By Amanda Eggert EBS Staff Writer
BIG SKY – The Big Horns’ inexperience worked against them in their Dec. 19 loss to Harrison/Willow Creek, a team with six seniors to Lone Peak High School’s one.
Early in the game, the Wildcats changed their game plan to better defend junior guard Eddie Starz, LPHS’s most effective scorer. Starz did manage to score 18 points, but half of those were earned by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats focused their defense on cooling his scoring streak, and they succeeded. All four of Starz’ points in the second and third quarters were free throws.
LPHS led 24-19 at the half, but couldn’t hold onto their lead down the stretch. “The beginning of the second half is sort of where the momentum turned,” said Big Horns head coach Al Malinowski.
The Big Horns’ 29 turnovers and weakness on the boards – both offensive and defensive – sealed their fate. The Wildcats led 34-33 at the end of the third quarter, and handed the Big Horns a 49-44 defeat.
The teams’ shooting percentages were well matched, with LPHS making 27 percent of their shots and Harrison/Willow Creek shooting 28 percent, but turnovers really hurt the Big Horns, Malinowski said. Even shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line wasn’t enough to propel LPHS to victory.
“It hurts now, I’m sure [the team] is feeling it,” Malinowski said. “Hopefully we’ll take the path of learning from it, making fewer mistakes next time, and being on the other side of it.”
Frankie Starz, an eighth-grader who only recently moved up to the Big Horns’ varsity squad, played all four quarters. Junior Hugo Boman is still out with an injury, but Malinowski hopes he’ll be back in the lineup after the holiday break.
On Dec. 18, the Big Horns lost 76-44 in Ennis.
The Lady Big Horns beat Harrison/Willow Creek Dec. 19 with a string of key 3-pointers and free throws, outperforming the Wildcats with a strong perimeter game.
Junior Dasha Bough put up the Lady Big Horns’ first points of the night with a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers, establishing a pace that carried LPHS to a 43-37 win.
Junior point guard Luisa Locker picked up the torch Bough lit, scoring a game-high 17 points. She also hustled her way to four steals.
Lady Big Horns head coach Nubia Allen said that although Locker and Bough had particularly strong showings, the win was a team effort. “Everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing,” Allen said, adding that junior Bianca Godoy turned key offensive boards into baskets and sophomore Kuka Holder had a couple of big steals.
By the end of the first half, the Lady Big Horns were up 22–9, but they struggled to take care of the ball in the third quarter, turning the ball over nine times. The Wildcats seized the opportunity to narrow the deficit, but weren’t able to finish the job.
“That’s way too many turnovers for a quarter,” Allen said. “There were a lot of sloppy passes.”
By the start of the fourth quarter, the score was 26-24 in LPHS’s favor.
The Wildcats came close to tying up the score in the fourth quarter, and although they played a solid game in the paint, they never quite overcame the Lady Big Horns’ strong defense. Nor did they adequately defend LPHS’s perimeter aces.
Allen attributes a strong fourth quarter to “being patient and playing our game rather than their game,” and a run of free throws in the final minutes of the game.
On Dec. 18, the Ennis Mustangs handed the Lady Big Horns their first loss of the season, 47-39.