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Trotters third in 14C tourney

 

February 21, 2019

John Hamilton

HIGH RELEASE - Plains' Kylee Altmiller gets a shot off over the defense of Noxon's Kali Murray in Pablo Thursday.

PABLO – Call it the power of positivity.

The upbeat Plains Trotters, after a season of rediscovering how fun basketball can actually be, accorded themselves quite well in the District 14C tournament in Pablo last week, winning three games and taking eventual conference champion Charlo virtually to the limit before dropping a tough 37-33 decision in the semifinals Friday. After battling back to earn a date with St. Regis in the consolation final Saturday, the Trotters dismantled St. Regis in that game to get the right to challenge Arlee Monday night for the district's second berth into the Western C divisional tournament.

The red-hot Scarlets, led by the hotter than red hot Alyssia Vanderburg, who threw down 32 points on the Trotters, held off Plains 59-42 in that challenge game to end Plains' mighty fine 15-8 season. Charlo and Arlee will represent District 14C in the Western C divisional tourney this week, beginning Thursday in Butte.

The man behind the Trotters' hoop renaissance this season, coach Eddie Fultz was very happy with his girls, not just for last week but for the whole season. "I am excited, I love this team," he said Tuesday morning. "And I think the biggest win we had this season was seeing them enjoying playing the game. I feel like we (including assistant coach Kyle Cole and the players themselves) were able to create a new culture in the locker room, a situation where we were enjoying the game and approaching it like a team should."

The Trotters opened the 14C tourney with a win over Noxon Thursday, fell in that nail-biter with Charlo Friday, came back to defeat Hot Springs Saturday morning and then shut down St. Regis in the consolation final later Saturday to set up their date with Arlee Monday night.

The down to the wire game with Charlo was an instant tournament classic, pitting two quality teams and coaches against each other with a berth in the conference championship game hanging in the balance. The tactical exchange itself between Fultz and long-time Charlo coach Bret Thompson was a game within a game, especially in the tense later stages of the contest.

The Trotters fairly well dominated that extremely defensive game at the onset building a 7-2 lead before Charlo's Kaitlin Cox got a friendly bounce and rattled in a 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer to send the game into the second quarter with Plains leading 7-5. After both teams scored 10 points each in the second quarter and seven each in the third, the game went into the fourth period with Plains clinging to a 24-22 advantage.

That frantic fourth quarter of action, with several critical timeouts called and shifts in strategy along the way, produce three tie scores and five lead changes before the final outcome was determined.

Demonstrating her leadership ability at a critical juncture, Cox connected on Charlo's only two field goals of the fourth quarter, hitting a short baseline jumper with five minutes left to tie the game at 28-28, and then splashing a

cold-blooded trey to put the Lady Vikings ahead 31-30 with 4:20 remaining. Teaira Truman, Carlee Fryberger and Liev Smith combined to make six of eight free throws down the stretch to allow Charlo to escape with the win.

"We felt like we let that one slip away a little bit," Fultz said. "We controlled the pace for most of the game but Charlo was able to come up with the plays when they needed them most."

Kassidy Kinzie scored nine points to lead Plains, Rachel Huenink added seven, Natalee Deschamps six, Mariah Smith and Kylee Altmiller four apiece and Haley Josephson three.

The Trotters earned their date in the consolation game with St. Regis by defeating Hot Springs 52-41 Saturday morning. Kinzie canned 17 points to lead Plains again, Altmiller scored 14, Huenink 11, Deschamps six, and Josephson and Miera Loberg two each.

Only two weeks after losing at home to St. Regis, the Trotters then went out and totally dominated the Lady Tigers in the consolation game, busting out to a lead of 14-2 after the first quarter and extending the advantage to 25-9 by halftime. The Trotters were never threatened after that and moved to the surprisingly easy win.

The game with Arlee started out close but Vanderburg, perhaps one of the best prep players in Montana in any class, enjoyed one of her best games ever in leading the Scarlets to the win. "She was on fire," Fultz said. "She's always tough underneath but she got it going from the outside too. She hit like a 30-footer there at the end of the second period that really got them going."

John Hamilton

Indeed after Josephson assisted Altmiller for a basket to draw Plains to within one at 19-18, Vanderburg's trey from the top of the key keyed a 10-0 run by the Scarlets at the end of the second quarter that sent the teams into halftime with Arlee now leading 29-18.

Vanderburg, who scored inside all game long on a variety of nice moves, bottomed out a few more threes in the second half to help keep the Trotters at bay.

Playing her best basketball of the season at the best time, Altmiller led Plains with 16 points, Josephson scored seven, and Deschamps six. Fultz credited Kinzie with effectively quarterbacking the Trotter offensive attack.

Louetta Conko-Camel added 13 points for Arlee and Nellie Desjarlais 10.

 

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