In their first game of the State Class A Tournament last weekend, the Libby High School girls basketball team faced Havre, who would go on to become state champions.
It was a heavy loss for the Lady Loggers, falling 62-28 on the first day of play last Thursday.
But, they picked themselves up and went out the next morning to face Columbia Falls in a bid for a consolation title. Still, it wasn’t to be, and the Wildkats came away with a 48-33 win over Libby.
Each game had a good half, said Libby Head Coach Wally Winslow. But the Lady Loggers didn’t manage as consistent of play as they pulled off two weeks before at the divisional, and that cost them, especially against Columbia Falls.
After struggling through the first half against the Wildkats, Libby came back at the half to score more points in the third quarter than they had in the entire first half.
Against Havre, Winslow said that the state champions just wore Libby down.
In the first half, the Lady Loggers got the ball where they wanted it and slowed the game down quite a bit, forcing a half-court game.
“And then in the second half against Havre, their defensive pressure just wore us down,” he said. “We started to turn the ball over — and missing shots that we were making in the first half.”
Havre wore Libby out both mentally and physically, he said.
“And that’s what Havre does. That’s why they won the state championship,” he said.
Winslow said that Libby seemed tentative in the first half against Columbia Falls.
“We had some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, and I’m not quite sure why,” he said.
“In the district and divisional tournaments we had been more willing to try to make some plays. In that first half against Columbia Falls, we were just on our heels more than we were on the balls of our feet,” he said.
Despite Libby coming out strong after the half, Columbia Falls still stayed ahead to the end of the third quarter, 33-22.
Ultimately, it was just too deep of a hole to dig back out of, Winslow said.
Overall though, Winslow said the team did well in the postseason. And it was difficult — outside of moments in particular games — to pick out any one player for her contribution to the team.
The whole was great than the sum of the parts, Winslow said.
“For that reason, it was a very rewarding season, because so many kids contributed,” he said.
From the final games of the regular season all the way through the state tournament, Libby seemed to find their groove. Though senior Jayden Winslow still was leading the team most games, the rest of the Lady Loggers had stepped up during the time Winslow was out with an injury, and they never stepped back down.
“We probably didn’t demonstrate that as well in the state tournament as we had in the divisional, but the kids were still on that same line as far as contributing,” Winslow said.
Still, having that extended postseason bodes well for the Lady Loggers who will return to play next year, he said.
“We practiced another month, and that is to their benefit, because the practices were intense and we were focused and we were really trying to get better for the next tournament,” he said. “And those girls that were participating in those practices got a lot better.”
Every team, from the C team and JV to the varsity underclassmen, showed growth, Winslow said. He credited the work that his assistant coaches put in, but also the time and effort that the players gave.
“You know, if you’re going to get better at something, you’ve got to practice it,” he said.
Winslow said that he hopes the players will remember how much their hard work paid off during the spring and summer when they don’t have regular practices.
“I’m really tickled for them and pleased with the growth that they showed, but that opportunity for growth isn’t just during the season, that opportunity for growth occurs at other times of the year too.”
Winslow said that as much as he “beats the drum” of getting into the weight room and working on skills in the offseason, the players do need to still give attention to other parts of their lives, from their families to just going out and enjoying their free time.
“But if you’re going to do something like basketball, there has to be some level of commitment to excellence, and I think the girls kind of understand the whole balancing act here,” he said.
Winslow acknowledged that the team will have a different dynamic next year without Jayden Winslow.
“I think that Jayden’s a special player, and to ask somebody to step into her role right away is probably not going to happen, but there’s some kids that are going to be more than capable of being really good,” he said.
Looking back on the season, Winslow said that he wasn’t just proud of how well his players handled themselves on the court.
“I really enjoyed the girls. They represented themselves and their school at the highest level in everything that we did,” he said. “They’re great representations of what the kind of kids are that we have at Libby High School, and the community and the school need to be proud of them for that.”
State A Tournament
Thursday, Feb. 28
Havre 62, Libby 28
H: 14 11 18 19 - 62
L: 13 7 7 1 - 28
Havre: Sam Oliver 2 points, 0-1 FT; Kyndall Keller 15 points, 1-2 FT; Kylie Walker 4 points, 0-1 FT; Lay Waid 2 points; Kadia Miller 10 points, 2-2 FT; Jessa Chvilicek 2 points; Sadie Filius 9 points, 1-2 FT; Katie Witzberger 6 points; Lauren Kato 5 points, 5-6 FT; Britton Paulson 7 points, 1-2 FT.
Libby: Alli Collins 2 points, 2-5 FT; Emma Gruber 2 points; Jayden Winslow 14 points, 2-2 FT; Sammee Bradeen 3 points, 3-6 FT; McKenzie Proffitt 4 points, 0-1 FT; Elise Erickson 1 points, 1-2 FT; Taylor Holm 2 points, 0-1 FT.
Friday, March 1
Columbia Falls 48, Libby 31
CF: 12 10 11 15 - 48
L: 5 4 13 9 - 31
Columbia Falls: Maddie Robison 2 points; Savvy Ellis 5 points; Jasie Windauer 2 points; Hannah Schweikert 9 points; Ryley Kehr 10 points, 3-5 FT; Madysen Hoemer 2 points; Trista Cowen 18 points, 4-4 FT.
Libby: Alli Collins 6 points; Jayden Winslow 12 points, 2-2 FT; Sammee Bradeen 3 points; McKenzie Proffitt 8 points, 2-4 FT; Taylor Holm 2 points.