The Ronan Maidens basketball team entered their first round game with Frenchtown suffering from injuries after they qualified for Divisionals by finishing in fourth place at the Class A Northwest District Tournament last week at the Ronan Events Center.
Maidens coach Steve Woll knew he would not have significant contributors at full strength. Regan Clairmont sustained an injury and was unable to play. Three other players including Rhylie Big Beaver, Kieauna DeRoche and Micalann McCrea, also struggled through the tournament with nagging injuries.
The Maidens, who were not at full strength, persevered through the injuries but still fell short with back-to-back losses to Frenchtown and Columbia Falls that ended Ronan’s season.
The Maidens lost to the Lady Broncs 41-26 and the Lady Wildkats, the Class A defending state champions, 71-59 in the consolation bracket.
“We were banged up and had kids with the flu,” Woll said. “We needed healthy bodies on the floor at this time of the year. We always tell the girls that you are always one play away from playing or not playing and that really showed. I thought the other girls really stepped up and did a nice job.”
McCrea, who struggled with injuries throughout the second half of the season, fell 21 points short of being the all-time leading Maidens scorer. McCrea finished third on the all-time list behind Lee Camel and Janis Smith.
“McCrea played well in her last high school career game against Columbia Falls and showed the kind of player she really is,” Woll said of McCrea, who is signed to play at Montana State University Northern in Billings. “I am really excited for her and I was hoping she would be the all-time leading scorer in Ronan. She was right there, but she hurt her finger and her knee. I really wanted that for her accomplishment.”
Woll, who was in his first season back as a Ronan head basketball coach since the 2015-2016 season when he coached the boys’ basketball team, said he felt it was “good to be back.”
“It was very rewarding and I was really appreciative of the girls with their effort and willingness to build a new system,” Woll said. “This season was a lot of fun and we planted the seed for years to come. I thought they did a good job. Our players engaged through all 24 games, never quit on us and kept getting better. This season was a sweet ride.”
The Maidens will return seven players from this year’s team that will now have Divisional experiences.
“We obviously will rely on the seven girls that now have the experience of going to Divisionals and that will help us have an understanding of what you have to do in order to get to the next level and beyond,” Woll said.
In the modern-day business of basketball, there is really no off season for teams that have aspirations of winning and competing for the 2018-2019 basketball season starting at the beginning of this week.