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Loggers cage the Eureka Lions in overtime

| February 18, 2022 7:00 AM

For one matriculating Libby Logger, Saturday’s senior night celebration was a little different.

Before the tipoff of a nonconference matchup between the Libby Loggers and Eureka Lions on Feb. 12, senior Luke DeShazer walked onto the court for the first time this season. On the opening day of practice, DeShazer injured his Achilles tendon and spent the rest of the season sidelined.

In a show of good will, the Loggers and Lions got together and decided to trade shots at the beginning of the game. DeShazer put his Loggers jersey on for the first time and hit a short bank shot. Eureka took their turn and evened up the score to start the cross-county showdown, 2-2.

DeShazer finished the season leading his teammates in field goal percentage, shooting 100 percent from the line.

The opening moments of the game set the tone for two evenly matched teams. Four quarters wasn’t enough to determine a winner. The Loggers pulled away in overtime for a 59-53 win.

Libby broke the early game tie after T.J. Andersen drew a foul underneath the basket. His two free throws were good and Libby took off to an early 4-2 lead.

But two Eureka three-point shots put the Lions on top, 8-6 with 5:30 left in the quarter.

Both teams employed a man defense throughout the game. The two kept pace with one another offensively until the Lions went on a five-point run just before the quarter’s end to give Eureka a 15-10 lead.

“Eureka executes their offense real well … and they have kids that can shoot,” said Libby coach Josh Bean. “We had some good looks at the basket. They just didn’t drop.”

Bean critiqued his team’s rebounding early in the game, saying Eureka “scored off a couple of offensive rebounds.”

Libby’s Cy Stevenson scored the opening points of the quarter on a put back. Coupled with an Ian Cano uncontested lay-in and a Caden Williams follow-up, the Loggers pulled within a point of the Lions with 4:30 left in the half.

A long distance dial from Andersen found Williams flying in for a rim-rattler with 3:30 left in the quarter. Libby, ahead 22-21, had its first lead since the early minutes of the game.

The Lions, though, closed out the quarter with six consecutive points. They walked off with a 29-23 lead.

And they returned in the third quarter with a roar. Eureka increased their lead by 10 points, pulling ahead of the Loggers 38-28. A six-point run by the Loggers repaired a bit of the damage. With one quarter to go, the Lions led 38-34.

Libby’s Tyler Andersen started off the fourth quarter in spectacular fashion. Andersen knocked down a three-point shot while fouled and then turned around and hit the free throws.

Eureka responded on their next possession, sinking a three-point shot. The Lions similarly drew a foul, but missed the free throw attempt.

But with 30 seconds left, Eureka held onto a 51-49 lead. Libby brought the ball down the court and into one of their offensive sets. Down to 16 seconds, Bean called for a timeout.

“We changed things up a bit,” Bean said. “The offensive set we were in just didn’t fit right. We devised an inbounds play.”

With time winding down, Ryder Davis kicked the ball off to Stevenson, who drove down the middle of the lane. His layup was good. The score: Libby 51, Eureka 51.

Compared to the neck-and-neck action preceding it, overtime proved anticlimactic. The Loggers’ defense held the Lions to two points during the extra period. Meanwhile, Libby came away with eight points, four off of free throws when the Lions began fouling for possession of the ball.

“Good victory,” Bean said. “Our guys were resilient. Eureka’s a good team. We were down 10 in the third quarter but the kids played through.”

The Feb. 12 matchup, the last of the regular season, was Libby’s first overtime game of the year, he said.

The Loggers continued to see success at the free throw line, making 20 of 27 shots. They finished the season 6-4 in conference play and 13-5 overall. Williams led his teammates in points, scoring 28. Stevenson came away with 10 and T.J. Andersen shot seven.

Libby will host Whitefish in the first round of the Western A Conference Tournament on Feb. 18. The game is scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m.