The Ronan Chiefs basketball team has struggled to live up to the potential of the team’s depth because of early, mid and late season adversity, according to Chiefs’ Coach Mitchell Wassum.
The Chiefs, who are currently seeded fifth headed into Thursday’s tournament, will face Florence at Hamilton High School.
Ronan lost its last contest to Florence 46-44 in overtime.
“(Against Florence) is one of the first times that we played the way we are capable of recently,” Wassum said. “At the defensive end of the ball, we flew around and out rebounded Florence, and we won on the glass.”
Against Florence, the Chiefs struggled and were 13 of 28 from the free throw line and only 1 of 16 from the 3-point line. One of the major reasons for the deficiency from beyond the arch was the absence of Jackson Duffey. Duffey was out of the lineup with mononucleosis. Currently, Jackson is shooting 48 percent from the 3-point line, according to Wassum.
According to Wassum, Florence won’t give the Chiefs a lot of opportunities to score inside.
“They played a 2-3 zone the whole game and when we did get opportunities, we missed layups in transition,” Wassum said.
Wassum said he felt the Chiefs played up to their potential against Florence.
The Chiefs got contributions from Aaron Misa, who nearly tallied a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, and Ezekiel Misa, who also returned to the lineup as well.
“Zeke played with a little rust and a few jitters,” Wassum said. “He is a dynamic athlete but had some rust (in his return). W are still easing him back into the lineup. He ended up fouling out in the fourth quarter but it was good to have him back.”
Wassum said several players out of the lineup has opened up opportunities for younger players to get significant minutes such as sophomore forward Josh Stewart. Against Florence, Stewart tallied 13 points and eight rebounds.
“He’s been huge for us and our bench really dwindled down a little with our injuries and everything going on,” Wassum said. “Now, some of our other players can go back to their roles. (Losing to Florence) was a tough game. We needed a couple of free throws to go in for us and jump shots to fall.”
Bulldogs ready for tournament time
Mission High School boys basketball coach Gus McDonald has prepped his Bulldogs for Class-B District tournament time since the start of the season.
The No. 6 seeded Mission team will host No. 3 seeded Anaconda (time, date, place). The Copperheads are a team on a four-game win streak. During that streak, they moved up from the No. 5 seed to No. 3 seed with three consecutive conference wins against Florence, Loyola Sacred Heart, and Ronan.
Chiefs’ Coach Mitchell Wassum said he felt Anaconda will be one of the toughest outs headed into the District Tournament.
“They are scary,” Wassum declared.
McDonald, a graduate of MHS in 2006, was a member of the 2003-2004 team that advanced to the District Championship as a lower-seed.
“That is what I love about tournament time is that you can never count anyone out,” McDonald said. “Hopefully (whoever wins our district) will represent this side of the bracket well because the Eastern Montana teams have run the state the last couple of years. I don’t care who comes out of the Western-B. I am hoping someone picks it up. I am so jacked for tournament time and can’t wait to see what happens and who advances.”
The Bulldogs lost both of their meetings with the Copperheads. Mission lost its first meeting 83-59 on Jan. 5 and its second meeting 75-56 on Feb. 2.
The majority of pregame talk is centered around the Copperheads’ Braxton Hill. In the previous meeting with the Bulldogs, they were successful in getting Hill into foul trouble and he fouled out in the third quarter. During this adverse situation is when McDonald discovered Anaconda’s depth.
“They are no joke and they have a lot of sleepers on their team, that is for sure,” McDonald said. “Anyone (on their team) is capable of scoring. What I mean by them having “sleepers” is that you can stop Braxton and someone else is going to get an extra 20 points. They are just a well-balanced team and (headed into the tournament) things look really well for them.”
The Bulldogs, who will face the Copperheads for the third time this season, are confident if they can modify a couple of their mistakes they made against Anaconda it could change the outcome.
“Anything can happen come tournament time and we just made a couple of mistakes,” McDonald said. “They made some major mistakes. We just couldn’t capitalize on their mistakes and we didn’t finish.”
McDonald has seen unexpected tournament runs before as a member of the 2003-2004 Mission team that made it all the way to District Championship team. He was a part of a team coached by Steve Woll.
“I see similarities athletically because we have five seniors that are leading us this year, and we had six seniors,” McDonald said. “I see so much potential (in this team). The first part of the season was a battle and they had confidence problems. We tried to get players to score and they just couldn’t score. Now, at this point of the season, they are starting to see that they can score and play.”