Dighton girls end Natoma's season
Published on -3/3/2013, 5:16 PM
PALCO — Saturday was the Natoma high school girls’ basketball team's first appearance in the sub-state finals in 13 years.
Natoma (15-8) was the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament, and after a first-round bye, moved to the championship game with a 57-35 victory against Northern Valley.
Dighton (16-7), coming off a 37-21 victory against Palco, defeated the Tigers 44-35 in Saturday's title match, after scoring six points in the last minute and a half, earning a trip to this week's Class 1A Division II state tournament in Hays.
“Inside the last two minutes there was a timeout, and the girls came over and they said we have to believe, we have to get this done,” said Dighton head coach Amy Felker.
Natoma had just hit a free throw to pull within three. That was the last point Dighton gave up the rest of the way.
“The were so confident and determined they were going to make it to Hays, so it was just sheer determination and being proud of there defense,” Felker added.
After trailing by three with just under four minutes to go, the Hornets went on a 13-1 run to end the game.
“A few breaks went their way at the end and we couldn’t stop them,” Natoma coach Aaron Homburg said. “Plus we didn’t shoot well due to their defense.”
The Tigers hit just 1 of 11 from the field in the fouth quarter. Their only basket came on a junior Tatum Pfortmiller 3-point shot just after the four-minute mark to tie the game at 34.
“The defense is really, truly what won the game for us,” Felker said. “All year the defense is what has been winning the game for us.”
Dighton packed the lane on defense in the fourth quarter. The Hornets played a loose man, not playing tight defense until the ball crossed the 3-point line.
“They were doing a good job sagging off of us and at that point we were up by two, so I thought if they are going to play off of us we will stand out and run the ball game out,” Homburg said. “I was hoping they would step out on us, and we would run by them and we did it a couple times we just missed
The Tigers had no answer for the Hornet’s meticulous offense in the final minutes. Dighton’s passes were made just as players broke free from the defense.
“We were just sticking to the basics,” Felker said. “We played our most basic offense in the last two minutes. We were just holding the ball and taking care of it.”
Dighton’s starters combined for 42 of the Hortnets' 44 points.
“Offensively we aren’t the strongest team in the state, we don’t have an 18 point scorer. We have a defense that takes pride in what they do,” Felker said. “We consistently throughout the year have kept teams below their average.
“Even the better teams we have played, we have lost, but we have held them below their season average.”
“It was an exciting game. I knew coming into it whoever imposed their will on the other team would win the game,” Homburg said. “We like to run up and down the floor and score 50 or 60 points, and they like to keep it slowed it down to 20 or 30. We ended up in the 30’s; they just imposed their will.”
Freshman Regan Casey led Natoma with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. “She is a very good freshman. She can create her own shot,” Homburg said. “For a freshman she plays very well, and it doesn’t matter what year she is she is a good player.”
Pfortmiller also finished in double digits for the Tigers, adding 10 points and 6 rebounds.
Senior Danica Casey wasn’t able to find her usual rhythm as multiple defenders took their turn shadowing her every move. She finished with seven points, and a team-high eight rebounds.
Natoma will graduate two seniors, and Homburg high hopes for the team’s future.
“We graduate some good seniors, and we will have some big holes to fill next year, but we aren’t replacing five or six,” he said. “If we do the things we need to do between this year and next year, and keep a basketball in our hands all summer long and do the things we need to do we have a chance to be successful.”
The Hornets will join the Dighton boys' team in Hays this week, facing No. 2 seed Norwich in Wednesday's 6:30 p.m. first-round game at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“We aren’t going to do anything different, we are proud and confident with where we are at,” Felker said. “Defense is what got us there, we are proud of it and it is what will win it for us.”