The Libby High School girls basketball team put a wallop on the visiting Polson Lady Pirates during senior night Saturday, winning 52-17.
The Lady Loggers held Polson to no points early, with Polson’s Natasha Gravelle only managing to put two on the board for the Lady Pirates just as the buzzer sounded in the first quarter.
By half time, Libby was up 39-6.
The Lady Loggers eased off a little, and Head Coach Wally Winslow started rotating in some of his younger players during the second half. Yet, while their offensive juggernaut from the first half slowed, the quality of play didn’t lag.
“Both our C team and our JV programs, the kids have developed over the course of the season. I’m really, really pleased with the progress that they’ve made,” Winslow said after the game. “They’re doing some things now that are really at a good, high level of basketball.”
With a starting lineup filled with seniors, Winslow said he wasn’t sure how Libby was going to show up and play Saturday. It can be an emotional night.
“You always worry about where basketball sits in their priority list on these nights. But, I thought the kids really came out and executed stuff,” he said. “We ran some things that we needed to run, and they executed really well — and they had good focus.”
The team has been working on having strong starts to their games, Winslow said.
“We need to make sure we’re ready to come, get to business, right out of the chute,” he said.
While the Lady Loggers did not face their hardest opponent in the Lady Pirates, they also did not hold back in their performance against Polson. Passes were smooth and mistakes were few as the team seemed to hit the groove the have been searching for since senior Jayden Winslow returned from an injury.
“It’s continually a work in in progress,” Winslow said. He pointed out senior Samantha Miller, who has been branching out in her skills.
“She’s always been a good shooter, but now she’s driving to the basket, passing the ball around some — all of the kids, not just Samantha, are making plays that they haven’t in the past,” he said.
That is evidence of the confidence they have built and are now showing, as well as the product of repetition, he said. It’s this time in the season he wants to see all of that come together, and the Lady Loggers playing their best.
“We just got such a great start, and I thought our defense was pretty solid,” Winslow said.
Senior Jayden Winslow had a good night as well, he said. “She’s been playing really good all year, but today was kind of a fun time for her to get out and kind of cut loose some.”
“It was one of those games where, when we got opportunities, we converted,” he said. “And we talk about that a lot with the girls — and not just how it pertains to basketball — but that’s true in whatever you’re doing.”
With Jayden Winslow one of the seniors leaving this year, Coach Winslow acknowledged there was some added emotion to this senior night for himself as well.
“I’ve coached lots of games in the gym, and my son played for me, and his senior night was — they’re bitter-sweet,” he said. “It’s a great celebration for them and all the time they’ve put in.”
The final home game of the season signals a coming loss of time spent not just with his own daughter, but a whole group of seniors -- including team manager Zoie Spady -- who have come to be important to him, he said.
“All the girls that are in our program, I love to death, and that’s goin’ away, and that’s hard to deal with, but, it’s the way it is,” he said.
Winslow talked about earlier in the day, watching the varsity and junior varsity practicing in the gym at the same time a group of middle school players were winding up their shooting.
“And it was just really fun, sitting back and looking at all the different groups of kids that are playing now, and will be playing next year, and then the ones that will be coming up after that -- it’s fun,” he said. “It’s a really cool experience, but bittersweet nonetheless.”
During the senior night portion of the evening, with all the basketball seniors lined up in the gym, the announcer read a few words from Winslow.
In them, Winslow expressed how impressed he was with this year’s seniors not just in how they have been as players, but also how they have been as students, and the women they are growing into.
“I am so thankful that I’ve had the privilege to share this basketball journey with you, and watch you grow,” he said in his statement.
Saturday, Feb. 9
Libby 52, Polson 17
L: 18 21 8 5 - 52
P: 2 4 4 7 - 17
Alli Collins 3 points, 3-5 FT; Emma Gruber 4 points; Samantha Miller 3 points; Jayden Winslow 26 points, 6-8 FT; Sammee Bradeen 6 points, 2-5 FT; McKenzie Proffitt 8 points, 2-2 FT; Olvia Gilliam-Smith 1 points, 1-2 FT; Taylor Holm 1 points, 1-4 FT.
Polson: Lisa Costilla 3 points; Megan Rost 2 points; Alex Pierre 2 points; Natasha Gravelle 2 points; Sharmaine Zompel 4 points; Olivia Perez 4 points, 2-4 FT.