Despite late rally, Loggers fall to Broncs

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | January 5, 2021 7:00 AM

photo

Junior TJ Andersen takes a shot during the Loggers's Jan. 2 season opener against the Frenchtown Broncs.

photo

Libby senior Jay Beagle looks to get around a defender during the Loggers's Jan. 2 season opener against the Frenchtown Broncs. (Will Langhorne/The Western News)

photo

Sophomore Ryder Davis looks to get around defenders during the Loggers's Jan. 2 season opener against the French town Broncs. (Will Langhorne/The Western News)

After a sluggish first half, Libby upped the pressure in the fourth quarter of their season opener against Frenchtown. The push landed them just short of the mark.

The Broncs bucked the Loggers 50-47 on Jan. 2.

Following the game, Libby coach Josh Bean said the momentum began to shift when the Loggers settled into their man-to-man defense. In the first half, Libby tested Frenchtown with multiple defensive schemes. The Broncs proved adept at picking apart the Logger’s zone, which occasionally left unguarded players on the far sideline with an avenue to the basket.

While in zone, Bean said the Loggers also surrendered more rebound opportunities.

These deficiencies allowed the Broncs to establish an early lead. By the end of the first quarter, Frenchtown was ahead 13-6. They continued to build their margin in the second quarter, bringing the score to 26-14 by halftime.

In the locker room, Bean told the Loggers they needed to make a change to stay in the game.

“I just challenged those kids at halftime to work their way back in, cut the halftime deficit in half by the end of the third quarter and then that gives us an opportunity in the fourth … to win the game,” he said.

Settling into their man-to-man defense, the Loggers slowly began chipping away at Frenchtown’s lead. In addition to the change in strategy, senior point guard Jay Beagle attributed the rally to an upswing in the Loggers’s energy.

“We got into the flow of things,” he said. “First half of the first game, we came out a little slow.”

By the end of the third quarter, the Loggers trailed the Broncs 35-27.

Cheers from the home bleachers jumped a few decibels when junior Caden Williams, sunk a basket and followed it up with an and-one at the top of the fourth. A few plays later, Williams scored again on a fast break to the basket. Another two points brought the score to a tantalizing 36-34.

The Broncs managed to stay ahead while junior guard Ryder Davis scored a two-pointer and Beagle drained a three.

Then Cy Stevenson sunk a shot from the high post putting the Loggers ahead by one. Frenchtown responded with an aggressive full-court press and managed to regain the lead. For the final four minutes of the game, fans were on their feet as the teams fought neck and neck.

Williams found that, overall, the Loggers played a little sloppy in their season opener and needed to do a better job of bringing what they learned in practice onto the court. Like Beagle, he noted the energy bump that came in the second half was critical to the Loggers’s come back.

“Once we get going, we stay going,” he said.

Junior forward TJ Anderson, who had a strong showing in the first half, noted that the Loggers made fewer turnovers after switching to a man-to-man defense. After a cursory look from his game notes, Bean concurred.

“When I stat it tomorrow, we’ll probably have double-digit turnovers in the first half,” he said. “When you do that, you don’t give yourself an opportunity to score the ball.”

Looking ahead to their next game, Bean said he would be working to improve the Loggers’s zone defense. While man-to-man has been the team’s bread and butter for years, he said developing zone would help the squad if they ever got into foul trouble.

Libby’s junior varsity squad fell to the Broncs 56-29 earlier in the afternoon.

The Loggers will go onto face Columbia Falls at home on Jan. 8