

Saturday at Kalispell

Polson (48)

Kelley 6 7-12 19, Woods 2 5-8 9, Kenney 0 2-2 2, Davey 4 1-3 9, Newton 2 3-5 7, Hislop 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 18-30 48.

Libby (47)

Cernick 4 0-0 8, A. Martin 5 2-2 13, B. Martin 3 0-2 8, Gilden 1 0-0 2, Best 0 2-2 2, Mee 5 2-4 14. Totals 18 6-10 47.

3-pointers–Polson 0, Libby 5 (A. Martin, B. Martin 2, Mee 2). Total fouls–Polson 10, Libby 22. Fouled out–Newton, Gilden.