By Brandon Walker
GARDINER, Mont. – Gardiner Bruins duo Sophia Darr and Ellie Reinertson combined for 29 of the team’s 42 points at home on Feb. 9 to help lift their squad to victory over the Lone Peak Lady Big Horns. The 42-35 loss to Gardiner dropped Lone Peak’s road record to 1-4 this season and was their third contest in four days after hosting Lima and Ennis on Feb. 6 and Feb. 8, respectively.
LPHS split those earlier matchups, winning 62-35 against the Bears, with 10-point contributions from both junior Carly Wilson and senior Lyli McCarthy, to snap a four-game losing skid. They fell to the Mustangs two nights later in a tightly contested game, 42-34. That loss spoiled an 11-point effort from sophomore Maddie Cone as well as seven-point contributions from both sophomore Kate King and freshman Vera Grabow.
“They’re playing really tough right now,” said Lone Peak Head Coach Taylor Cummings. “We’ve got to get over the hump of finishing and hit shots in tight situations and I think that’s just … experience.”
The trek between Big Sky and Gardiner is roughly 120 miles by bus but it didn’t appear to phase the Lady Big Horns early as they matched the Bruins offensive output in the first quarter, knotting the score at nine apiece.
Lone Peak balanced its scoring distribution from the opening tip with no player scoring more than one basket in the first quarter and four different Lady Big Horn’s finding the scoring column. Senior Ivy Hicks’ 3-point field goal resulted in the highest scoring total by any Lone Peak player in the opening quarter, while King, Cone and freshman Astrid McGuire also scored baskets. Early on, the Bruins counted on Darr and Reinertson, who together accounted for seven of the team’s nine first-quarter points.
The second quarter proved tougher for LPHS as Gardiner limited them to just one field goal—a 3-pointer by senior Sara Wilson. The Bruins outscored the Lady Big Horns by a seven-point margin in the quarter to take a 20-13 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Lone Peak outscored Gardiner 10-8 in the third quarter to close the gap to just five entering the fourth, but the Bruins won the final quarter by two points to lock up the final seven-point victory on their homecourt.
Cummings said her team failed to convert some open looks and she believes fatigue may have been a factor, pointing to the team having played three out of the past four days.
“I think … the older you get, the more you play, you kind of learn to fight through those things,” she said, “but it comes with time.”
Hicks scored a team-high 11 points, including three 3-point buckets against the Bruins. “She’s got an aggressive mindset right now which is what we need,” Cummings said of the senior.
McCarthy and Grabow each added five points apiece for LPHS on the road, while Gardiner’s Darr finished with a game-high 16 points and was closely trailed by Reinertson’s 13-point night. The Bruins also received five points from Alexis McDonald.
“We’re making the right plays, it’s just coming down to executing in those final moments,” Cummings said. “We’re right there and we’re so close. It’s just getting over that hump and finding a way to execute at the end of the game in the fourth quarter.”
Looking to snap a two-game losing streak, LPHS is scheduled to play its final regular season game on Feb. 11 when they host the West Yellowstone Wolverines for Senior Night at the Bough-Dolan Athletic Center, where the team owns a 2-4 record this season. The Lady Big Horns have three rostered seniors who will be honored at the game.
LPHS is currently 3-8 ahead of the district tournament which will take place Feb. 17-20. Similar to the format of fall athletics, rather than playing a tournament at a singular host site, higher seeds will host playoff matchups for the duration of the tournament as a precaution due to COVID-19.