It is said that defense and rebounding win championships, and if that’s truly the case, it’s easy to see how the Lovell Lady Bulldogs captured their second straight Class 2A girls basketball title in Casper Saturday night.
Lovell completed a 25-1 season by crushing the Thermopolis Lady Bobcats 54-22, and in doing so the Lady Bulldogs held the Lady Cats to a grand total of 4 points and no baskets in the entire second half.
They also out-rebounded the girls in purple 43-25.
Thermop played their best ball in the first quarter, outscoring Lovell 12-7 as the Lady Bulldogs turned the ball over six times and had a difficult time finding the range, especially inside.
Lovell led 6-3 midway through the first quarter on a Jodi Walker bank shot, a Walker jumper on a kick-out by Erin Robertson and an inside jumper by Robertson. Dana Bjorhus had a three-pointer for Thermop. Over the final 3½ minutes of the quarter, however, the Lady Bobcats outscored the Lady Bulldogs 9-1, getting inside the Lovell defense.
“We were playing nervous and not playing like we’d been there before,” coach Chris Edwards said. “It felt like we tightened up. It wasn’t necessarily anything Thermop was doing to us. We had open looks and opportunities.
“They (Thermop) had some confidence in the first quarter. They played aggressive and loose. We were missing layups and free throws.”
Thermopolis built the lead to 14-8 early in the second quarter, and Edwards called time out, telling his team to “unwind and relax” and that it was “our game to take control of.”
“We were getting opportunities,” he said “Offensively, we were getting the shots we wanted. It came down to relaxing and putting it in.”
Although they still had some difficulties finishing inside, the Lady Bulldogs outscored Thermop 14-4 the rest of the half. Leanne Winterholler started the run with a bank shot and also found Chelsey Ellis inside for two. Amanda Shumway scored 6 points, including a follow shot that put the Lady Bulldogs up 19-18 late in the half. Then with the clock winding down, senior point guard Alyssa Geiser fired up a trey that banked in, putting the Lady Bulldogs up 22-18 and giving them some momentum heading into the second half.
“At halftime we talked about focusing on the backboard and not worrying about where the defense is,” Edwards said. “Defensively, we knew we had ‘em where we wanted ‘em. We were forcing them into shooting off-balance jump shots.”
To say that the Lady Bulldogs dominated the second half defensively would be a huge understatement. The Lady Bulldogs didn’t allow a basket – just four free throws – and held Thermop to 0-16 shooting from the field. Lovell outscored Thermop 11-3 in the third quarter and 21-1 in the fourth.
“On that stage it wasn’t something we even dreamed of happening in the second half of a championship game,” Edwards said. “We were still running our 1-2-2 (zone), but we were more active in it. We weren’t letting their girls penetrate at it, and when they did penetrate, we rotated better.
“We played more composed, and they lost their composure.”
The Lady Bobcats actually scored half of their second-half points early in the third on two free throws by Bjorhus that kept them close at 24-20, but Lovell finished the third on a 9-1 run as Amanda Shumway scored on a three-point power play, Walker hit a left-handed hook, Shumway hit a baseline jumper and Robertson sank a pair of free throws. Lovell led 33-21 at the quarter break.
Lovell quickly turned the game into a rout in the fourth quarter, starting the quarter with a 12-0 run fueled by Shumway and Winterholler with 5 points each. After a Thermop free throw, the Lady Bulldogs scored the final 9 points of the game as Edwards first put all five seniors – Geiser, Walker, Winterholler, Robertson and Griffis — back on the court together, then took them out as a group as they celebrated on the bench with big smiles on their faces.
In the end, the Lady Bulldogs shot 46.5 percent from the field (55 percent in the second half) compared to 14.7 percent for Thermopolis.
“We talked about defense and rebounding,” Edwards said. “We’re well-balanced, whereas they tried to rely on one girl (Bjorhus). We got the same shots we had in the first half. We just finished them in the second half.”
Amanda Shumway finished with a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds. Robertson added 11 points and eight rebounds, Winterholler 7 points and four assists, Walker 6 points and five boards, Geiser 5 points and four assists and Ellis 4 points and five rebounds.
The box score:
Alyssa Geiser 1 2-4 5, Jodi Walker 3 0-1 6, Leanne Winterholler 3 0-0 7, Kassidy Hetland 0 0-0 0, Kim Shumway 1 1-3 3, Hannah McCurley 0 0-2 0, Amanda Shumway 7 3-6 17, Chelsey Ellis 2 0-0 4, Chayli McArthur 0 0-0 0, Erin Robertson 3 5-7 11, Miranda Griffis 0 1-4 1, Emilee Reasch 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 12-27 54.
Delanie Price 0 0-0 0, Bailey Fisher 0 1-2 1, Sierra Schmidt 1 3-4 5, Kylie Fisher 0 0-5 0, Anja Abbott 0 0-0 0, Demitra Zamora 0 0-0 0, Haylee Hoffman 0 0-0 0, Jordan Leyba 0 0-0 0, Dana Bjorhus 3 3-5 10, Taylor Schwalbe 0 3-5 3, Desi Rangel 0 0-0 0. Totals 5 11-22 22.
Lovell 7 15 11 21 – 54
Thermop 12 6 3 1 – 22
Three-point field goals – Geiser 1, Winterholler 1; Bjorhus 1. Fouled out – Schwalbe. Total fouls – Lovell 19, Thermop 22.
By David Peck