Thunderbird Girls Expect to be in the Mix


December 6, 2023

The Hays/Lodge Pole Thunderbird girls' varsity finally took the court this past weekend to get the 2023-24 season underway at the Native American Classic in Browning. Heading up the program is Head Coach Charlie Ereaux.

This year's roster includes just one senior, Imagine Fox. Two juniors Gabrial Walker and Nina Fox along with sophomores Kelcie Mount, Chaynell McConnell, Taylee Messerly and Hailey Walker-Matte. Three freshmen are getting their first taste of high school basketball they are Hadley Not Afraid, Shaydyn Blount and Alissa Whitford. One eighth grader being Malarie Stiffarm.

This year's team has a good mix of experienced veterans as well as newcomers, "I got two returning starters from last year's team, Gabby Walker has good size in the middle and can cause teams trouble, she is really going to help us out," said Ereaux. "Nina Fox returns as well, she is pretty quick and handles the ball really well and will really help us out on offense and defense. Nina is a fairly decent shooter from the perimeter and will help us out on the court with her experience on the court." Ereaux added, "Imagine Fox is back from injury and will really contribute this year on the court with her ability to play hard consistently."

As far as a style of play Ereaux knows exactly what he wants, "We are going to be an up-tempo team, but we can slow it down if it's not there and pull it out and run a play when we need to. We are excited about the season, the girls are working hard and learning a new system and getting used to a new coach." Ups and downs occur every season, "We are going to have our learning curves for sure, but the girls are working hard, and we will grow from that."

"We are a young team with only three upperclassmen, but we should be right in the mix of things by the end of the season. That's our goal, to be ready to take on the top teams come tournament time. Defensively we are just going to try and outscore people."

The Thunderbirds opened the season Friday against the District 2B Wolf Point Wolves and played well. The Thunderbirds held their own early on trailing 11-8 at the end of one quarter of action. The Thunderbirds got 4 points each from Fox and Blount. Hays/Lodge Pole kept the pressure on throughout the contest trailing 28-16 at the start of the fourth quarter, in the end it was a lead they couldn't overcome, falling 43-28. Blount led the Thunderbirds with 12 points.

Saturday Hays/Lodge Pole met Columbia Falls and led 4-3 getting buckets from Fox and Walker. The second quarter saw the Thunderbirds get just one long range three from McConnell and trailed 15-7 at the break. Hays/Lodge Poles offense came to life in the second half scoring 11 in the third quarter to cut the deficit to just four at 22-18. Not Afraid connected from downtown to assist in the Thunderbird comeback.

The Thunderbirds finished the game strong, Imagine Fox dropped in one from distance and Not Afraid and Mount each connected on a pair of free throws. Hays/Lodge Pole scored 15 in the final eight minutes to secure a 33-28 win. Blount finished with six points and Not Afraid five to lead the Thunderbird attack.


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