Playing perhaps their best game of the season, certainly their best defensive game, the Lovell Lady Bulldogs avenged an earlier loss to the rival Rocky Mountain Lady Grizzlies to beat the Grizz Saturday night 46-39 at Winterholler Gym.
The win solidified Lovell as one of the teams to beat in the 2A West, while for Rocky Mountain it was a missed opportunity at a conference title.
“We told the girls it’s a one-game season from here on out, that we have to start competing like it’s the last game,” Lovell coach Chris Edwards said. “We talked Friday at practice about having no more could-a, would-a, should-a, and now you’ve got to maximize every opportunity.
“We knew Rocky was playing well and had played well the whole season. Everyone had talked about how Greybull and Rocky were the best two teams in the region. Our girls knew they could prove people wrong with that notion.”
“Honestly, we came out of the gates a little slow,” said Rocky Mountain coach Eric Honeyman. “I give Lovell credit. They had everything to play for. They came out and hit us in the face a bit. I thought we did better in the second quarter. We were ahead by about seven by halftime, but things began to crumble in the second half of the game.”
Lovell held Rocky Mountain to single-digit scoring in three of the four quarters and played well on defense, except for the second quarter, Edwards said.
“It was our best defensive game of the season, which carried over from Thursday’s defensive intensity,” Edwards said. “Outside of three or four missed defensive assignments in the second quarter our girls really pressured Rocky and forced them into uncomfortable shots. It came down in the second half to our girls deciding to punch back instead of backing off after Rocky threw a couple of haymakers at us in the second quarter. In that quarter we had girls not in the right position offensively, which led to out-of-sync movement between the guards and the post.”
After the game was tied 3-3 and 5-5 early, Lovell closed the first quarter with a 5-0 spurt to lead 10-5 after one. A trey by Paige Bischoff boosted the lead to six points, 13-7, two minutes into the second quarter, but the Lady Grizz came on strong, forcing numerous Lovell turnovers and outscoring the home team 16-3 the rest of the quarter to take a 23-16 halftime lead. Teagan Townsend drained a pair of three-pointers during the run, plus a free throw, and Maddy Hocker scored 5 points.
“Rocky had great patience offensively and made the extra pass to find the open shooter,” Edwards noted. “Teagan really shot well from the three-point line.”
A third trey by Townsend boosted the Rocky Mountain lead to 10, 26-16, early in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs allowed only two more baskets the rest of the quarter and outscored Rocky Mountain 21-4 to take a 37-30 lead after three. Five different players scored for Lovell as Bischoff and Mikkel McIntosh scored 5 points each, Karlee Burton and Alea Mayes 4 apiece and Mandi Jo Baxendale 3.
“At halftime we told them they have to decide to pick up their intensity level and not let Rocky get into their half-court offenses,” Edward said. “The guards did a much better job of applying good on-ball pressure, and we extended our presses to more of a full-court press instead of a three-quarter-court press.
“I thought Karlee, Mikkel and Paige did a terrific job of creating havoc on Rocky’s guards. They made it so their shooters couldn’t just catch and shoot in rhythm. Our defensive effort really changed the tide. During that run everyone’s confidence level was up and we were attacking with purpose and Rocky was on their heels during that stretch.”
“The third quarter came down to us,” said Honeyman. “We just didn’t have the legs. We got out of our disciplined defense. They got to free throw about 30 times compared to our 13. You’re just not going to win games when you let the other team get that many attempts at the free throw line.
“The lack of discipline cost us. With a team like Lovell you’ve got to bring it for 32 minutes, especially when you’re on their floor.”
The fourth quarter was a wash at 9-9 as the Lady Grizz could draw no closer than five points and Lovell hit seven of 12 free-throw attempts to hold the Grizz off.
Edwards noted the big-game atmosphere in Winterholler Gym.
“Our girls really appreciated the crowd and their support as they started their run,” he said. “It was a good environment for the kids to play in – a clean, competitive atmosphere. We had good clock management during the last 2½ to three minute of the game. We used our continuity offense to get layups or make them foul us.”
The loss was disappointing to Honeyman.
“We really wanted that win and just let it slip through our fingers,” he said. “We really wanted that first seed at conference.”
Bischoff finished with 13 points to lead Lovell, and McIntosh joined her in double figures with 12. Baxendale added 8 points, Burton 5. McIntosh added eight rebounds, eight steals and five assists. Mayes had six rebounds, Bischoff four.
Townsend led Rocky Mountain with 15 points, hitting four three-pointers, and Brenda Timmons added 9 points, Hocker 7. Tori Steed led the team with five rebounds, and Melynda Davison grabbed four. Hocker led the squad with four assists.
Teagan Townsend 5 1-3 15, Abby Arnold 0 0-0 0, Maddy Hocker 3 1-1 7, Tori Steed 2 0-0 4, Brenda Timmons 4 1-6 9, Gabie Christensen 1 0-0 2, Melynda Davison 0 0-2 0, Pepper Lewis 0 2-2 2. Totals 15 5-14 39.
Paige Bischoff 3 5-6 13, Karlee Burton 2 1-4 5, Mikkel McIntosh 5 2-5 12, Meyja McArthur 0 0-0 0, Ashley Peterson 1 0-0 2, Mandi Jo Baxendale 2 4-10 8, Alea Mayes 2 2-2 4, Madison Bryson 0 2-4 2. Totals 15 16-31 46.
Rocky 5 18 7 9 – 39
Lovell 10 6 21 9 – 46
Three-point field goals – Townsend 4; Bischoff 2. Fouled out – Hocker. Total fouls – Rocky Mtn. 23, Lovell 17.
Rocky Mountain and Lovell enter the final weekend of the regular season pretty much assured of second and third place in the 2A Northwest, respectively, at 5-2 and 3-3, with Greybull holding the top spot at 6-1.
The Lady Bulldogs will travel to Shoshoni Friday for games at 4 (JV) and 5:30 p.m., then host Riverside Saturday, also at 4 and 5:30, for senior night. Rocky Mountain will host Shoshoni Saturday at noon (JV) and 1:30 p.m., also celebrating the seniors.
Lovell beat Shoshoni 41-25 at home on Jan. 27, but Edwards said the Lady Blue have some players and are tough at home.
“Shoshoni’s always a tough matchup for any team, especially in their gym,” he said. “They’re long and very athletic at every position. We’ve got to get them playing at a full-court, high-energy pace and not allow it to be a slowdown, half-court battle. Our girls have to dictate the pace of the game.”
Lovell beat Riverside 58-28 in Basin on Feb. 2.
Rocky beat Shoshoni 41-25 Feb. 2 in Shoshoni and will be looking to close the regular season 6-2 in the conference, 16-4 overall, and gain some momentum heading into the regional tournament.
By David Peck