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Idaho Enterprise

Lady Dragons fall in District Tournament 46-54; end an amazing season

Mikell Keetch helped the Lady Dragons defeat the West Side Pirates in their second game of the 2A District 5 Tournaments.

 In the game 6 of the 2A District 5 tournament games, the Lady Dragons traveled to Soda Springs to take on the Cardinals in the loser out, semi-final matchup on Monday, February 5.  With the season on the line and each team having a win against the other during the regular season, an intense, aggressive game was a foregone conclusion.  While both teams played excellent basketball, Soda Springs clinched the victory to move on to the District Championship game.

The game began with defense dominating both ends of the court, keeping both teams from a scoring shot until long into the first quarter.  The Cardinals tacked up the first point of the game on a free throw shot to 0-1 after an MHS foul on a fast break drive.  They added another score on their next possession, but the Lady Dragons were quick to respond as point guard Izzy Haycock brought the ball down into Dragon territory and put up a quick jumper from the outside for two points.  Making a stop on the other end of the court, Malad set up their offense for another score as Hallie Horsley made a left lane drive from the wing to put them in the lead 4-3.

The Lady Dragon’s rebounding played a crucial part throughout the game as they out-boarded the Cardinals, 52-37, led by Olivia Nelson with 12.  As the first quarter began winding down, Nelson fought for position to grab the rebound as Oaklie Hebdon bounced the three pointer off the rim.  Going back up strong, Nelson put the shot in for another Lady Dragon score.

Time and time again, both on offense and defense, the Cardinals looked to have the rebound, but the Lady Dragons were determined and found a way to come away with it.  Those rebounds allowed offensive second shots for Malad all the while taking away those same opportunities from Soda Springs.  

Looking for a different approach to stop Malad, Soda Springs came at the Lady Dragons with a full court press, hoping to force Malad to turn over the ball.  Instead they got caught behind as Mikell Keetch hustled the ball down the court through the Cardinal defense, finding herself in a 4 on 2 situation.  Drawing the defender under the basket to her, Keetch drove into the key before bounce passing down to Nelson for the lay in and free throw to make it a three point play before ending the quarter, 14-7.

Jumping into the second quarter, Malad quickly forced several fouls on the Cardinals, but fell into the same trouble just minutes later.  Fortunately, pulling from their bench did nothing to slow the Lady Dragons or their determination.  Driving into the key from the right wing, Keetch once again pulled the defense to her just as Horsley worked her way around and behind Keetch.  Sealing the defense behind her, Keetch tipped the ball out Horsley for the shot.  The duo hit the same play on their next trip down the court for last score of the half as they hung on to their narrow lead, 20-17

Coming into the third quarter, Malad found their greatest offensive successes as they pushed the ball down the court with quick transitions before Soda Springs could set up into their tough defense.  Haycock aggressively pushed the ball down the court looking for an opening, pulling up for the jumper just inside the three point line.  

Putting up a couple of scoring possessions, the Cardinals erased the lead on the scoreboard, swinging the game’s momentum in their favor.  The Lady Dragons refused to quit with so much of the game left to be played and found moments of victory as they outworked the Soda Springs team.  Once again, Nelson came in hard with the rebounds, snagging a long bounced ball on defense.  Trapped in the corner, Nelson managed the outlet pass to Keetch who pushed it down the court.  As she did, Horsley broke from the outside wing to the basket, catching the pass from Keetch on the block for the lay up and MHS score.

The Lady Dragon defense stepped up as well, clearly demonstrated by Hebdon who tipped the ball out of bounds, preventing an easy score after a lucky rebound-bounce set up the Cardinals for the fastbreak.  As they inbounded the ball on the baseline, Nelson and Horsley put up a wall on the block, forcing the Soda Springs player to dribble out of bounds and turn possession over to Malad.

Their quick defensive footwork and rotations made it difficult for the Cardinals to run their offense.  In one instance, Kiley Miller and Hebdon play tight, deny-everything sort of defense, making the Soda Springs frustrated and impatient.  Anticipating the rushed pass, Brynnlee Jones was quick to steal the ball to keep the Cardinals from another offensive opportunity.

 Unfortunately, the Lady Dragon offense couldn’t connect with the basket as they attempted to convert their defensive stops into scoring opportunities.  It seemed nothing would click as the team worked the ball around the court, drove to the basket, and snagged the offensive rebounds to help them put the ball in the hoop.  The Lady Dragons kept pace with the Cardinals throughout the fourth quarter, going 18-19, but could never make up the deficit of the third quarter, eventually falling, 46-54.

Senior forward Horsley played a crucial part to the Malad offense as she put up 21 points, followed by Hebdon with 8, Haycock with 7 and Nelson and Keetch each with 5.  Keetch led the team with assists as she tallied up 6, followed by Haycock with 2 and Horlsey with 1.  

Despite the loss to end the season, Head Coach Trevor Jones couldn’t help but see great growth and development in his team.  He shared, “What an amazing year for the Lady Dragons Basketball Program.  There have been so many highlights this year- it’s really hard to believe it’s over. For the second year in a row all three teams ended with winning records, the Varsity ending the regular season with a 17-4 record, one of the best regular seasons in school history. 

“We have seen so much progress this year, individually and as a team.  This year they grew and stretched and became a team that put the state on alert.  The Lady Dragons started the season 11-0 and have been ranked in the top 5 all year long.  They had a tough schedule and were able to knock off 7 different teams that had beaten them the previous year along with several 3A and 4A schools.” 

He continued, “It was great to see the direct results of their hard work and we were able to overcome a lot of teams that had previously beat us.  Malad’s few losses all came against state tournament teams that ended in single digit losses or where they had opportunities or leads late in the games. They were all so close. It is tough when three of the best teams in the state are in the same district.” 

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