Polson Pirates coach Randy Kelley made his mark as a basketball coach by getting the most out of his players and the results of this season might further cement his reputation.
When Kelley started the season, he lost his starting five because of graduation but the Pirates’ new crew has catapulted themselves into second place in the Western 14A conference behind only Browning with critical back-to-back conference wins over rivals, Ronan and Columbia Falls.
It isn’t just that Polson is winning, it is how they are winning that has positioned Polson as one of the top-tier teams in the Class A Western 14A conference.
Trailing conference rival Ronan by 14 points at the half, the young Pirates team could have easily folded under the attrition of the Chiefs’offensive attack Friday night at Salish Kootenai College.
The Pirates responded to Ronan’s challenge by defeating them 77-75 in double overtime to get a conference win that propelled them to second place in the conference standings.
“Oh yeah, we could have easily rolled over after that first half,” Kelley admitted. “We could have lost our poise but the way the kids came out in the second half and battled back showcased a huge growth spurt.”
Both Polson and Ronan found themselves in foul trouble for the majority of the second half of the game and by overtime, they both found themselves in the double-bonus.
“We had quite a few of our younger kids come in and do some really great things (off the bench),” Kelley said. “It wasn’t a really good defensive battle but offensively it was a pretty good game.”
The Pirates were spurred by career nights from Connor Lanier, who scored a career-high and game-high 28 points. The Pirates also got significant offensive contributions from Robin Erickson and Shade Main. The trio combined for a total of 59 of the team’s 77 points.
“Like I said, I wasn’t really happy with our first half, but the way they came out in the second half and battled in a rivalry game, especially with a lot of the younger kids, puts a big smile on your face after the game and that is what it is all about,” Kelley said. “I wouldn’t be happy going out of that game with a loss. I just really liked the way we battled back in the second half.”
One area the Pirates excelled in with their victory in Ronan was free throw shooting in the clutch.
“We did a good job making seven free throws,” Kelley said. “We have to be able to match that and get into attack mode on defense and offense. The last few nights we were effective in our defense and offense. We were effective in our trapping. We will continue to get better but we just have to take it one game at a time.”
In the game against C-Falls, the team again experienced foul trouble in their victory.
“You get forced into playing a little bit with a lot of hands and that type of stuff,” Kelley said. “We ran into foul trouble against C-Falls. It is important to keep our starters around, but our younger guys really stepped in. Against Ronan, we lost Shade and things started looking a little bleak, but I liked the way the kids battled through adversity.”
Kelley said he felt his team is playing hard as they prepare to face Libby, which is their only game coming after the two critical conference games.
“Our kids are playing hard and that is something as I look back on that night,” Kelley said. “I thought Mitchell Wassum did a great job with his kids and Ronan played hard. You see things a little differently when you are coaching the game versus being a spectator in the stands. The Polson-Ronan game was a great game for our valley.”
With two closely contested basketball games between Ronan and Columbia Falls, Kelley knows with a young team the results could have easily been different.
“Oh yeah, I am happy we won,” Kelley said. “The night against Ronan and Columbia Falls could have easily gone the other way. That is the past and now our future is Libby.”
Polson 56, C.Falls 48
Connor Lanier crested the century plateau for seasonal scoring as well as surpassed the double century (200) threshold for varsity career scoring. Shade Main turned in his second consecutive double-double. Polson (3-1, 5-4), C.Falls (0-3, 1-8)
Polson 17 8 12 19 – 56
C.Falls 4 18 2 24 – 48
POLSON – Connor Lanier 7 0-0 20, Shade Main 6 1-2 13, Weston Danley 3 3-5 9, Bo Kelley 6, Micah Askan 4,Trevor Schultz 2, Sam Schultz 2.
COLUMBIA FALLS – Quintin Schriver 22, Matthew Morrison 8, Drew Morgan 7, Lowell Panasuk 7, Austin Green 2, Logan Bechtel 2.
3FGs: P8-16 (Lanier 6-7, Kelley 2-4). P35reb (Main 11, Lanier 7, Ryker Wenderoth 5, Danley 4, T.Schultz 3, Robin Erickson 2, S.Schultz, M.Askan, Kelley). P16ast (Main 6, Lanier 4, S.Schultz 3, Danley, T.Schultz, Wenderoth). P6stl (Danley 2, Lanier, Main, Kelley, Wenderoth). P5blk (Main 3, T.Schultz, Erickson). (Sa06Jan18)
Polson 77, Ronan 75 (2OT)
At SKC Gym in Pablo, the host Pirates and the visiting Chiefs duked it out in a hardcourt slugfest that thrice went down to the wire. Connor Lanier of the Pirates turned in a game high as well as varsity career high 28 points that included the game winning free throws. Robin Erickson followed suit with a new varsity career high sweet sixteen of his own, while Shade Main notched a double-double. Zeke Misa led the Chiefs with his second-highest career tally while cresting the century plateau for season scoring. Anthony Camel dealt a strong double deuce for Ronan.
Polson (2-1, 4-4),
Ronan (3-2, 4-4)
Ronan 16 20 10 13 6 10 – 75
Polson 14 8 17 20 6 12 – 77
RONAN – Zeke Misa 8 10-17 27, Anthony Camel 10 2-4 22, Dallas Durheim 4 1-4 9, Randy Finley 3 0-1 7, Jacob Gatch 2 1-1 5, Vincent Bird-Webster 3, Nate Dennis 2.
POLSON – Connor Lanier 11 4-4 28, Robin Erickson 5 6-6 16, Shade Main 7 1-3 15, Weston Danley 2 2-2 6, Micah Askan 2 0-0 5, Keyan Dalbey 2, Ryker Wenderoth 2, Bo Kelley 2, Trevor Schultz 1, Sam Schultz 0 0-2 0.
3FGs: R3-15 (Misa 1-5, Bird-Webster 1-4, Finley 1-1), P3-12 (Lanier 2-5, M.Askan 1-1). REBOUNDS – R32r (Misa 7, D.Durheim 7, Zarec Couture 5, Camel 4, Gatch 3, Dennis 2, Finley 2, Bryant Hales, *Bird-Webster), P41r (Lanier 12, Main 11, T.Schultz 8, Danley *5, Erickson 3, Kelley, M.Askan, Wenderoth). ASSISTS – R20a (Misa 9, Camel 4, Dennis 3, Hales 2, D.Durheim, Couture), P14a (S.Schultz 3, Danley 3, Lanier 2, Erickson 2, Main, T.Schultz, Kelley, Wenderoth). STEALS – R13s (D.Durheim 6, Dennis 3, Misa 2, Bird-Webster, Hales, *Camel, *Finley), *P18s (Lanier 5, Main 3, Erickson *3, S.Schultz *3, T.Schultz 2, Danley, M.Askan). BLOCKS – R4b (Misa 2, Gatch *2), P4b (Main 2, Erickson, S.Schultz). R20to/P24to
(*) denotes stat variant(s) where unofficial JH informal tally differs from sideline specs: RONAN – tmR31r (Bird-Webster 0r), tmR13s (Camel 0s, Finley 0s), tm$4b (D.Durheim 2b, Gatch 0b) . POLSON – Danley 4r, tmP14s (Erickson 1s, S.Schultz 1s). Discrepancies in stat variations may be explained by differing credit criteria, e.g. does a steal credit go to the player who poked the ball free or the one who ends up with it in his possession?