SANDPOINT — Two words can sum up the difference in Wednesday’s game against Lakeland for the Bulldogs — Maddie Morgan.
The senior guard put on a shooting clinic, knocking down six 3-pointers and scoring 22 points to help Sandpoint (15-7) storm past the Hawks 55-37 in Game 1 of the 4A Region 1 best-of-3 championship series.
When asked after the game if her hands we’re still on fire from the 3-point barrage she unleashed on Lakeland, Morgan was honest.
“Yeah, I guess so,” she laughed.
Morgan didn’t even know how many 3-pointers she hit until after the game because once she found her shot it was almost as if she lost feeling.
“I think I just stopped overthinking,” Morgan said. “These last couple of games I’ve just been in my head so much and finally I just let loose and decided to just not think.”
Morgan had a solid first half with 8 points and two 3’s, but the third quarter is when she heated up. During about a seven minute stretch starting in the third and ending early in the fourth quarter, Morgan scored 14 of Sandpoint’s 18 points after the score was 32-28. That outburst gave the Bulldogs a commanding 50-33 lead with five minutes left in the game.
Morgan hit four 3-pointers in that span, but she didn’t force anything.
“I just let the game come to me,” she said. “If I was open I just went for it.”
Sandpoint head coach Will Love said Morgan was on the court well over an hour before the game started putting up shots and he could tell she was ready to go.
“I’m so excited for Maddie that she had a game like this because she started off this season in a shooting slump but credit to her because she just works tirelessly on her game,” Love said.
“When those first couple went in, I knew that she was locked in,” he added.
Lakeland head coach Steve Seymour also recognized how unstoppable Morgan was Wednesday night.
“She made everything she shot,” he said. “We know she’s a streaky shooter and just because she misses one, doesn’t mean she’s going to stop shooting. She had a great night and we didn’t do a good enough job accounting for her.”
In the first few minutes of the game, it was apparent that the Bulldogs were a little too fired up as they turned the ball over several times. But four 3-pointers allowed Sandpoint to take a 12-9 lead after one quarter.
The Hawks found their rhythm in the second, going on a quick 9-2 run to take a 4-point lead just two minutes into the quarter. Lakeland wouldn’t hold that advantage for long though as senior Dawson Driggs and junior Hattie Larson helped the Bulldogs fight back and take a 25-23 lead into the locker room.
The third quarter is where things took a turn for Lakeland. Sandpoint came out aggressive in the second half getting a handful of steals and forcing the Hawks to make a number of mistakes. Once the Bulldogs smelled blood they attacked and Lakeland finished with 22 turnovers in the game.
Sandpoint outscored the Hawks 18-7 in the third and cruised from there.
“Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong for us in the third quarter,” Seymour said.
The Bulldogs hit 10 3-pointers in the game. With Lakeland’s 6-foot-4-inch Katy Ryan protecting the rim, a Sandpoint team that is used to finishing at the basket had to adjust and they did by having their best game of the year shooting from behind the 3-point line.
“The kids have been shooting really well in practice and at the end of the year that’s a real emphasis is getting lots of shots up,” Love said, “and we haven’t had a game like that even though I know that we’ve got shooters on the floor that can do that so I’ve been waiting for it and waiting for it, and they picked the best time to execute that game plan.”
Driggs finished with 13 points, six assists and six steals. Larson added 8 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Katy Ryan had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Lakeland but only scored 2 points in the second half.
Game 2 of the series is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Les Rogers Court. With a win, Sandpoint would claim the district title and a berth to state.
Morgan said she wants the team to finish off the Hawks on Friday and earn a trip to state, but she admitted she isn’t ready to say goodbye to Les Rogers Court.
“Its surreal,” she said. “Knowing that Friday could be my last game ever playing on this court it’s a weird feeling. I’m trying to take in every moment.”
If you can’t make it to Friday’s game, you can listen to it on KSPT 1400 AM with Bob Witte.
Lakeland 9 14 7 7 — 37
Sandpoint 12 13 18 12 — 55
LAKELAND — Boyer 0, McDevitt 2, Neff 2, Ryan 11, Hostetler 0, Loutzenhiser 10, Kiefer 2, Woempner 6, Simon 4, Huddleston 0.
SANDPOINT — Cessna 2, Lish 0, Day. Driggs 0, Morgan 22, Daw. Driggs 13, Edwards 0, Steiger 2, Phillips 3, Larson 8, Platte 0, Banks 5.