Rangers top Townsend, lose in Dillon

 

By Thomas E. Watson
Enterprise Staff Writer

 

The Park High Ranger girls basketball team faced two teams that are near the top of their classifications over the weekend, beating Class B’s Townsend at home on Friday but losing to Class-A foe Dillon on Saturday.

The Rangers won a defensive battle 52-41 at home against the Townsend Bulldogs on Friday thanks to a quick offensive burst in the fourth quarter.

“What I was excited about tonight was I thought we kept our composure for an entire 32 minutes,” said head coach Scott Coleman following the game. “Every single one of us kept our composure. That is a very good Class B school. We beat Townsend in the first game of the season, and they’ve gotten a whole lot better. They are mowing through Class B competition, and we knew this would be tough. They play man-to-man defense right out of the Havre playbook. We talked about having to raise our intensity to match that, especially if we had a lead.”

With a 36-32 lead going into the final quarter, Park hit back-to-back 3-pointers to extend their lead to 43-32. Townsend tried to make a run, and the Bulldogs reeled off five consecutive points before Ranger Meghan Gibson stemmed the tied.

Gibson was fouled on a 3-point attempt, and subsequently made all three of her free throws for a 46-37 lead.

“When we come down and shoot a 3-pointer because we don’t know what to do next, we are very poor at that, but when we take 3-pointers we cycled the ball, we hit the post, then we pass out of the post when the defense collapses — we are very good at hitting those,” said Coleman. “I thought the difference between the first half and the second half is that those 3-pointers came in the context of a really smart, high-basketball-IQ offense. They were there, they were open and they were taken in that format. I think that made the difference, and they were big shots, there is no doubt about that.”

Before that offensive burst, both teams were locked in a low-scoring game for the first three quarters.

Neither team was able to gain any momentum or an advantage on the scoreboard. The game was still tied at 13 early in the second quarter, and Park claimed just a two point lead at halftime.

“That is sort of new to us, being in a nip and tuck game against an extraordinarily aggressive team,” Coleman said. “That is where we’ve had a hard time, sometimes, matching that intensity. I thought tonight we held that and went up a notch. I am most impressed with our composure. I think when I take time to do the stats from this game, I’m going to find that people contributed in ways that they haven’t in the past, and that there was a complete contribution from everybody.”

In the third quarter, the Rangers were able to start something on offense by driving toward the basket and drawing fouls. Park took a 36-30 lead at one point late in the third quarter thanks to free throws.

In Saturday’s game on the road against Dillon, the Rangers got off to a great start, but the Park offense could not keep pace with the Beavers as the game advanced.

“We started again by shooting the ball well,” Coleman said. “But then our offense struggled the rest of the game, which is becoming a recurring theme. I thought that when we struggled offensively, we let down defensively, too. We’re certainly capable of playing great defense against the best of the best. It was a two- and four-point game all the way through the third quarter, but we let our guard down in the fourth.”

The Rangers led 20-18 after the first eight minutes, but managed only 16 points over the final three quarters of play in their 52-36 loss.

Park scored eight points in the second quarter, with Sierra Higgs accounting for five of those points. Higgs hit her third 3-pointer of the game in the third quarter to score three of Park’s five points in the quarter.

Higgs finished the game with 17 points. Claree Tecca scored seven points, Rachael Robbins had six points, and Gibson scored three points. Ella McKenzie finished with two points, and Kinsey Whiting added a point to round out the scoring.

Following this weekend’s pair of non-conference games, the Rangers will get back to playing Central A Conference foes when they play at Belgrade on Friday after a home game Thursday against Butte Central.

 

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Thomas Watson may be reached at twatson@livent.net.