Proving that tournament time is a new season and that all records can be thrown out the window, the Lovell Lady Bulldogs had a battle on their hands in Saturday’s regional title game in the form of the Wind River Lady Cougars.
Lovell had crushed Wind River in Pavillion 72-34 just three weeks earlier, but the Fremont County squad played well in the tournament, knocking off Greybull and upsetting Thermopolis before meeting the Lady Bulldogs for the title, entering the game with a 19-5 record.
Lovell won a hard-fought finale 58-46 to claim their third straight regional title.
“They’re a tough ballclub,” Coach Chris Edwards said. “They’ve got inside players and they’ve got shooters. The night before, they were able to shut down Thermopolis.
“We knew we had to handle their pressure and limit our turnovers. And for about 25 minutes we did that. There was about a three-minute spurt in the fourth quarter when we forgot to run our press-breaker and forgot we couldn’t dribble through their press.”
Lovell came out strong and built a 16-9 lead after the first quarter as six players got into the scoring column. Lovell clung to a 13-9 lead until Kassidy Hetland drained a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Amanda Robertson went to work in the second period, scoring 7 points as Lovell outscored Wind River 15-6 to lead 31-15 at halftime. The Lady Bulldogs dominated on the boards, getting follow shots on offensive rebounds and limiting Wind River to one shot on most possessions.
“We knew going in that we had to utilize our inside game and attack the rim, and the girls did a good job and it shows by the number of times we got to the line (30),” Edwards said.
The two teams traded baskets in the third quarter as Lovell edged Wind River 11-10 to lead 42-25.
Wind River’s press got to the Lady Bulldogs in the third, and the Lady Cougars were able to slash the Lovell lead to just four points, 44-40, with a 13-0 run. Edwards called timeout to settle his ballclub, and Lovell took off on an 11-2 run to seal the victory.
“We told them to settle down and remember what we worked on,” Edwards said. “We just had to execute the press-breaker.”
Lovell also hit 10 of 16 foul shots in the fourth quarter after going 1-6 in the third.
Senior Chelsey Ellis finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Robertson 17 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Chayli McArthur added 6 points, Emilee Reasch 6 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
The box score:
WIND RIVER (46)
Josee Vogel 2 0-2 4, Shaylee Lonedog 1 1-3 3, Bret Groesbeck4 1-2 9, Amanda C’Bearing 2 2-3 7, Alexa Wagon 3 0-0 9, Lexy Brown 2 9-11 13, Macayla Arrington 0 1-4 1. Totals 14 14-25 46.
Shyann Wilske 0 0-0 0, Kassi Renner 0 0-0 0, Lauren Hinckley 1 0-0 2, Chayli McArthur 1 4-6 6, Dominique Allred 0 0-2 0, Kassidy Hetland 2 0-0 5, Kim Shumway 2 0-0 4, Amanda Robertson 5 7-9 17, Chelsey Ellis 7 4-10 18, Emilee Reasch 2 2-3 6. Totals 20 17-30 58.
Wind River 9 6 10 21 – 46
Lovell 16 15 11 16 – 58
Three-point field goals – Wagon 3, C’Bearing 1; Hetland 1. Fouled out – Reasch. Total fouls – Wind River 22, Lovell 20.
Coming out of the regional tournament with the title, the Lady Bulldogs will begin their quest for a third straight state title Thursday morning with a 9 a.m. contest at Casper College against the fourth seed from the East Regional, Sundance.
It’s a Bulldogs vs. Bulldogs battle, and the winner will play the winner of the Big Horn-Thermopolis game Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the Casper Events Center. On the other side of the bracket are Wind River, Southeast, Tongue River and Rocky Mountain.
Edwards said Sundance has one dominant player in Kacie O’Connor.
“She kind of runs the show for them,” he said. “I hope we can pressure them and utilize our depth.”
Sundance had a strong regional tournament. A fourth seed coming out of the Northeast Conference, the Bulldogs fell to the top seed from the Southeast Conference, Southeast High School, 41-32, stayed alive by eliminating Burns 43-39, upset Southeast second seed Lusk 31-21 and finished fourth without a third-place game because the opponent was Southeast HS again, to whom they had already lost.
Edwards expects the Big Horn-Thermop game to be very competitive. Although Thermop beat Big horn 40-33 early in the season, Big Horn is much improved, he said, beating Rocky Mountain twice, for instance.
By David Peck