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Libby knocks off Ronan in conference play

by JIM DASIOS
| February 4, 2022 7:00 AM

The Libby boys turned 32 free throw attempts into 25 points as the Loggers defeated Ronan 61-53 in Northwestern A Conference action on Jan. 29.

“We had a hard time making shots, especially early on,” said Libby coach Josh Bean, reflecting on Ronan’s strong start.

Free throws proved a saving grace for the Loggers.

“Our ability to convert our free throws got us through that rough stretch,” said Bean. “Then, with the lead and time ticking away in the fourth quarter, Ronan began fouling us to get the ball back. Again, the kids stepped up and made free throws.”

Libby began the game locked in a 1-3-1 zone defense, but it did little to keep Ronan from scoring. Bean said the team’s struggles with rebounding out of the zone defense continued.

Deciding it was time for a change, the Loggers switched to a man defense with a special emphasis on locking down Ronan’s top two scorers. But other members of the Chief’s roster stepped up to hit shots. Ronan headed out of the first quarter with an 18-11 lead.

The second quarter saw the Loggers stay in man defense with a few tweaks, including added defensive pressure. Ronan’s hot hands began cooling while the Loggers started clearing rebounds. Streaking down the court, they converted several fast breaks into baskets.

By halftime, the Loggers had more than cut into the Chiefs’ lead — they had overcome it. The scoreboard read Libby 27, Ronan 24 at the buzzer.

As the third quarter began, T.J. Andersen kept his team’s offense heading in the right direction.

“[Andersen] scored 10 points in the third quarter, including two three-pointers” Bean said. “His shooting allowed us to take the lead.”

Libby advanced its lead over Ronan to 43-39 by the third quarter’s end.

The final quarter of play started with a hot Libby team whose midrange jumpers and three-point shots were starting to fall. One problem, though: Ronan matched them shot-for-shot.

As the minutes wound down, and with Libby holding a narrow lead, the Chiefs kicked up the defensive pressure. That pressure led to several Ronan fouls.

“Caden Williams was able to convert on seven free throws in the fourth period,” said Bean, who pointed out the Loggers’ final eight points came off of free throws.

“As a team, we shot 17 free throws in the fourth quarter,” he said. “We made 12 of those.”

Bean credited Cy Stevenson with on-court heroics. Stevenson was given the unenviable task of guarding the Chief’s hottest weapon.

“We asked [Stevenson] to guard the Chief’s top scorer throughout the game and he accepted the challenge,” Bean said. “Cy rebounded well on both ends of the floor.”

The game ended with a final score of 61-53 in Libby’s favor. With the victory, the Loggers improved their record to 4-3 in conference play and 10-4 overall.

Williams proved the Loggers' top scorer, coming away with 22 points. Andersen earned 19 points for Libby and when Stevenson wasn't busy on defense, he racked up eight points. The top two scorers for Ronan were Payton Cates, with 14, and Elijah Tonasket, who netted 11.

That puts Libby in third place in the Northwest A Conference. Browning is in first place with a 5-1 record and Polson is holding down second with a 5-2 record.

When tournament time comes around, the teams that finish first and second receive first round byes. The third and fourth place teams play the first round of games at home.

Libby 11 16 16 18 - 61

Ronan 18 11 10 14 - 53