Five-win season ends versus Ennis
By Brandon Walker
ENNIS, Mont. – A pair of Ennis Mustang athletes scored 11 points each to fuel their team’s 12C District Tournament quarterfinal victory over the Lone Peak Lady Big Horns 35-21 on Feb. 18.
After a precautionary restructuring of tournament play due to COVID-19 by district athletic directors, the otherwise double-elimination tournament was changed to a single-elimination format this year. The defeat at the hands of the Mustangs ended the Lady Big Horns’ season.
Also new to this season’s tournament was the elimination of a singular host location. This year, the lower seed in each matchup hosted the game, hence No. 7 seed LPHS traveling to face No. 2 seed Ennis.
Sophomore Jessie Bough led the Lady Big Horns offensively with a team-high seven-point performance. Junior Carly Wilson and freshman Astrid McGuire also had solid offensive outings with each player scoring four points for Lone Peak.
LPHS was fresh off a 10-point play-in victory over Lima on Feb. 16 to reach the matchup with Ennis.
Landri Paladichuck and Jenna Snider each scored a game-high 11 points for the Mustangs, while Shelby Klein and Shae Lovett chipped in six and five points, respectively.
A slow start by the Lady Big Horns allowed the Mustangs to grab a 10-2 lead at the conclusion of the first quarter, highlighted by Paladichuck who accounted for five of Ennis’s points.
Bough and the Lady Big Horns battled to keep pace in the second quarter. The Lone Peak sophomore guard scored four points in the quarter, but Ennis edged their competition 8-7 in the second and led 18-9 at the half.
Paladichuck and Snider combined for eight points in the third to help the Mustangs outpace the Lady Big Horns 11-8 in the quarter and grab a 12-point lead entering the final eight minutes of play.
Ennis outscored LPHS 6-4 in fourth quarter to dispel any possibility of a Lone Peak comeback.
“We just gave up too many easy rebounds in the start of the game and if you look at the box score from the first quarter on, it was a battle,” said Lone Peak Head Coach Taylor Cummings.
Cummings added that Ennis deployed a man-to-man defense versus Lone Peak in this matchup, which may have caught the team by surprise after the Mustangs played a zone when the teams met earlier in the season.
Free throws were a prominent fixture in the game for both teams as they combined to shoot 35 foul shots. The Lady Big Horns shot 50 percent from the charity stripe with an 8-for-16 showing as a team, while the Mustangs were 8-of-19.
Overall, in a winter athletics season that was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, LPHS concluded their campaign with a final record of 5-9 and four of those five victories came in front of the hometown crowd at the Bough-Dolan Athletic Center. In fact, the Lady Big Horns sported a winning percentage of .500, or a 4-4 record, at home this season.
Cummings said her highlight this year was the team’s victory on Senior Night over the West Yellowstone Wolverines in a hard-fought game on Feb. 11.
Lone Peak will graduate Ivy Hicks, Lyli McCarthy and Sara Wilson from this season’s team.
“They were just always consistent, had the right mindset, positive [and] good leaders,” Cummings said. “Just [a] really good group of kids.”
After the departure of those three seniors, LPHS could have as many as eight returning athletes for next season’s varsity girls basketball squad.
“I hope that this year showed the girls the level that we can compete at,” Cummings said. “And that if we keep working on our offensive game and maintain the defensive intensity that we brought this year, that we can compete with anyone.”