Basketball teams dipped their toes in the water with two weeks of competition before Christmas break, and are now ready to jump in as the 2013-14 season continues with two full months of games before state tournaments.
The Harrison-Willow Creek girls sit atop the District 11/12 C conference standings with a 2-0-conference record and a 4-0 overall record. The Wildcats are set to travel to Sheridan tomorrow, Jan. 3, for an in-county matchup and will host Lima on Saturday.
The Sheridan Panthers, while currently 0-4, continue to see improvement from the team’s young players. Junior leader April Degel continues to be one of the Panthers’ top scorers along with freshman Janie Smart. The team travels to play Lone Peak on Saturday.
Sheridan’s two conference losses came courtesy of 1-1 Lima and 1-1 West Yellowstone.
“We have some younger players that have really been impressive with their ability in the post and wing and I am finding some strong leaders on the floor in the more experienced players,” Sheridan coach Wendy Fabel said. She added that with an impressive team chemistry and continued hard work, the Panthers have some good things coming their way.
That mass of teams in the middle of the conference standings is something Twin Bridges’ coach Rob Lott said he likes.
“The girls league is going to be really even and that is a benefit for all the teams,” Lott said. “There are a lot of tough games and it will be real interesting at tournament time. Teams will be battle-tested by then.”
Lott’s squad will continue to stress defense, he said, but needs to take better care of the ball and improve on offense. A trip to state, which would be the third consecutive year for the Falcons, is on the team’s mind, but Lott said they are taking the remainder of the season one game at a time.
Twin Bridges travels to take on the Shields Valley Rebels tomorrow and hosts West Yellowstone on Saturday. Lott said he is anticipating a really tough game against the Rebels.
“Year in and year out they have a good program,” Lott said of the team the Falcons beat out to qualify for state last season. “They have a lot of good players back and playing them on the road will be tough.”
Also travelling tomorrow are the Ennis Mustangs. They take on Lima and then host Manhattan Christian on Saturday. Ennis hosts top teams Harrison-Willow Creek and Gardiner in the next two weeks.
Ennis’ coach Nick Burgess said, despite playing top teams soon, the team’s focus remains the same—improve every day. He added that the holiday break gave players time to heal from early injuries.
With an overall record of 3-1, the Sheridan Panthers have just as many wins now as they did the entire last season.
Panther coach Chad Elser attributes that to the team coming together to have fun on the court and using the experience they gained the past couple of years.
While the wins put them at the top of the conference now, Elser said there are things both good and bad to improve on in order to continue the team’s success in a competitive league.
“Our defense is going well, but we need to be more patient in offense,” he said. Elser added that he hopes to get in more running and conditioning now for the team so when the postseason rolls around the team can focus on other things.
The Panthers host Harrison-Willow Creek tomorrow. The Wildcats are currently 0-4 overall, but lost their last two games by four and two points. Coach Jason Roed said the team needs to put together four solid quarters in a game. He said he would like to see the Wildcats play as a team, limit turnovers and put the ball in the basket whether they play on their home court or not.
“January is set to be a true test to who we are as a team,” Roed said. “The boys are hungry for a win.”
Harrison-Willow Creek hopes to go in to Saturday’s game at home against Lima with a win under their belts, but it could also be a battle of winless teams after Lima hosts Ennis tomorrow.
Ennis began the season 0-2 in non-conference tipoff tournament play, but have won big the past two games. The Mustangs are perfect in conference action and so are their Saturday opponents—the 1-0 Manhattan Christian Eagles.
The Mustangs’ coach Zach Jepson said the team was able to stay out of foul trouble, create turnovers with its full-court defense and transition better off of misses in the two wins.
“We still need to take care of the basketball better, defend in the half court and rebound consistently,” Jepson said. “We can’t just rely on ‘flipping a switch’ because there are too many quality opponents in our league.”
The Twin Bridges Falcons are looking for their first win coming out of the holiday break, learning from losses to Ennis and Gardiner. Both of those teams were close to qualifying for state last season and return a good number of experienced players.
“We started off the season with four solid teams,” coach Matt Ashley explained. “That being said, I feel the effort was there and we competed in our last two games, but spurts of mental lapses caused the point spread to be greater than it seemed.”
The team regrouped over the break to work on some of the correctable mistakes that have resulted in points for the Falcons’ opponents, Ashley added.