The Wolf Point Lady Wolves claimed their first state title in 16 years on Saturday night in Belgrade with a 48-35 victory. The Lady Falcons finished their season with 21-3 record and brought home the second place trophy.
Florence’s Danielle Zahn opened the game with a basket and Makenna Liles followed with a trey to give the Lady Falcons the early lead. But then Mary Bighorn hit two free throws and the momentum swung to Wolf Point and never really came back to the Lady Falcons.
Three of Wolf Point’s starters are six feet tall or taller. Mary Bighorn and Abby Juve are both six feet tall. Mary Bighorn’s twin, Imani, stand 6’3”. This wall was tough for Florence’s front line to penetrate and snag rebounds. The Lady Falcons got in early foul trouble with Joey Janetski picking up her second foul late in the first quarter. Liles also got in early foul trouble.
Florence tied the game in the second quarter when Zahn sank two free throws but once again, Wolf Point pulled ahead. The size of Wolf Point was definitely a factor as they kept Florence from getting into their regular defensive mode of stealing the ball and making shots.
“We put a lot into last night’s game (against Forsyth),” said Florence coach Duane Zeiler. “I don’t like to make any excuses for anyone but we were tired, you could tell it coming into the game tonight. It took us two and a half or three quarters to finally get moving.”
As the game progressed, both Liles and Janetski picked up their fourth foul just two minutes into the third quarter and had to sit out. Without their rebounding and Liles’ shooting, the Lady Falcons were left to make outside shots. Rilee Mangun, who normally scores anywhere from 12 to 19 points, didn’t even score until the third quarter. She finished the game with eight points.
“I knew we were in for a great game,” said Wolf Point coach Cody Larson. “Florence is well coached. Zahn is an amazing basketball player. We have a couple of those too and we just came out and did it tonight.”
The Lady Falcons are known as a second half team and Zeiler reminded them of that at the half. “I told them we’ve been a lot worse off (at the half) but we got in foul trouble. When you get to this level, you can’t overcome that like you can all year long in the conference. These teams are here for a reason. They’re all good.”
Wolf Point 48, Florence 35
Wolf Point – S Wells 5, Mya Fourstar 8, M Bighorn 9, A Juve 7, Imani Bighorn 19.
Florence – Emma Stensrud 6, Joey Janetski 2, Rilee Mangun 8, Makenna Liles 7, Danielle Zahn 12.
The opening game for the Lady Falcons matched up two of the best guards in the state, Florence’s own Danielle Zahn and Three Forks’ Kyle Olsen. Curiously, both wore the number 32 and although both could shoot the lights out in the gym, it was Zahn’s drive and determination that ultimately pulled out the 50-48 first round win.
But it wasn’t just Zahn that contributed to the victory. The Falcon defense was strong and held Kendal Lynn in check for most of the game with Rilee Mangun and Makenna Liles playing tough defense.
Three Forks jumped out to a seven-point lead before Makenna Liles hit the second of two free throws to put Florence on the board. That opened the door for the Lady Falcons and with a bucket by Zahn and one by Mangun pulled them within a point. Florence took the lead when Zahn hit a trey but a shot by Three Forks’ McKenzie Feddes tied the game at 19 all at the end of the quarter.
After leading by two points at the half, Florence came out shooting and built up a 13-point lead by the end of the quarter. But Three Forks wasn’t done. Florence coach Duane Zeiler said that the lapse by Florence was a combination of things.
“Their legs were tired, we haven’t played a game in two weeks,” he said. “I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. And we only played six players the entire game.”
Florence began to build their lead in the third quarter and by the end of the third quarter had an 11-point lead. But then Three Forks’ Olsen caught fire and a couple of treys, and the Wolves were knocking at the door. Florence again went on a run with Liles and Mangun leading the way. Mangun hit two free throws with 2:49 remaining. That would be the last Florence score of the game. Olsen was charged with a charge with 10 seconds remaining which gave the ball to Florence and the win.
Florence 50, Three Forks 48,
Florence – Emma Stensrud 7, Joey Janetski 2, Kasidy Yeoman 3, Rilee Mangun 13, Makenna Liles 7, Danielle Zahn 18.
Three Forks – Kinzee Howey 1, Erin Welter 2, Kendall Lynn 4, Paeton Ohs 7, Kyle Olson 28, Breanna Block 6.
Florence then advanced to the semi-finals where they took on Forsyth with their 6’5” player, Lindsey Hein. With her height, Hein has created problems for most teams but Zeiler had a plan. Janetski, who is 6’2” herself, had to stay on Hein all of the time.
“I knew I had to from her because I knew I would have backside help,” said the Florence senior. “She’s played against smaller girls but I’m more her size and I knew I’d have backside help. I do trust my team.”
Florence went out in a two-three defense but it just didn’t work according to Zeiler. “We knew their guards weren’t as strong as our guards so we came back to man-to-man defense and that’s what carried us. Pressure, pressure, pressure.”
The battle on the boards was a bit one sided early on but as the game progressed, Janetski and Stensrud pulled down their share. Florence began pulling ahead in the third quarter and went on to win, 59-37.
“I know Dani had a good game but Joey was unbelievable in there. She played her butt off. Probably the best game I’ve ever seen Joey play and this is basically her first year of getting a lot of varsity time,” said Zeiler.
Janetski finished with six points and five rebounds. She held Hein to six rebounds.
Florence 59, Forsyth 37
Forsyth – Lindsey Hein 17, Jordan Cookman 10, Becky Melcher 6, Roxanne Keefer 2, Austin Brewer 2.
Florence – Danielle Zahn 27, Rilee Mangun 14, Makenna Liles 12, Joey Janetski 6.