The Libby High School boys basketball team came out of the weekend with two tight losses, 43-41 at Ronan on Friday and 49-46 against Whitefish at home.
In both games, the Loggers had difficulty getting their shots to go in, said Libby Head Coach Josh Bean.
At Ronan, the Loggers got good shots and executed well, he said. “Balls were bouncing in and out all night long. All around, we couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
But the Loggers faced a tough opponent with the Chiefs, and Anthony Camel was once again a force to be reckoned with. He scored 22 of Ronan’s 43 points during the game.
Camel is strong under the basket and out into the perimeter, making him difficult to guard, Bean said.
Libby’s two biggest scorers — junior Keith Johnson and senior Ryggs Johnston — had a rough time scoring at Ronan. Johnson did just barely better than his season average with 12 points, and Johnston’s 13 fell well below his average points per game of 21.2.
“We were really getting good shots. It just wasn’t going in,” Bean said.
But the Loggers took the Ronan loss as an opportunity to work through their frustration and come back ready to play the next day, when they faced Whitefish at home, he said.
“And they came out and played hard and gave themselves an opportunity to win,” he said.
The Bulldogs had good runs, pulling away from Libby by nine points just after the half. Yet, it remained a close contest throughout.
The Loggers held a small lead early in the second quarter, with Johnston sinking a three point shot to propel them into a 15-11 lead. But they were unable to keep it.
By halftime, Whitefish led 22-18 after Bulldog senior Ryan Kemm scored the final two points of the half.
Bean noted that the Loggers were successful in limiting Whitefish seniors Lee Walburn and Dillon Botner, who average 22 and 12 points per game respectively. Against Libby, they were held to six and 10, respectively.
But Kemm — who has averaged just over four points a game this season — came off the bench to score 10 from the floor and 14-of-10 at the free throw line.
Still, Libby showed their versatility on the court Saturday, with players such as sophomore Jay Beagle — a 5-foot, 10-inch guard — battling successfully for rebounds against players with up to eight inches on him.
“Our kids — and they always have — they’ve got a lot of fight in them,” Bean said. “They understand what to do and where to be for the most part, and they do a good job of being there. I thought Ryan Goodman was good for us off the bench.”
Like many of Libby’s players, Goodman did well both offensively and defensively for the Loggers, Bean said.
Even Johnston, who put up 23 points against the Bulldogs, had his share of rebounds. During the first quarter, he missed a three point shot, and was there in time to rebound and pass the ball to Goodman, who sunk a basket from just inside the top of the key.
The intensity ratcheted up in the final minute of play Saturday.
With Libby trailing by four points, Kemm went 2-for-3 at the free throw line, padding the Bulldog lead.
But between a bucket Johnson made off a throw-in under the Whitefish basket and Beagle hitting 3-for-4 with free throws, Libby closed the score down to a 44-43 Whitefish lead with 34 seconds remaining.
Yet, Kemm made it back to the free throw line twice more, and despite Johnston sinking a three point shot to put Libby once again a single point behind Whitefish, with only four seconds left, the Loggers ran out of time.
Bean took a lot of responsibility for how the game went in the final minute. “And if it wasn’t for a dumb mistake on my part, then we might have won that game,” he said.
A misjudgement with a technical foul hurt them, he said.
Bean said he tries to never put his players in a bad position. “For instance, putting them behind the eight ball, which I did tonight. And it’s not acceptable by any means that I did that to those kids tonight, because they played hard, and they always do. They always play hard.”
But Bean is mindful of learning from the losses and building to future wins.
“We do have the ability to score and score a bunch,” he said. “We showed it early in the season, and it kind of got away from us a little bit, so we just need to regroup next week.”
The Loggers will play next at home where they will face the Trojans Thursday at 7:15 p.m. They will play at home again on Saturday, when they host Browning in the Ralph Tate Memorial Gym, with boys varsity starting at 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 18
Ronan 43, Libby 41
R: 12 14 7 10 - 43
L: 4 15 16 6 - 41
Ronan: Randy Finley 1 points, 1-2 FT; Dalkis Durheim 7 points, 3-4 FT; Jacob Gatch 9 points, 2-4 FT; Bubba Bush 4 points, 4-6 FT; Anthony Camel 22 points, 5-6 FT;
Libby: JJ Davis 4 points, 0-1 FT; Ryan Goodman 1 point, 1-2 FT; Ryggs Johnston 13 points, 5-6 FT; Jay Beagle 4 points; Caden Williams 4 points; Keith Johnson 12 points, 0-3 FT; Kevin Barnes 3 points, 1-2 FT
Saturday, Jan. 19
Whitefish 49, Libby 46
W: 11 11 13 14 - 49
L: 9 9 11 17 - 46
Whitefish: Justin Conklin 8 points, 2-2 FT; Mark Anderson 5 points; Ryan Kemm 20 points, 10-13 FT; Lee Walburn 6 points; Dillon Botner 10 points
Libby: Ryan Goodman 6 points, 2-3 FT; Ryggs Johnston 23 points, 6-6 FT; Jay Beagle 8 points, 3-4 FT; Keith Johnson 9 points, 3-4 FT