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Kenmare girls are 6th at State

After an absence of 20 years, the Kenmare Honkers girls basketball team returned to the Class B state tournament, claiming 6th place in the 2009 event held at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

3/11/09 (Wed)

 

By Caroline Downs,
with Ken & Jean Barnhart
 
After an absence of 20 years, the Kenmare Honkers girls basketball team returned to the Class B state tournament, claiming 6th place in the 2009 event held at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
 
The Honkers claimed their trophy following an opening round loss to runner-up Fordville-Lankin-Park River on Thursday, a consolation win over Standing Rock Friday, and the consolation championship loss to Hankinson on Saturday afternoon.
 
Kenmare (22-4) had a strong start against Region 1 champion Hankinson (23-4), but came up short in a physical game against the Lady Pirates 43-50 to finish in sixth place.
 
“We had a really good first half,” said KHS head coach Jason Schwarz, adding that the impact of a three-day tournament against some of the other best teams of the state affected the Honkers. “The second half was a reflection of us being tired.”
 
He pointed out that the five starters and Erika Lemere played the entire second game against Standing Rock, with Kortni Miller sidelined by an ankle injury that occurred in Thursday’s game. “With Kortni not in that second game, that really drained everybody,” he said. “As a coach, that’s when it’s important to have a bench. It’s going to catch up to you.”
 
Hankinson scored the first five points in the opening period, playing a man-to-man defense and running a full court press. Kendra Miller scored the first two points for the Honkers, which energized the crowd, followed by Katie King’s blocked shot on the other end of the court.
 
The two sides traded possessions and missed shots until Jordan Thompson tied the game at 5-5 with a drive to the basket and a free throw shot. The battle continued, with points from Kortni Miller, back on the court, and Macie Harris on layups, followed by a short jumper from Kendra Miller.
 
Chelsey Zietz capped the quarter with a layup on a pass from Harris after a rebound by Kendra Miller, and the Honkers looked strong with the 13-10 lead.
 
Zietz opened the second quarter with another basket, but the Lady Pirates scored four answered points. The Honkers had their chance at baskets, but missed shots until Thompson fed a pass into King for a 17-14 Kenmare lead.
 
Physical play led to a pair of off-setting technical fouls called on Thompson for Kenmare and Courtney Titus for Hankinson at the five-minute mark. Both teams struggled to get their shots to fall for the next couple of minutes, until Casey Geffre connected for the Pirates. A foul by Kendra Miller sent Chloe Wahl to the line for a pair of free throws that gave Hankinson an 18-17 advantage.
 
With just over two minutes left in the half, King scored inside on the next possession from a pass by Harris. Wahl responded with a shot, followed by a second from Geffre.
 
King connected again from the middle of the lane just before the half to pull Kenmare within one at 21-22. Halftime statistics showed the Honkers with stronger field goal and rebounding percentages, but in turnover trouble with 12, compared to five for the Pirates.
 
Kenmare opened the third quarter on another basket from Zietz, fed by King, and took their final lead of the game at 23-22. Casey Geffre took over at that point and scored a pair of free throws and two baskets before Kenmare answered with a free throw by Kendra Miller. Harris pulled the score to within one again at 27-28, but Casey Geffre sank another shot for the Pirates.
 
Kendra Miller spoke up for the Honkers next with a layup for a 29-30 score, but Geffre struck again, followed by two points on free throws by Courtney Titus after a foul by Harris, to give the Pirates a 34-29 lead.
 
At two minutes, Kendra Miller came through with a 3-pointer to pull Kenmare within two, but those were the Honkers’ final points of the quarter as Hankinson went on to add eight more to their total, with five of those from Geffre. The quarter ended with Kenmare trailing 32-42.
 
The Honkers came up with defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, but had trouble converting those possessions into points. King scored on a free throw, and Kendra Miller made a basket with an assist by Kortni Miller, followed by a running jump shot a couple of minutes later for a 39-44 score. However, the Lady Pirates controlled the tempo by slowing their offense to the point where the Honkers had to foul. With 41 seconds left, Kenmare sent up a flurry of shots with determined offensive rebounding, only to see their efforts miss the mark.
 
Zietz drew a foul from Casey Geffre with 16.9 seconds left and made one of her shots, but the Lady Pirates pulled ahead 50-40 on four free throws made by Titus on intentional Honker fouls.
 
Zietz had the final words of the game as she sank a 3-point shot at the buzzer, giving Kenmare 43 points in the game.
 
For the game, Kenmare made 18 of 48 field goals for 37.5 percent and Hankinson made 15 of 51 field goals for 29 percent. Kenmare hit 5 of 8 free throws for 62 percent while Hankinson had 19 of 24 for 79 percent from the line.
 
The Honkers finished with 34 rebounds, compared to 25 for the Lady Pirates. However, Kenmare committed 22 turnovers in the game, while Hankinson only had 7. The Pirates also made 16 steals in the game, while the Honkers only came up with 4.
 
The turnovers and fouls told the story of the game for Schwarz. “They shot 24 free throws to our eight,” he said. “That’s a reflection of us being tired and things not going our way. This was a real balanced tournament, and there’s not much room for error. We harp on the kids all year long about the little things, and in a game like this all those little things get magnified.”
 
He pointed out that the Honkers held the Lady Pirates to 24 percent field goal shooting. “In the second half, they were getting baskets off our misses and fast breaks,” he said. “We didn’t have anything left in our legs.”
 
Kendra Miller paced her team with 15 points, followed by Zietz with 10, King 9, Kortni Miller 4, Thompson 3 and Harris 2.
 
King pulled down 11 rebounds in the game, while Kendra Miller made 7 and Harris grabbed 6.
 
Harris finished with 2 assists, and King made 2 blocked shots.
 
Casey Geffre led the Pirates, scoring 19 points, and making 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Courtney Titus finished with 9 points and 7 steals.
 
In Saturday’s other action, Kidder County defeated Fordville-Lankin-Park River 45-43 for the championship. Hazen finished third with a 56-52 victory over New Rockford-Sheyenne, and Stanley earned 7th place with a win over Standing Rock 66-50.
 
KHS senior Kendra Miller was named to the All-Tournament team for her performance. She joined Katie Ralston, Tessa Zahradka and Lexi Erickson of F-L-PR, Stef Bohrer and Allison Opp of Hazen, Shauna Long of Standing Rock, Lindsey Sand of Kidder County, Casey Geffre of Hankinson, and Shelby Wetzel of New Rockford-Sheyenne, with Eli Benz of Kidder County chosen the Tournament MVP.
 
Jason Schwarz, head coach for the Honkers, was named the 2009 Class B Girls Coach of the Year. He described the honor as a reflection of the Honkers’ successful year and hard work, as well as the dedication of assistant coaches Courtney Seime and Arnold Jordan. “It’s not just one person, it’s everybody,” he said. “We were talking with the team afterward and I said my name may be on it, but it’s for everybody in this room.”
 
He expressed his gratitude for the support the Honkers received from fans, other students, parents and local businesses. “That all goes a lot longer ways than anybody knows,” he said. “I’d also like to thank the kids for their tremendous effort and the coaching staff. This was a total effort, and everybody had to play their role. All in all, we’re proud of what we did while we were there, and what we did to get there.”
 
He acknowledged the trip to the state tournament had a motivational effect on the younger players, citing their talent and success in both volleyball and basketball as evidence of their willingness to work. “Hopefully, this experience will catapult the kids returning next year into some off-season work,” he said, adding the team had a good chance of returning to the tournament if they put in the time. “We have to do some things differently, but I think they liked the taste of what they got this weekend. We’ll go back to work here shortly, and next season we can repeat a little bit of what we did this year and add to it hopefully!”
 
Seniors Jordan Thompson and Kendra Miller enjoyed their experience at the tournament, capping their long-time basketball careers in Kenmare. “Since we were little, we’ve always wanted to go to state,” Miller said.
 
Thompson liked the feeling of winning in that venue, while Miller most appreciated the focused time spent with her teammates. They noted the difference in officiating, both describing the referees as calling games more closely than the regular season, and they both laughed about catching glimpses of themselves on the jumbo screen when the television cameras were filming.
 
They also saw the way the tournament atmosphere affected their younger teammates. “They loved it,” Thompson said. “I think it gives them something to look forward to next year. Now, they know it’s possible.”
 
Miller agreed. “This builds their confidence.”
 
The two team leaders admitted to being sore and bruised from the tough physical play of three games, but they wouldn’t trade their tournament memories. Like Schwarz, they had words of thanks for the Honkers fans. “I didn’t know there’d be that many people who would come to Grand Forks,” Miller said.
 
“Some left, but more came,” added Thompson. “There were different faces every day.”
 
“We just want to say thanks to everyone for supporting us,” Miller said.
 
Kenmare tops Standing Rock
in consolation play
Kenmare played in the consolation round Friday, facing a young Standing Rock team led by Shauna Long’s 44 points against Hazen in the opening round. The two teams just as easily could have met in a semi-finals game, having both been edged out of victory on Thursday. In this match-up the Honkers, playing without sophomore defensive specialist Kortni Miller because of an ankle injury, prevailed 56-50.
 
Harris came out to play for the Honkers, sinking a 3-pointer from the corner, then driving to the basket for a lay-up within the opening minutes for a 5-0 score. The Lady Warriors answered with a basket, but Harris went to work again on another drive that failed to end in a field goal, but did send Harris to the line where she sank both free throws.
 
While Zietz glued herself defensively to Long and prevent any easy looks at the basket, the Honkers kept pushing their offense, with King sinking a shot inside on a pass from Harris, then showing her diversity with a 12-foot shot on the next possession. In the meantime, Ryan White Bull showed her abilities at the post position with six quick points.
 
White Bull fouled Harris with 3:20 to play in the first quarter, and Harris capitalized on the opportunity to put the Honkers up 13-8, followed some back-and-forth court action. A patient Kenmare offense put the ball into Kendra Miller’s hands at the 2:30 mark for another basket. White Bull responded with her own shot, but Kendra Miller hit a 3-point attempt on the next possession, only to be followed by a 3-pointer from Long.
 
With a minute left, the score stood at 19-13 in Kenmare’s favor, but the Honkers stretched the margin to 22-13 on two free throws by Erika Lemere and a last-second shot by Zietz on an inbounds pass from Kendra Miller.
 
Kenmare maintained the patient tone on both ends of the court as the second quarter opened, confounding the Lady Warriors’ offense. White Bull made two shots and Sadie Agard came up with a 3-pointer, but Thompson sank a clear 3-point attempt for the Honkers and Kendra Miller had a layup at the 5:00 minute mark, followed by a second basket about a minute later.
 
 Lalynn Antell came up with a free throw and then a field goal for Standing Rock, but Kendra Miller scored three points when she was fouled on a successful layup attempt, for a 32-25 lead. White Bull added two points for her team, but flurry of steals up and down the court left the ball in Zietz’s hands again at the end of the quarter for an easy layup and a 34-27 Kenmare lead at the half.
 
With Long held to one 3-pointer by Zietz and White Bull in trouble with three fouls, the third quarter opened slowly for both sides. The Honkers inched ahead on the occasional free throw and a layup by King, while Standing Rock added points by White Bull and Long, including her second 3-pointer when Zietz was trapped by a screen, but with 2:30 left in the period, Kenmare had the lead at 39-35.
 
The quarter ended with shots traded on both ends as Antell and Kristie Zephier found the basket to come within a single point of Kenmare at 40-41. However, the Honkers stepped up their defensive efforts and eliminated any good looks at the basket for the Lady Warriors, while getting two 3-pointers from Kendra Miller for a 47-40 lead.
 
Zephier made her presence known again in the opening seconds of the fourth period, but Thompson responded with a sweet shot from six feet out. Thompson added two more points on a layup from a pass by Lemere and then Kendra Miller had a look from 15 feet out on an assist by King to give Kenmare a 53-44 margin.
 
Long made a layup, her final points in the game, with just under five minutes left to play, but the Honkers were ready to run the clock and stretch out their offense until an easy shot opened up. They played catch for a full minute before White Bull committed her fourth foul of the game, but Kenmare kept the ball another 40 seconds until a miss by Kendra Miller was rebounded by White Bull.
 
Zephier scored again with 1:30 to play, but Kenmare was ready to take their time until King could score on a layup 20 seconds later. White Bull traveled when the Lady Warriors inbounded the ball, and five new players stepped onto the court for Standing Rock, with Kenmare leading 55-48 and 1:09 left to play.
 
The Honkers ran their offense again to check the strategy of the new group of Lady Warriors, then gave the starters a rest as freshmen Ashley Barnhart, Halie Nelson, Caleen Crider, Sydney Wheeling and Joy Jacobson took the court. Nelson sank a free throw for Kenmare’s final point, then watched as Jaimie Archambault bumped Standing Rock’s score to 50 with the game’s last basket.
 
Schwarz praised the Honkers’ performance on the court, especially Zietz’s work defending Long. “The player of the game had to be Chelsey Zietz,” he said. “She held Shauna Long to two points at halftime. She didn’t let her touch the basketball as much as she did the day before.”
 
He also cited Harris as a spark for team. “Macie came out and got us going,” he said, referring to her scoring efforts in the first quarter.
 
Kendra Miller led all players with 20 points, including 8-of-12 field goals and 3-of-3 three-point attempts.
 
Harris added 10 points, while King had 9, Thompson 8, Zietz 6, Lemere 2 and Nelson 1.
 
King and Thompson both came up with 6 rebounds for the Honkers, while Kendra Miller had 4 steals in the game.
 
The Lady Warriors were led by White Bull’s 18 points and 8 rebounds, followed by Long with 11 points and 5 steals.
 
The Honkers shot 48.8 percent from the field, sinking 20-of-41 shots, and 55.6 percent from 3-point range, making 5-of-9 attempts. Standing Rock shot 37.7 percent, at 20-of-53, in field goals and 25 percent, at 5-of-20, in 3-point attempts.
 
Kenmare finished with 19 rebounds, 14 turnovers and 8 total fouls, while the Lady Warriors had 23 rebounds, 15 turnovers and 16 fouls.
 
In Friday’s other consolation game, Hankinson pounded Stanley 72-37 in a game marked by 48 fouls. During semi-finals action, Fordville-Lankin-Park River handled Hazen 53-45 and Kidder County topped New Rockford-Sheyenne 49-37.
 
Honkers lose to Flyers
in final 20 seconds
Kenmare opened the tournament Thursday in front of the television cameras, hoping to avenge an early-season loss to Fordville-Lankin-Park River from the Shootout on the Prairie held in December. The Honkers led through the first three quarters, but fell just short of a victory in the game’s final seconds as the Flyers pushed ahead for the 61-56 win.
 
“So many things went according to the game plan,” said Schwarz. “We knew we had a more disciplined team. We knew we had to get the ball inside to Katie and to get the ball to Kendra when we could.”
 
The Region 2 champion Flyers came in with a 21-1 record and finished 8th at the 2008 state tournament. They put the first points on the board as Breanna Novak made a field goal 40 seconds into the game, but Kendra Miller tied it at 6:25, then surged ahead 5-2 on a 3-point shot.
 
From there, the Honkers’ offense fed King inside as she scored on free throws and field goals. In the meantime, a tight Honkers’ defense pestered the Flyers’ three top shooters Lexi Erickson, Katie Ralston and Tessa Zahradka, slowing the Flyers’ preferred pace to nearly a crawl.
 
F-L-PR inched ahead on the occasional free throw or basket, and managed 11 points in the quarter, but the Honkers’ crowd was galvanized by shots by Harris and King in the last two minutes of the quarter and especially by Kendra Miller’s high 3-pointer that banked off the backboard through the rim with one second left. As the buzzer sounded, Kenmare had a 19-11 advantage.
 
Scoring was more even in the second quarter as the Flyers double- and triple-teamed King, trying to stop her attack under the basket. After three minutes, the score stood at 21-16, after the Honkers earned a couple of free throws and the Flyers inched forward on a field goal by Tiffany McMillan and a 3-pointer by Erickson.
 
The Flyers struggled against the Honkers’ defense, throwing away passes and committing fouls, while King added two points by rebounding one of her own missed shots. With the score at 24-16 and 3:35 left in the half, however, the momentum of the game changed as Kortni Miller came down on an ankle and left the game in obvious pain.
 
Without Miller’s steely defense anchoring the Honkers, F-L-PR took advantage of the situation by playing more aggressively. Sydney Larson drew a foul on Zietz and sank both shots. Zietz reacted with a bucket for Kenmare to go up 26-19, but Larson, Erickson and Ralston made three more baskets to pull within a point while the Honkers stumbled with turnovers.
 
A Kenmare timeout helped the Honkers refocus, and Kendra Miller hit a shot at 1:28, followed by two more by King as Kenmare worked its offense. The Flyers were held scoreless, with Kenmare leading 32-25 at halftime, making 16 rebounds compared to 6 for F-L-PR.
 
The Honkers’ defense tripped up the Flyers on their first two possessions in the third quarter, but Erickson sank another 3-pointer at 6:46 to pull within 4 points. The Honkers went back to work, interrupting F-L-PR’s offensive strategy and running their offense until Harris came open for a 3-pointer at 5:31.
 
The Flyers responded with three shots in the next minute to pull within one again at 34-35, but Kendra Miller found her mark in back-to-back possessions and added 6 points in less than 30 seconds, then sank another shot from inside the top of the key to give Kenmare a 43-34 advantage. The Flyers used the next minute to get two shots from McMillan and one from Ralston.
 
Thompson answered with an open baseline jump shot, followed by a Kendra Miller layup with a free throw added for good measure, and Kenmare found themselves leading by seven at 48-41 at 1:31. The Flyers played relentlessly, though, adding two more field goals before the quarter ended and preventing King from making any contributions.
 
As the fourth quarter opened, the score stood at 48-45 in Kenmare’s favor. Both teams committed turnovers and McMillan earned her fourth foul in the opening minutes, with no points for either side until Ralston made one of two free throws at the 6:29 mark, after a foul by Kendra Miller.
 
Within 30 seconds, Erickson tied the score at 48 with a jump shot, and the next five minutes saw the two teams tying four more times as they battled for control of the game, using intentional fouls to gain an advantage with possessions.
 
McMillan left the game with five fouls at the 5:08 mark, and Zietz followed at 1:24. King and Thompson added points on free throws, while Zahradka scored on two field goals, her first in the game.
 
With just over a minute left, Kendra Miller disrupted the Flyers’ attempts to stall. Erickson fouled out on the play, and Thompson followed up with two free throws to give Kenmare a 56-55 lead. Fifteen seconds later, though, a foul by Miller allowed F-L-PR to tie the score, and the battle continued for another 25 seconds until a jump ball call stopped the action.
 
Kenmare had the possession arrow and the potential to win or send the game into overtime. The Flyers called a timeout, however, and returned to the court with an aggressive plan. On the inbounds pass from Miller to Thompson, Ralston made a steal and passed to Zahradka, who missed her shot but drew the foul with 8.7 seconds and sank both free throws. Kenmare tried to make good on the few seconds remaining, only to have Ralston nab the ball a second time, sink a shot and draw the foul for a three-point play and the victory.
 
Kendra Miller led all players with 23 points in the game. King finished with a double-double at 16 points and 12 rebounds. Thompson added 8 points, Harris 6 and Zietz 3.
 
Erickson finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds in the game, while Ralston had 14 points and 6 steals.
 
The Honkers shot 40 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from the free throw line, compared to 45.3 percent and 58.8 percent, respectively, for the Flyers. Kenmare made 25 rebounds and 6 steals, but committed 18 turnovers, while F-L-PR had 20 rebounds and 12 steals, while committing 12 turnovers.
 
Schwarz knew those turnovers were a factor for the Honkers. “We didn’t take care of the basketball,” he said. “I thought we had that part of our game solidified.”
 
He said the Honkers cracked a little at times, playing in such a large venue with the distraction of television cameras and large crowds. However, Kortni Miller’s ankle injury may have played the biggest role. “She just wasn’t the same again, and that snowballed from one thing to another because it changed our defensive plan,” Schwarz said. “For the most part, we made great adjustments, but when we got the ball, we struggled against their full court press. On our half court offense, we did a great job, but it was that transition period that ended up getting us.”
 
The Honkers still had a clear chance to win in the final 20 seconds. “We had the ball and I felt really good about our chances,” Schwarz said. “Then Jordan got her pocket picked by Ralston. Their playmakers made plays when they needed to.”
 
Despite the loss, Schwarz was pleased with the Honkers’ performance. “So many things in our game plan fell into place,” he said. “The execution of our game plan was the best it’s ever been.”
 
Thursday’s other games saw New Rockford-Sheyenne come from behind to stop Hankinson 59-58, Kidder County defeat Stanley 49-30, and Hazen edge Standing Rock in the final seconds 73-72.