Maidens basketball starts preparation for postseason play

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Ronan High School girls’ basketball coach Steve Woll knows the game of basketball is a hard sport to predict and last week’s varied results against Whitefish and Bigfork enforced what he said about the game.

The Maidens handled the Lady Bulldogs 55-33 in conference action and fell to Class B opponent Bigfork 70-65 in non-conference action. They will play one more game prior to starting Western 14A District play on Feb. 15-17 at Ronan High School.

“Basketball is a funny game and you never know from one game to the next how things will turn out,” Woll said. “In basketball, you are never as high as you think or never as low as you think you are. You have to be on an even keel and move forward. That would be great.”

Woll said he felt Bigfork, which is one of the consensus title contenders in Class B, presented a challenge to Ronan, who had the lead for the majority of the game until the fourth quarter when the Maidens’ star player Micalann McCrea fouled out late in the game.

“We had the lead for most of the game and Micalann fouled out midway through the fourth quarter,” Woll said. “The other girls did a great job handling their pressure in a quarter where there was a lot of offense. There were a lot of points scored in that fourth quarter and that quarter was a shootout. I wasn’t happy because mistakes cost us. Some of that was adrenaline flowing and also, Bigfork is the real deal. Our team played well.”

Though the brackets for District play haven’t been solidified, Woll said he projects his Maidens will most likely enter the tournament with a No. 4 seed. He plans on using his non-conference season finale against Frenchtown Friday night at the Ronan Events Center as an opportunity to tune-up for postseason play.

“We’ve played Frenchtown earlier in the season and they handled us pretty good down at their place,” Woll said. “They are really good. Their players are experienced and well-coached. We aren’t looking past them headed into the playoffs.”

It is possible the Maidens could possibly play Polson or Whitefish in the first round of Districts but that will still be contingent on several variables that will occur in the conference in the season finale.

Both the Lady Pirates and the Lady Bulldogs are much improved from earlier in the season. Polson made a declarative statement when they were trailing one of the top-tier teams in Class A Columbia Falls Tuesday night at Salish Kootenai College.

“They are much improved and we are on opposite ends of the spectrum,” Woll said. “They are big and they like to pound the ball inside. This is a matter of two wills and who is going to have to push the tempo in whose favor. They slowed us down, pounded the boards inside on us and gave us some real problems but our team was resilient enough to win.”

The Maidens have defeated both of these teams twice during the regular season but Woll said it is difficult to defeat a team three times during the course of the season.

“Pretty soon everyone in the conference seems to figure everyone out,” Woll said. “It becomes a matter of wills to beat a team three times. We are working for a common goal and we are coming at you to change some things. Everyone in the conference gets comfortable and then it becomes a dogfight.”

The Maidens are currently focusing on modifying their team’s defense in order to try to improve their team’s chances to advance to Divisionals in Districts.

“I think defensively we need to be fine-tuned and we are really focused on finishing games,” Woll said. “We are still working on the whole ball of wax. Our goal is to never be content.”

Ronan, who will have home-court advantage when the playoffs begin, has statistically played better on the road than at home.

“We’ve had home court advantage and every year it is different,” Woll said. “This year, we’ve been better on the road but it’ll help if we have nice crowd support and energy from the crowd. That will be helpful but we still have to play.”

Bigfork 70, Ronan 65 (OT)

At Ronan, the host Maidens pushed the Class B No. 3 ranked Valkyries to the brink, forcing the visitors to rally to extend the contest into an extra frame. Maiden Regan Clairmont not only took game high scoring honors, but also turned in a newly minted varsity career high. Seniors Jaelynn Askan and MSUB bound Micalann McCrea combined for another two dozen, while sister Madison Clairmont notched eight for a new varsity career high of her own. The close call nail biter matched the tightest played contest of the season for Bigfork, their only loss coming from the defending State A champion Columbia Falls WildKats, which was by five points in regulation. Both Tiana Ulutoa and Kianna Finley crested the century (100) point plateau for varsity career scoring.

Ronan (5-12), 7B Bigfork (13-1)

Bigfork 11 13 9 27 10 – 70

Ronan 17 11 9 23 5 – 65

BIGFORK – Jaime Berg 2 13-17 17, *Shae Anderson 6 3-7 16, *Rakiah Grende 6 2-7 14, Ellie Berreth 3 2-4 11, Heidi Schneller 2 2-4 7, Abby Lembke 3, Jordan Nelson 2.

RONAN – Regan Clairmont 6 6-9 18, Jaelynn Askan 6 0-1 14, Micalann McCrea 4 2-4 10, Madison Clairmont 3 2-2 8, Kiana Finley 2 2-2 6, Tiana Ulutoa 1 3-6 5, Madeline McCrea 2 0-3 4.

3FGs: B7-17 (Berreth 3-6, Anderson 2-4, Schneller 1-2, Lembke 1-3), R2-9 (Askan 2-3). R41reb (Ma.McCrea 8, Mi.McCrea 7, Askan 6, Finley 6, Ulutoa 3, M.Clairmont 3, R.Clairmont, Whiting, noID6). R17ast (Mi.McCrea *6, Ulutoa *3, Askan *2, R.Clairmont *2, Ma.McCrea 2, M.Clairmont *2). R18stl (R.Clairmont *5, M.Clairmont *3, Finley *3, Mi.McCrea *2, Ulutoa *2, Ma.McCrea 2, *Askan). R1blk (R.Clairmont). (Th01Feb18) B36r, B17a, B18s, B3b

Asterisk (*) denotes stat variant(s) where alternative sources of data differ: iTs:13a (Mi.McCrea 5a, Ulutoa 1a, Askan 1a, M.Clairmont 1a, R.Clairmont 1a:xo); xo:17s (R.Clairmont 4s, M.Clairmont 5s, Finley 4s:iTs, Ma.McCrea 3s: iTs, Mi.McCrea 1s:xo, Ulutoa 1s:xo, Askan 0s:iTs)

Ronan 52, Whitefish 39

At Whitefish, the Maidens completed a regular schedule sweep of the host Lady Bulldogs as Jaelynn Askan crested the double century (200) point plateau for varsity career scoring.

Ronan (4-6, 5-11), Whitefish (1-8, 2-14)

Ronan 11 10 12 19 – 52

Whitefish 8 11 8 12 – 39

RONAN – Micalann McCrea 8 4-7 20, *Tiana Ulutoa 10, *Regan Clairmont 7, Jaelynn Askan 2 0-0 5, Madison Clairmont 1 2-2 4, Gabby Wirz 0 2-2 2, Madeline McCrea 0 2-2 2, Kianna Finley 2.

WHITEFISH – Marlee Bender 13, Hope Brown 10, Payton Kastella 5, Kaiah Moore 3, Claire Carloss 2, Ashton Ramsey 2, Annisa Brown 4.

3FGs: R1-12 (Askan 1-3). R38reb (Mi.McCrea 12, Ulutoa 5, Askan 3, M.Clairmont 3, Ma.McCrea 3, R.Clairmont 2, Finley, Wirz, noID8). R14ast (Mi.McCrae 5, Askan 2, M.Clairmont 2, R.Clairmont 2, Finley, Wirz, Ma.McCrea). R14stl (Mi.McCrea 3, Ma.McCrea 3, Ulutoa 2, M.Clairmont 2, Askan 2, R.Clairmont 2). R3blk (Ma.McCrea 2, Finley). (Tu30Jan18)

Asterisk (*) denotes stat variant(s) where alternative sources differ: Ulutoa (xo: 2FG 3-5, FT 5-6)11p, R.Clairmont (xo: 3FG 0-5, 2FG 3-5, FT 0-2)6p; host venue: Ulutoa 10p, R.Clairmont 7p.

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