BIG HORN — Tongue River High School girls basketball’s turnovers didn’t seem to faze the score at halftime of the game against host Big Horn High School Saturday, coming into the third quarter down by only four points, 21-17.
The turnovers eventually caught up with the Lady Eagles, though, as the Lady Rams overpowered the guests 41-27.
Big Horn’s defense effectively shut down Tongue River’s offense, something the team had been practicing the week leading up to the close rival game.
“This week in practice we’ve been focusing a lot about defensive intensity and just what we can pick up on the defensive end,” Big Horn senior Courtney Wallach said. “And we really shut down Tongue River’s main offense by our defensive intensity and I really think that’s really important, especially because so far throughout the year it hasn’t been our strong suit and tonight we really executed that way.”
It takes a team, but a huge asset to Big Horn’s win was the smooth transition of the ball from the hands of Wallach to Jordan Frank and back again throughout the contest. The two leading seniors showed expertise built over years of playing multiple sports together throughout the year.
“Courtney and Jordan, they’re just very savvy senior point guards and I probably didn’t get us ready enough for what that looks like,” Tongue River girls head coach Ryan Alley said.
TR’s hustle found them with the ball in their hands several times, but a lack of control forced turnovers that Big Horn’s tight defense easily picked up for points.
Wallach’s hustle at the start of the third quarter sprung the Lady Rams into action, when she stole the ball and earned a foul, which resulted in two points from the free-throw line.
A second steal by Wallach forced a missed layup that was rebounded by Frank for two points. Almost immediately after, Wallach slid in a pass to Frank who cut to the baseline for a 10-foot shoot under the basket. The hosts ended the third quarter up by 9 points, 33-24.
The lack of boxing out by Tongue River allowed Big Horn to capitalize on second, third and fourth shots in the final quarter. Not preparing for the tight man-to-man defense brought Tongue River’s loss to the surface.
“It’s a process’ we’re building,” Alley said.
Alley said most of the competition the team will face throughout the year is a tight man, which he knows is a weak spot for his team. With more focused efforts going forward on finding an offense to break it, though, he feels the team will improve and find success.
Big Horn girls hit the court again when they host Moorcroft Jan. 24, while Tongue River travels to Greybull Jan. 24.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to reflect the correct name of the Tongue River coach, Ryan Alley.