Grant County got what they wanted Nov. 30 on the road with a 54-37 victory over New England – a win.
But, it didn’t come easy.
By Brad Mosher
The defending state girls basketball champions improved to 2-0 after they struggled in the first quarter to keep ahead of the Tigers.
New England scored first. They came back to tie the game at 4-4, thanks to an Elizabeth Kaufman score halfway through the first quarter.
The visiting Coyotes responded with a three-pointer which sparked a 7-1 run.
The Tigers rallied in the last 90 seconds of the quarter with baskets from Molly Rayhorn, Lindsay Koch and two free throws by Emily Dinius tying the game at 11-11 with 46 seconds left.
It took a basket by Grant County’s Isabelle Boyer with just four seconds left to break the tie.
In the second quarter, the Coyotes did a little better thanks to a couple of turnover breakaway baskets.
A free throw by Dinius cut the lead to 13-12 one minute into the second quarter, but the Coyotes then went on 8-0 run before the Tigers called a timeout to regroup halfway through the period.
The Coyotes had built up a 21-12 lead, as the Tigers scored only four more points before halftime – three coming on one shot by Hadley Binstock with 33 seconds left.
It was in the second half where the Coyotes pulled away.
Ahead by seven at the start (23-16), Grant County quickly added four more for a 27-16 lead before the Tigers could score, Takoda Westling broke the dry spell with a basket two minutes into the third period.
Koch added a three-pointer, cutting the Coyotes’ lead to just six, 27-21, with 5:30 left.
The Coyotes quickly hit a pair of shots, including a three-pointer by Madison Meyer, to build a 32-21 cushion.
The Tigers’ Rayhorn brought the score closer with a basket, and Westling added a fast break layup to help New England stay close.
But, Grant County was able to take a 40-26 lead with a pair of baskets.
Kaufman’s three-pointer with 1:20 left in the quarter cut the gap to 11 points, only to see Boyer give the Coyotes two points on a steal and layup with just under a minute left.
The Coyotes kept the 42-29 lead through the start of the fourth quarter, then started to expand it with a 10-5 run over the next five minutes.
The Coyotes made it a 20-point lead with 1:26 left in the game, only to have Kaufman hit a three-pointer with 40 seconds left to finish the scoring.
New England had matched up well with the defending state champions in the first and third quarters, but were hobbled in the second and fourth quarters when they were held to single digits.
The Coyotes were led by two underclassmen. Sophomore Boyer’s 16-point effort topped the scoring and another they got another 15 from freshman Sam Ellison. The duo accounted for more than half the squad’s 54 points.
The Tigers were led by Kaufman who scored 13 points. Rayhorn added eight, while Koch finished with five. Westling scored four – all in the third quarter. Dinius and Binstock each scored three and Elli Rettinger finished with one point on a first-quarter free throw.
The Tigers got scoring help at the free throw line, hitting 11 of 25 attempts, while the Coyotes hit on six of their eight attempts.
For New England coach Jason Jung, it was a good first step in the new season.
“We got a lot of shots up – 67 – and our goal is to get 60 shots a game,” he said.
“However, our shooting percentage was not very good. But, that will come in time.
I was happy they got the concept that I was trying to (stress) to get out and run and get some shots before the defense can get set up,” he said.
According to Jung, the team executed that plan, but just were not able to get the shots to fall. “I told the girls that would probably be the worst shooting night we will have all season.
“We won’t put our heads down. We’ll continue to move forward. I still think we are going to have a very, very good season,” he added.
Jung said that the Tigers were shorthanded against the Coyotes, with one of the team’s best scorers out because of sickness.
“When we get her back, it will make a big difference on both the offensive end of the floor and the defense.
“I did see a lot of good things from the girls (against Grant County). It was just that we were hitting the shots. That was the bottom line.”
Jung said that the defense was hurt by Grant County’s freshman inside player. “we weren’t as aggressive as we should have been,” he said. “Number 40 (Ellison) hurt us pretty bad.”
The Tigers will learn a lot from the loss, the coach explained.
For the Coyotes, the next challenge will be the week-long tournament at New Salem.
For the Tigers, the road trip to Killdeer for the Roughrider tournament will give New England more chances to improve and move into the win column.
New England will visit Flasher Dec. 11, then host Bowman County Dec. 14 in the Tigers’ Den.