Saturday, April 17, 2021

Libby boys best Browning for tourney bid

The Western News | February 26, 2021 7:00 AM


Caden Williams looks to get around a defender during the Loggers Feb. 23 game against Browning. (Will Langhorne/The Western News)


TJ Andersen looks to get around defenders during the Loggers Feb. 23 game against Browning. (Will Langhorne/The Western News)


Ryder Davis goes up for a basket during the Loggers Feb. 23 game against Browning. (Will Langhorne/The Western News)

Faced with a physical and fast-paced battle for a spot in the Western A divisional tournament, Libby bested Browning 59-39.

The Feb. 23 win marked the Loggers third victory of the year against the Indians.

“To beat a team three times, anywhere you go, is tough,” said Libby coach Josh Bean. “Especially with the caliber of teams we have in our conference this year and the caliber of team that Browning is.”

Libby junior Caden Williams led all scorers with 26 points. Landing three-pointers, high-post shots and a dunk, Williams shone as an all-around offensive threat during the Browning game.

Going into the game, Bean said he gave his squad four points to focus on: being sure with the ball, making good shot selections, boxing out on rebounds and controlling the tempo of the game. That last key to the game proved critical during the matchup with Browning. A notoriously fast team, the Indians can rack up points in a hurry if they take control of a game’s speed.

“If you get into that fast-paced game with [Browning], they’ll beat anybody,” said Libby’s Ryder Davis.

Careful not to let the Indians take off on a run, the Loggers closed out the first quarter 12-9. Libby continued to space out their lead in the second quarter.

In the low post, Libby junior TJ Andersen found himself jousting for rebounds against Browning’s Luke Juneau. Going into the game, Bean said he knew locking down Juneau would be key to securing the win. The Browning player excels at racking up points and posting up on the block.

Bean found that Andersen handled the pressure remarkably well. While he hadn’t crunched the stats for the game, the coach expected the junior secured double-digit rebounds. Earlier in the season, Bean said Andersen was letting the ball come to him. Against Browning, the forward made full use of his length and jumped at the ball.

Senior Ryker McElmurry also excelled in the physical game mounted by Browning. When guarding Jesse Carlson, one of the Indian’s top scorers, McElmurry played tough defense. On offense, he capitalized on his hustle to score a few fast-break baskets.

“You never have to question whether [McElmurry] is ready to go,” said Bean. “In a game like that you want a Ryker McElmurry on your side.”

Despite the Loggers efforts to control the pace, Browning made a push in the final minutes of the second quarter. The Indians were able to narrow the gap back to four points. Regrouping during a timeout, the Loggers regained their momentum and brought up a score of 29-18 at the half.

“It was just getting control of the tempo again,” said senior Jay Beagle. “Doing what we want to do with the ball and not playing their game.”

In the third quarter, neither team managed to gain much of an advantage.

Browning landed four points. Libby scored eight — six came from Williams. While Bean said the junior occasionally rushed his moves, Williams proved one of the Loggers’ greatest assets on both sides of the court when he took his time on plays.

“Can’t say enough about Caden Williams,” said Bean “What a smooth operator.”

In the fourth quarter, the Indians came out with a heavy press. The defensive move ratcheted up the tempo of the game but the Loggers stayed on top, scoring 21 points to Browning’s 17.

The Loggers went on to play Frenchtown on Thursday for their first game of the divisional tournament. The matchup came after the Western News print deadline.