Late run pushes Herders past Lady Rangers

By 
Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Monday, January 20, 2020
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Photo by Elias Baer-Big Timber Pioneer

Park’s Abby Kokot (34) block the shot of Sweet Grass County’s Bailey Finn (12) while Skylar Higgs (30) waits to jump on the rebound.

Strong free throw shooting propelled the Sweet Grass County Herders over the Park High Lady Rangers on Saturday night at Park High School. 

The Herders hit 16 fourth quarter free throws in the 56-50 win. 

The Herders started out strong, surging out to 15-8 lead in the first quarter. A free-throw line jumper from Ryleah Floyd and a post hook shot from Sylvie Schoenen helped close the gap to three before the end of the quarter.

The Lady Rangers began the second quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by a Shania Johnson 3-pointer that forced the Herders to call a timeout to try to slow the momentum. 

The Lady Rangers built on their lead, but five straight points for the Herders late in the quarter brought them within three. Bobbi Lima was fouled as she made a layup late in the half, with the free throw the Lady Rangers took a 30-26 lead into the locker room.

Park head coach Megan Burns said the Lady Rangers’ defense was key to shaking off the slow start.

“I think we were playing a little bit not quite (like) ourselves on defense and that picked up in that second quarter,” Burns said. “That was able to hold them back as well as project our offense forward.”

The Herders slowly chipped away at the Lady Rangers lead in the third quarter, ultimately tying the score at 34. Back-to-back post move scores from Abby Kokot helped give the Rangers a 40-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter. 

After surrendering a layup to start the quarter, Skylar Higgs answered with a 3-pointer to extend the Park lead to 6. Higgs’ 3-pointer would be the Lady Rangers last score for nearly four minutes of game time. The Herders took advantage of the scoring drought, rattling off a 13-0 run, largely fueled by their free throw shooting, to take a 50-43 lead. 

Higgs broke Park’s scoreless streak with another 3-pointer with 1:20 left to cut the Herder lead to four. The Lady Rangers were forced to resort to fouling in order to try and pull close, but the Herders refused to miss their free throws and closed the game out, 56-50. The Herders missed just two of their 18 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. 

Higgs and Kodie Vondra led the Lady Rangers with 11 points each. Kokot added eight and Lima scored seven. 

Burns said the Lady Rangers fouls got them in trouble, especially with the Herders efficiency at the free-throw line.  

“They capitalized on our fouls that we committed early in the (fourth) quarter and we’ve been working all week trying to play defense with our feet rather than our hands,” she said. “It’s just something we’ll have to keep working on.”

Burns said she was pleased with the Lady Rangers’ effort. 

“It’s hard to get too upset with the kids when they’re just going hard and they’re getting fouls because they’re playing aggressive,” she said. “Ultimately, I’m so proud of them.”

Kokot said the loss was painful, but positive. 

“I think we played really well and I think that’s why the loss hurts so bad because of that,” she said. “We’re coming off two hard losses last weekend so, coming out and playing as hard as we did, I’m really proud of what we did.”

Higgs reiterated Burns’ and Kokot’s positive feeling moving forward. 

“I feel like we did really well and that we worked together, we just got off to a slow start,” she said. “It’s definitely looking good from here.”

This game comes on the heels of a convincing win for Park over Manhattan, 50-30, on Friday night. 

 

Up next

The Lady Rangers are on the road at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Billings Central. 

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