Fergus girls play hard to finish season

FHS’s Kaitlyn Anderson (14) applies defensive pressure to Glendive’s Karsen Murphy. Photo by Doreen Heintz

Val Kolstad looks for a Glendive player while playing defense.

The Fergus girls’ basketball team finished its season at the Eastern A Divisional Tournament at the Metra in Billings. The Golden Eagles fell to Laurel, 35-28, in their opening-round game on Wednesday and then dropped a loserout contest, 46-30, to a muchimproved Dawson County (Glendive) team.

“I felt like we were very prepared and played well defensively against Laurel,” said Fergus Coach Nycole LaRowe. “We held their two leading scorers to under 10 points each. Offensively, we struggled all weekend. Layups, free throws 15-footers, threes – it didn’t really matter where we shot from, we could not get the ball in the hoop.

“I really thought we had Laurel,” added LaRowe. “We were up by 3 points with a little over three minutes to play. We struggled to handle the pressure and hit free throws down the stretch.”

Dawson County may have been the surprise team of the tournament. After defeating Park in the first game of the tournament, the Red Devils fell to a strong Billings Central team in a quarterfinal matchup. Dawson County came back to win three games in a row and face Belgrade in the game for third and fourth on Saturday afternoon. Although the Red Devils fell to the Lady Panthers, Dawson County did qualify for the Class A Girls’ State Tournament in Great Falls in two weeks.

“Glendive came to play, and it showed in our game against them,” said LaRowe. “Again offense was a struggle for us. We had some good looks, but nothing seemed to fall.”

Fergus failed to score in the first quarter against Glendive. The Red Devils led, 10-0, after the first eight minutes.

Fergus’s first basket of the game came off a Hanna Hayes steal and layup in the opening minute of the second quarter. The Golden Eagles picked up their defensive intensity in the second quarter, but missed several wide-open shots at the basket. At halftime, the Red Devils led, 16-7.

The shooting woes of the Golden Eagles continued in the third quarter, although a field goal by Val Kolstad cut the Dawson County lead to 9 points early in the quarter. The third quarter ended with Dawson County up, 30-19.

The Red Devils went on to win the contest, 46-30.

Three starters had 7 points each for the Golden Eagles, Hayes, Haydn Potter and Anna Zimmer. Zimmer added 10 rebounds and had three of the team’s four assists.

Seniors a special group for Coach LaRowe

“Losing seniors is always hard; it doesn’t matter how many there are,” said Coach LaRowe about her five seniors. “They made up half of the varsity squad this year, and their shoes are going to be hard to fill. I am going to miss all five of them.

“I joked often that they stressed me out, but in all honesty, they will hold a special place in my heart,” said LaRowe about Hayes, Potter, Kolstad, Gracia Butcher and Kaitlyn Anderson. “They were extremely thoughtful towards me and put together some awesome gestures – from buying me flowers when I told them about my news to hosting a baby shower for me. They did some memorable things on and off the court.”

Losing five of the top six players on the varsity squad is what LaRowe has to deal with going into next season.

“My goal is to get the younger girls to partake in off-season opportunities,” said LaRowe. “As I stated earlier, I have at least five varsity spots to fill, four of which are starting positions. These younger girls have the talent to be successful, however, basketball is a sport that takes practice year round. Games are won in the off-season. If I can get the girls to believe in that and put in the time and work, we may have a pretty solid group here in a year or two.”

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