Lady Cougars claim district title

Next Stop: Divisional tournament at the Metra in Billings
By: 
Mikaela Koski
Thursday, February 21, 2019

Photo by Kyla Rouane
          
            The Columbus Lady Cougars celebrate after winning the 4B District Basketball Tournament last Saturday.

See our sports photo gallery for more shots from the district tournament!

District Champions

The Columbus Lady Cougars avenged their regular season district losses last weekend on the way to being named 4B district champions.

In the first round of the tournament, Columbus faced the Shepherd Fillies. The Cougars got on the board first behind a two-point basket from junior Brenna Rouane, and from that point on Columbus controlled the game. A couple big three-point shots at the end of the first quarter gave the Cougars a 14-5 lead, and the second period ended the same. Going into halftime, Columbus was up 28-10.

The second half was much like the first, as the Cougar offense continued to produce points while the defense executed to hold the Fillies to single digits. Columbus outscored Shepherd 15-2 in the final quarter on the way to a 59-21 victory.

Senior Alexa Riveland scored 14 points to lead the Cougars, going 4/6 from behind the arc. Rouane followed with 12 points, and senior Morgan Kirch and sophomore Brooklyn Wyllie both contributed eight. Leading the team in rebounds was Rouane with four; Wyllie grabbed three rebounds.

Columbus Head Coach Jeromey Burke said he felt his team set the tone for the entire district tournament Thursday night against Shepherd. “I thought they were aggressive and confident and took control of a very physical game early,” he explained.

The win set Columbus up in the semifinals against the Roundup Lady Panthers, a team that split two close games with the Cougars during the regular season.

This game started tight, and after the first quarter, Roundup had a slight 9-6 advantage. During the second, the Cougar offense found a rhythm to gain the upper hand 21-16 by halftime. The third quarter was close, but Columbus held the Panthers to only one point in the final quarter while adding eight of their own to seal the 39-28 win.

Rouane led the Cougar offense with 10 points, followed by sophomore Payton West with seven and Kirch with six. Wyllie had seven rebounds to lead the team, and Rouane added six of her own.

The win over Roundup ensured Columbus would advance to the divisional tournament, and Burke described that as a “pretty big monkey off our back.” Last year, the Cougars lost a challenge game against Roundup to end the season after the district tournament.

“No one in our locker room had been (to divisionals), and I was extremely happy that Lex, Morgan, and Tay were able to see things come full circle from where they started a few years ago,” Burke noted.

In the championship game, Columbus faced Huntley Project – the only team the Cougars played during the regular season and did not beat at least once.

Columbus was determined to not allow the Lady Red Devils to get another win, and the Cougar offense jumped out right away in the first quarter to climb to an 18-6 lead. At halftime, Columbus was up 30-12. The lead never changed during the game as the Cougars cruised to a 53-28 victory.

The Columbus offense was led by West with 10 points. Sophomore Trista Teeters contributed nine, and Wyllie and Riveland each scored eight. Wyllie also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Burke described the Huntley game as a “great overall team performance,” adding that the Cougars’ intensity when playing defense was fun to watch throughout the entire district tournament.

“There are a lot of little things we’ve really tried to clean up all year long, and Saturday was as good as we’ve done at controlling those things,” Burke said. “As I said at the start of the year, our number one goal all along was to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year, and I think the girls managed to make that happen.”

The first place finish at divisionals sets the Cougars up with a tough first round divisional matchup against the Townsend Lady Bulldogs. Columbus is currrently ranked fifth in the state, and Townsend is in fourth.

Burke said that while Townsend is a good team, he is looking forward to the game as he thinks his team has “the mindset that if they play their game and play to their potential, they can play with anyone.”

The Southern B Divisional Tournament will take place next week, Feb. 28-March 2, at the Metra in Billings.

PARK CITY

Stillwater County girls action at the 6C District Tournament in Huntley last week kicked off with an Absarokee-Park City rematch. During the regular season, the teams split games, each winning at home.

The game was a battle from opening tipoff. A three-pointer from Absarokee senior Mallorey Sheppard gave the Lady Huskies a 15-12 lead going into the break. The Lady Panthers came back in the third, and entering the fourth quarter, had about a six-point lead.

Absarokee fought back in the final minutes, and the two teams struggled for the lead until the last seconds. A Sheppard three-pointer grabbed a 38-37 lead for the Huskies with about 25 seconds left, and two free throws by junior Tymber Jensen gave Absarokee a 40-37 advantage with seven seconds left in the game. Park City was not able to come back, giving the Huskies the 40-37 first round win.

Jensen led Absarokee with 15 points, followed closely by Sheppard with 14.

Husky Head Coach Travis Frickel described the Park City game as a “memorable one and hopefully something the girls don’t ever forget.” He continued, “To show the amount of heart and determination to not give up showed a lot about how much this team cared and wanted to win.”

As for the Panthers, junior Hayley Story led the Park City offense with 17 points. Senior Alyx Grabowska scored six.

The loss sent Park City into loser-out action against Broadview-Lavina on Thursday. The Panthers had a dominating performance – a 25-0 first quarter score stretched to a 41-2 lead by halftime. In the end, Park City won the game 54-6.

Ten different Panthers contributed to the Park City offense, led by Grabowska and sophomore Abby Hoffman with nine points each. Story scored eight, and senior Blakely Verke added seven.

The win allowed Park City to advance to play Reed Point-Rapelje in a loser-out game Friday.

The Lady Renegades grabbed the lead first, but by the end of the initial minutes of play, the Panthers had a slight 12-9 advantage. RPR was able to grab the lead during the second quarter, extending it to four points, but Park City came back, and by halftime, the Panthers were up 28-25.

The physical battle continued throughout the second half of the game. Again, the Renegades were able to take back the lead, but Park City stole it right back. Entering the final minutes, the Panthers had a 33-31 lead. RPR tied the game early in the fourth, but the Renegades could never recapture the lead as Park City slowly pulled away for the 44-36 win.

Grabowska led the Panther offense with 13 points, followed by Verke with 10 and senior Kasidy Robbins with seven.

Park City Head Coach Justine Taylor said she knew the RPR game would be a difficult one, as “it’s tough to beat a team like that three times.”

While she noted her team had trouble containing Renegade junior Carlee Blodgett, Taylor explained the difference in the game came with how the Park City girls finished. She described how the Panthers “took better care of the ball and made some crucial free throws at the end.”

Taylor added, “It was nice to see the girls’ hard work pay off.”

On the RPR side, Blodgett racked up 21 points, while senior Mercedes Hoff scored six.

The win sent Park City to the consolation game and ensured the Panthers a spot at the divisional tournament.

In Saturday’s consolation game, Park City played the Harlowton Lady Engineers. The game was tight, with the Panthers holding a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter and a three-point 22-19 lead by halftime.

Harlowton made up some ground in the third quarter, and entering the final minutes, Park City was only up 29-28. The Engineers went on to outscore the Panthers 14-6 in the fourth for the 42-65 win. The loss gave Park City a fourth place district tournament finish.

Verke led the Panthers with 12 points, followed by Grabowska with 10.

While Park City did not avenge its regular season losses to Harlowton, Taylor felt her team had “an all-around great tournament.”

The Southern C Divisional Tournament will take place this week, Wednesday through Saturday, in Laurel. The Panthers were matched up with Ekalaka for a first round game Wednesday night.

As far as divisionals was concerned, Taylor said, “The team is really coming together at the right time, and I look forward to seeing them play their best basketball this week.”

REED POINT-RAPELJE

While the loss to Park City ended the Renegades’ season one game short of a divisional berth, RPR opened the district tournament with an exciting game against the Harlowton Lady Engineers.

The Renegade offense struggled to get shots to fall in the opening minutes, and by the end of the first quarter, Harlowton was up 14-6. RPR was able to grab the momentum in the second, though, creating a slight lead in the middle of the quarter. The Engineers stole it back before halftime, and going into the break, Harlowton had a 20-19 lead.

The two teams continued to battle in the second half, and some missed free throws kept the lead out of reach for the Renegades. Entering the last quarter, the Engineers still had a one-point, 26-25 advantage. RPR was able to take back the lead for good at the start of the fourth quarter, creating distance from Harlowton for the 39-32 victory.

Blodgett had 13 points against the Engineers. Hoff contributed 12, and senior Jocelyn Ott added nine.

The win set RPR up against a very tough Plenty Coups Lady Warriors team in the semifinals.

By the end of the first quarter, Plenty Coups had a 13-6 advantage. While the scoring was very close for the rest of the game, the Lady Warriors continued to slowly grow their lead to a 53-38 final score.

Blodgett and Hoff again led the Renegade offense – Blodgett with 18 points and Hoff with

13.

RPR Head Coach Tricia Hess was proud of her team’s performance at the district tournament.

“Those three games were the best we played all year. The intensity with which we played was great – it was what we needed, and the girls delivered,” she explained. “The girls came out with a drive and determination each game that we had only a couple times during the regular season.”

Hess noted that each game at districts was the best the Renegades had played against those opponents. RPR split games in the regular season against Harlowton, and she felt her team surprised the Engineers with the level of play the Renegades brought to districts.

RPR also played its best against Plenty Coups and Park City. Hess highlighted the play of the team’s two seniors, saying, “Mercedes Hoff put points on the board that we needed, and Jocelyn Ott led the girls and was a key part of our level of intensity.”

The Renegade coach noted, “I couldn’t have asked any more from the girls than they gave in those three games; they put it all out there every game they played in the tournament.”

ABSAROKEE

After the 40-37 Husky defeat of Park City in the first round, Absarokee advanced to play the Bridger Lady Scouts in the semi-finals.

The Huskies were able to jump out to an early 10-7 lead by the end of the first quarter, but Bridger was able to take advantage of a lull in the Absarokee offense during the second quarter to go up 22-14 at halftime. During the second half, the Huskies kept the scoring close, but it was not enough – the Scouts were able to slowly extend the lead to 48-36 by the end of the game.

Sheppard and sophomore Lexi Feddes each scored 10 points, and junior Breezy Williams added seven.

Frickel felt his team played tough and executed its plan for the Scouts pretty well, save for some time in the second quarter when one of the key Bridger players had the opportunity to make several big shots.

The loss knocked Absarokee down on the bracket to loser-out play Friday afternoon against Harlowton. Neither offense could get rolling in the first minutes of the game, and entering the second quarter, the Huskies were ahead 3-2. The Engineers were able to take the lead about halfway through the second quarter, and by halftime Harlowton had a 15-9 lead.

The third quarter was closer in scoring, but the lack of a rhythm for the Absarokee offense led to a 17-6 scoring mismatch in the final minutes. The Engineers won 39-24; the loss ended the Huskies’ season one game short of divisionals.

Jensen led Absarokee with eight points, followed by Feddes with six.

Frickel explained that the Huskies suffered some bad luck with their health against Harlowton, and although the team could have just given up, the Absarokee players continued to persevere.

“They gave it their absolute best effort, and we just ran out of gas,” he said. “I was so proud of those kids at the end of the game and the resolve we showed throughout the tournament.”

Frickel concluded, “We truly feel we could have been a divisional team this year, but things happen that are out of our control, and hopefully the girls returning next year will use it as fuel to prepare in the off-season.”

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