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Girls Basketball: Lacking height, Bombers fall to No. 5 Rangers for second time this season

BARNUM - For the second time is as many games this winter, the Bombers were beaten by Mountain Iron-Buhl, as the fifth-ranked and unbeaten Rangers rolled to a 64-47 victory in a girls basketball collision in a crowded Barnum High School gym Monda...

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BARNUM - For the second time is as many games this winter, the Bombers were beaten by Mountain Iron-Buhl, as the fifth-ranked and unbeaten Rangers rolled to a 64-47 victory in a girls basketball collision in a crowded Barnum High School gym Monday evening.

"We fought and hung in there, but we just came up short," said an exhausted Claire Rodgers. "We played well; I think we were just a little tired."

Perhaps that was because the Bombers were oversized across the board. Missing 6-foot-1 sophomore center Daron Mainville - their tallest player - Barnum struggled to match up against MIB's inside attack, featuring 6-foot-1 forward Allie Knuti and 6-foot center Kathy Ostman.

Leading 29-21 at halftime, MIB (16-0) watched as Barnum (13-3) climbed within six points late in the second half. Yet, it was Knuti and Ostman who combined five of the Rangers' six buckets down the stretch, allowing their team to remain perfect.

"We just didn't have the answer," Barnum Coach Randy Myhre said. "We couldn't defend them. They're well-coached and knew what to do."

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MIB Coach Jeff Buffetta said although his sharp-shooting team is perimeter orientated, their game plan Monday was to go inside and highlight their height.

"We knew our big girls had to show up tonight because it'd be a big advantage for us," Buffetta said. "It was important to get the ball in there."

MIB earned a 10-point victory over the Bombers in early December when again Knuti and her teammates were the more effective team. Knuti, a sophomore, was the first to admit Monday's triumph was a big confidence booster.

"We were preparing for this one because we knew [Barnum] was after us," Knuti said following postgame handshakes. "We knew they wanted revenge. They can all shoot and used to beat us all the time in the summer. This win was very helpful for us."

Buffetta said beating Barnum is never easy.

"They have a very good tradition here," he said of the 2009-10 Class A state champions. "This is always a tough place to play. But it's all a part of our process of getting better. It's just one game at a time."

Knuti finished with a team-high 20 points for MIB, while Ostman followed with 16 in a game that featured three technical fouls, including both high-intensity teams.

Barnum had the game tied 6-6 early, yet never led. For the record, it was just the Bombers' second loss at home in over two years and 33 games.

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"We were definitely outsized, but skill can always beat height," said Barnum senior Katie Myhre. "We just got outworked."

Rodgers paced the Bombers, as the 5-foot-9 guard battled her way for a game-best 22 points, while Myhre and junior Claudia Turner - battling sickness - scored eight points each. The loss snapped Barnum's previous six-game winning streak.

Despite a defeat on the scoreboard, Rodgers explained that she and her teammates played much better in their rematch with the Rangers than their first meeting Dec. 5.

"We played a terrible game up there," Rodgers said. "We were a lot better here tonight, but our defense needs to improve. Once we get the momentum, we need to get some stops. We didn't do that tonight."

"I think we have some maturing to do," Katie Myhre added. "We had plenty of chances, we just didn't come through. In high-pressure games like that, we have to step up. We did a lot of things well, but we still have a long ways to go."

Coach Myhre was pleased with how his much-smaller lineup competed.

"It's easy to give up, but these girls didn't do that," he said. "We're adjusting to things here and didn't play all that well, but the effort was sure there tonight."

With Mainville out and Turner even leaving the gym because of sickness at one point, an already-thin Barnum lineup featured a pair of youngsters in freshman Cheyanne Johnson and sophomore Alisabeth Warpula who logged more minutes than usual.

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"I give all the credit in the world to [MIB], but our girls really battled," Myhre said. "I like the basketball team that we have. Right now we're figuring things out and have to get back in sync, but we'll come striving back here soon."

Barnum shellacked Duluth Denfeld 78-45 Tuesday evening in a rebound victory. Myhre, Rodgers and Turner all scored in double digits as the Bombers unloaded for 16 three-pointers.

Yet, it's the Bombers who are waiting first in line for another crack at MIB, perhaps in a third clash come the Section 7A postseason games in March.

"[MIB] is a good team, they are," Rodgers said, respectfully. "But hopefully when the playoffs roll around, we'll get them then."

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Related Topics: BARNUMBASKETBALL
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