The Browning Lady Indians basketball team had a roller-coaster of a ride at Western A divisional competition last week in Ronan.
They began the series with a 65-54 victory over Stevensville on Thursday, putting them into the semifinals against Frenchtown the following day. Browning came close, but a large and athletic Bronc team edged them out by six points, 53-47.
The loss placed Browning into the loser-out bracket against Polson, with an eye toward the consolation championship on Saturday, and the Lady Indians didn’t disappoint.
Browning got into gear in the third quarter to outpace the Pirates and take it by nine, 46-37.
With little time to prepare, the Lady Indians took to the court again that afternoon in the battle for third place. Facing injuries and fatigue, they lacked their characteristic energy and accuracy, settling for fourth place on a 58-30 final score.
“I went through the books, and our opponents are averaging 28 free throws per game and they’re making 16,” Coach Darryl “Poorboy” Croff said.
In the opener against Stevensville, the Lady Indians were “flat” until the second half, when they began successfully stealing and sinking buckets.
Nevertheless, Coach Croff said they never really pulled out in front sufficiently to allow the bench to take over and give his starting lineup some rest.
Mecca Bullchild led the way with 30 points against Stevi, followed by Kalcie Connelly with 11, Amari Calf Robe 10, Lish Spoonhunter seven, Jerel Whitegrass three and Shaylee Heavy Runner with two points.
Big girls on the opposing team was the situation the Lady Indians encountered on Friday, Feb. 24, against Frenchtown. Bad passes and fouls plagued Browning, and despite a good third quarter, they still came up six points short.
“They didn’t look like a varsity team,” Coach Croff said, noting Browning made just four of 16 two-point field goals in the first half.
Mecca Bullchild led with 16 points in the game, followed by Amari Calf Robe with 14, Sugar Spoonhunter and Kalcie Connelly five, Lish Spoonhunter four, Jerel Whitegrass two and Teslin Trombley with a point.
The Lady Indians got another slow start Saturday morning against Polson, tying things up at 19 points by halftime. But Jerel Whitegrass made some key plays in the second half that helped propel Browning to their second win.
“I can’t praise her enough,” Coach Croff said of Whitegrass. The coach said she’d just that day begun wearing a knee brace, and from her steals and rebounds, he thinks she benefitted from reduced levels of pain.
Lish Spoonhunter led this one at 13 points, followed by Jerel Whitegrass with 11, Mecca Bullchild eight, Sugar Spoonhunter five, Kalcie Connelly four, Tashlyn LazyBoy and Amari Calf Robe two, and Natalee St. Goddard with a point.
The final game for third place was a different story as the Lady Indians struggled to make baskets and committed many fouls. Fatigue appeared to have taken its toll on the team.
Lish Spoonhunter was tops for Browning at 11 points, followed by Sugar Spoonhunter with five, Jerel Whitegrass and Kalcie Connelly four, and Mecca Bullchild and Natalee St. Goddard with three points.
“They were tired and hurt,” Coach Croff said. “Right now, they’re not that team anymore and we’ve got to get it back. We’ll clean up that reaching stuff, and we’ll start practice this Wednesday at 5 p.m.”
Croff said the fourth-place finish earned by the Lady Indians will put them into an opening game against Havre on Thursday, March 9, at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman. Browning did well against the Blue Ponies in both their games this season, winning one and losing the other in a very close game.
“Our practice is the same as game time in Bozeman,” Coach Croff said. “Hopefully we’ll all be healed by that time.”
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