GILLETTE – The Rock Springs Lady Tigers overcame a slow start but came up short on Thursday as they opened the new season with a 67-56 loss to Rapid City Central.
Many coaches use these opening tournaments to get a look at what they have as they prepare for important conference play. They also use these first games to shake off the rust and get back to competition speed. The Lady Tigers struggled in the first half but found a rhythm late in the third and fourth quarters.
The first quarter was what you would expect from a season-opening game. Rapid City pressed the Lady Tigers from the start forcing six first-quarter turnovers. The Cobblers used the turnovers to jump ahead 17-3 at the end of one. Sarye Thomas had the only Lady Tiger field goal in the first quarter.
The second quarter was much of the same. Rock Springs struggled with the press and the Cobblers were able to turn opportunities to points. Stevie Hill looked to be more aggressive in the second quarter and was able to get to the foul line to add points. Faith Fernandez also added free throws in the second quarter but it was Rapid City who would take the lead at the break, 37-17.
Rapid City continued to fire to start the second half and opened on a 15-0 run to put the Cobblers up big, 52-17. It would be the Kroupa sisters who would get the Lady Tiger offense started.
Makenzie would convert an old fashion three-point play and Lyndzie Kroupa had a three of her own. Hill and Thomas added points in the final minutes of the third quarter as the Lady Tigers trailed 56-31 after three.
After finding its rhythm in the third, Rock Springs continued to climb in the fourth. Hill scored the first four of the fourth and Maggie Justinak hit a three to cut the lead to 21, 61-40. Lyndzie Kroupa scored off a pass from Justinak and buckets from Bailey Johnson, Justinak and another from Lyndzie, had the ladies within 15, 65-50.
Hill and Justinak would continue to score in the final two minutes but Rock Springs would come up short as they opened the season with a 67-56 loss.
First-half turnovers were the difference. Rock Springs finished with 21 turnovers in the game with 15 of those coming in the first half. Hill had a big opening game for the Lady Tigers as she paced the team in scoring with 21 points. Thomas, Justinak and Makenzie Kroupa each added seven points. Justinak also finished with four assists and four rebounds.
The Lady Tigers will look to build off Thursday’s strong second half as they return to the court at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Rock Springs will face North Dakota’s Bismarck.