Free throws weren’t Polson’s friend until they needed to be Saturday evening.
In the consolation final of the Northwestern A girls basketball divisional tournament, Polson shot only 19-for-38 from the free-throw line, including 0-for-9 in the third quarter. But as Whitefish staged a comeback late in the fourth quarter, the Lady Pirates held the Bulldogs off with clutch free-throw shooting.
Polson made its final five free throws in the final minute to seal the 39-34 victory. The Lady Pirates will now face Bigfork at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night at Glacier High School to decide who will be the second team from Northwestern A to qualify for the state tournament.
Early in the first half, sophomore Breanne Kelley appeared she was on her way to at least a 30-point outing as she scored 11 of Polson’s first 13 points. She outscored Whitefish nine to seven in the first quarter alone. But Whitefish shifted its game plan and assigned guard Jessie Slaybaugh to shadow Kelley the rest of the game.
From then on, Kelley rarely got the ball, let alone a shot. She attempted only one field goal in the second and third quarters, making a basket early in the second. When she finally did score again, however, it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
With the game tied at 32 and a little over 1:30 remaining in regulation, Kelley slipped past two Whitefish defenders and hit a layup from the left side of the lane. Polson never relinquished the lead after that, thanks largely to the free-throw shooting of senior Rochelle Woods.
It was a clutch day altogether for Woods. Earlier in the day, she hit a free throw with 2.8 seconds left against Libby to give Polson a 48-47 victory, which qualified the Pirates for the evening showdown with Whitefish. Then against the Bulldogs, she made eight out of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and 10 out of 13 for the game.
Woods finished with 12 points, while Kelley had 13. Senior Kate Klundt led the Bulldogs with 13 points and fellow senior Torie Powell added eight, including four key points in the fourth quarter than enabled the Bulldogs to hang around.
In an unusual first half that saw little offensive activity for Polson aside from free throws and Kelley, nobody on the Pirates roster made a single field goal except for the red-hot Kelley. Still, Polson took a 19-14 lead into halftime.
Polson’s victory avenged a first-round loss to Whitefish that forced the Pirates to work their way out of the loser’s bracket.
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