MOUNTAIN IRON — The Mountain Iron-Buhl girls’ basketball team had one final test Monday night before they begin their Section 7A playoff run on Wednesday. The Rangers faced off with Cass Lake-Bena for the second time this season and came away with the win, 74-64.
Trailing by as much as 10 in the first half, MI-B got their act together late in the first and into the second and outran the Panthers in the end. The Rangers were led by a balanced scoring attack which saw five players finish in double figures.
Tied at 10, CL-B went on a 10-point run to grab an early lead with Mya Reyes starting things off with a three-pointer. Krisalyn Seeyle then knocked down a pair of free-throws to put the Rangers down five. Seeyle added two more the next possession down before Taryn Frazer hit a three to cap off the run, 20-10.
MI-B began chipping their way back into the contest beginning with back-to-back buckets from the short corner, first from Jacie Kvas and then from Hali Savela. The Rangers kept going to Kvas, who was fouled on her next shot attempt. After sinking both free throws, the Rangers got back-to-back buckets from Sage Ganyo to knot things up at 20.
More buckets from Frazier and Seeyle put the Panthers back out in front, but Savela and Ava Butler were around to answer, keeping things close. Putting in the final two buckets of the half, a late four points from Ganyo cut the deficit down to four, with CL-B heading into the break up 32-28.
The Mountain Iron-Buhl offense found some patience on offense and some intensity on defense in the second half, leading to a 15-4 run to start the final 18 minutes.
A Ganyo three cut the four-point deficit to one, while five straight points from Butler put the Rangers on top 36-32. Ganyo added a pair before the Panthers got going with a bucket on the drive from Frazer.
MI-B didn’t let up, however with Kvas hitting a pair of free throws after being fouled. CL-B Amira LaDuke hit a pair of free throws but the Rangers Jordan Zubich knocked down her first three of the night on the possession after to put her squad up 43-36.
The Rangers kept their foot on the gas after a timeout, with Savela and Butler adding two more apiece before a three-pointer from Savela put them up 50-38.
The 12-point cushion given to the Rangers was enough for the rest of the game, as the Panthers’ Frazer and Seeyle kept their team afloat, but couldn’t outpace the coordinated Ranger offense. The final horn rang with MI-B closing out the regular season with a 74-64 win.
Defeating the state-ranked Panthers for the second time this season, MI-B head coach Jeff Buffetta said it was the perfect game for his squad to play just before the postseason.
“Cass Lake is good,” Buffetta said. “Their point guard is one heck of a player and they have a bunch of athletes. They’ll make you work. Our girls had a few bad moments in the first half but I like how we played in the second half. They played hard, made good decisions with the ball and it was a good effort going into the playoffs.”
Some of those mistakes made by the Rangers include rushed shots taken while MI-B was down or the game was close. Buffetta said more important than the mistakes, were the way his team responded to those mistakes as the game went on.
“You can’t rush things. When things get hard, you have to be calm and work the ball around. We had stretches where we rushed too much but we responded with some better moments and it looks like we learned a bit from it.”
Butler and Ganyo led the Rangers offense with 18 points each. Zubich added 15, Savela had 13 and Kvas finished with 10. Putting five scorers in double figures, Buffetta was pleased with the balanced offensive attack this late in the season.
“That’s huge because a lot of teams like to take away our guards but we showed tonight that we have a lot of kids that can put the ball in the hoop. I think that’ll help some of the girls become more confident now with playoffs ahead.”
Playing the Panthers in their third game of the year, as well as the last, the two contests gave Buffetta and the Rangers a good way to see how they’ve changed since the season began.
“There’s no doubt we’ve improved this year. I think we’re still searching for some consistency but I think we’ve gotten better. We have to keep working at it. I think if we can give consistent effort throughout the playoffs, we’ll have a good chance.”
Mountain Iron-Buhl (14-4) earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 7A tournament and will open play on Wednesday at home vs. No. 16 Littlefork-Big Falls. That game is set to tip off at 6 p.m.
CLB 32 32 -- 64
MIB 28 46 -- 74
Cass Lake-Bena: Mya Reyes 9, Taryn Frazer 21, Krisalyn Seeyle 17, Gabby Fineday 9, Amira LaDuke 8; Three pointers: Reyes 3, Frazer 5, Seeyle 1, Fineday 1; Free throws: 6-6; Total fouls: 16; Fouled out: Seeyle.
Mountain Iron-Buhl: Jacie Kvas 10, Hali Savela 13, Jordan Zubich 15, Sage Ganyo 18, Ava Butler 18; Three pointers: Savela 1, Zubich 3, Ganyo 2; Free throws: 22-26; Total fouls: 9; Fouled out: none.