Lady Rams win thriller over Miners

Jacques Rutten
News-Argus Staff

Winnett-Grass Range’s Sydney Browning (left) looks for a teammate to pass to while Peyton Vining defends against her during consolation action on Saturday at the FHS Fieldhouse.                                                               

Photo by Jacques Rutten

Winnett-Grass Range takes on North Star at divisional

In the movie business, sequels are rarely as good as the original.
But in 8C basketball, the second time around is often better than the first.
That was certainly the case Saturday night as the Winnett-Grass Range Lady Rams and Centerville Miners squared off for the second time in three days. After the Lady Rams won a hard-fought battle on Thursday, 42-30, both teams fought through the loser-out brackets and met up again on Saturday afternoon - this time, with a consolation championship and berth in the divisional tournament on the line.
The high stakes resulted in a high-energy start for Centerville senior Kenadee Chartier who came out firing from three-point land as her team raced out to a 10-5 first-quarter lead.
The Lady Rams shook off their slow start and fought back with three straight baskets, including a crowd-pleaser by Brynn Jolma who drove through the lane in the final seconds of the period, hitting a basket and drawing a foul to give her team their first lead of the night, 11-10.
But the lead was short-lived as Centerville connected four times from beyond the arc to take a 26-17 lead with two minutes to play in the first half.
Just when it looked like the Miners would take all the momentum into the locker room at the half, Brynn Jolma scored with 11 ticks remaining and then teammate Kita Weingart connected at the buzzer to draw within five, 26-21.
“They are starting to feel confident during the game,” said veteran coach Vic Westphal of his Lady Rams. His team battled through many injuries this year and are getting healthy and confident at the right time. “Confidence is not something you can coach into the girls – they have developed it on their own.”
The Lady Rams’ defense clamped down in the second half, not allowing a basket through the first five minutes, while scoring two of their own to get within one.
With time winding down in the quarter, Weingart added some more late heroics, this time taking a feed and going off the glass with three ticks remaining to tie the game at 30 heading into the final frame.
Jolma drew first blood in the fourth, as Winnett-Grass Range regained the lead for the first time since the end of the first quarter. The Rams extended it to 36-32 before back-to-back three pointers from Chartier and Vining put the Miners up by two heading into the final three minutes of play.
That is when Weingart made it clear she was not ready for her high school basketball career to be finished. The 5-3 senior drained a shot from just inside the perimeter, then drove the lane moments later to give her team the go-ahead basket, 40-38.
The Lady Miners fought desperately to keep their season alive, but clutch free throws from Jolma, Piper Johnson and Weingart sealed the third-place trophy for the Lady Rams.
“They did well and I was really proud of them,” said Westphal. “We haven’t been at full strength for most of the year, but we hope to go into divisional tournament with everyone healthy.”
Weingart led all scorers in the contest with 18 points, followed by Jolma with 16. Taylor Stahl had three and Sydney Browning, Piper Johnson and Kendra Murnion each had two. Vining led the Miners with 13 while Cecilia Vielle added 12.
The Winnett-Grass Range victory sets up an early morning wake-up call on Wednesday for the Lady Rams. They take on North Star at 8 a.m. at Four Seasons Arena in the first game of the Northern C Divisional Tournament. North Star finished third at the 9C tournament in Havre last weekend.
Westphal said his team has learned a lot this year- even in their losses, and they will need to play solid defense to have success in Great Falls this week.
“One thing with our conference is that the teams that go into the divisional tournament are battle-tested.”
The winner Winnett-Grass Range and North Star will take on Great Falls Central at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.



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