Roping in the competition: Killdeer girls top the Region 7 standings
Coming off of a 58-42 home victory over Hazen the day before, the Killdeer girls basketball team returned to its home floor Wednesday afternoon for an abbreviated practice session.
The Cowboys worked on various shooting exercises, pick and roll drills, and a number of counters within their half-court sets.
When the final buzzer sounded signifying the end of practice, the team gathered at midcourt as head coach Ashlee Viveros voiced her approval over her players' practice approach.
Sitting on top of the Region 7 standings with an 8-0 record, the Cowboys don't have much breathing room with a trio of teams on their tail. Currently riding a four game win streak, Killdeer has plenty of time keep sharp, as the teams next game isn't until Thursday, Feb. 8 on the road against Glen Ullin-Hebron.
"We spend most of our practices focusing on the things we need to work on," Viveros said. "I watch film all the time and I'm jotting down things that I think we need to work on, things that we can incorporate as we move a little bit farther into the season."
Two days after the Glen-Ullin Hebron contest, Killdeer will return to its hardwood to play Heart River. The Bearcats and the Cougars are presently 6-1 in the region, good for a three-way tie with Bowman County for second place in the standings.
The off days before game action serve as an opportunity to remain sharp and figure out ways to attack their competitors.
"We're kind of at an advantage because we do have a big stretch to prepare for those teams," Viveros added. "So we will spend some time looking at those other teams and some of their tendencies. I think doing that gives our girls some confidence when they step on the floor against those opponents. Both of those teams are playing really well right now so we certainly need to be prepared."
After a 12-11 record during the 2016-17 campaign, Killdeer has already surpassed that win total. At 14-4 overall, Killdeer averages 57.5 points per game while only allowing 42.4 on the defensive end. Through their undefeated region romp, the Cowboys scoring numbers improve to 60.6 points per game, while limiting their opponents to 39.8 points per game.
"As we've gotten deeper into the season, we're making defense our number priority," Viveros said. "When we make defense our priority, our offense seems to come. We just keep encouraging the girls to trust each other, make the extra pass and trust that your teammates are going to make the shot. I truly feel that we have a special group of girls who can each contribute something offensively and certainly defensively."
The Cowboys are a veteran-laden team featuring seven seniors and four juniors. Leading the team are a pair of seniors who each reached the 1,000-point mark earlier this season: forward Trae Murray and guard Sydney Anderson.
In a 55-39 victory against Bowman County during the Roughrider Tournament championship game on Dec. 9, Murray's teammates spent the final moments feeding her the ball. Initially puzzled, she didn't understand why she kept getting the ball until the end of the contest.
When the clock ticked to zero, Murray had 999 career points.
Two days later in her next game at New Town, Murray notched the milestone early in the first quarter from the foul line.
"It was super surreal," Murray said. "My team just went crazy, hugging me. I had tears. It was very surreal, an unbelievable moment. I'm just grateful for all the people and things that had gotten me to that point. I seriously could not make that milestone without my team, my coaches and my family."
The team reaction was similar when Anderson got her chance to enter the Killdeer record books.
During a 63-31 victory over Mott-Regent, Anderson reached the mark on a putback following a missed shot from junior guard Steena Larsen.
"As soon as that happened, my whole team rushed me with hugs," Anderson said. "I was just overwhelmed with joy. It was really humbling experience and I was so glad to do it with this team this season."
Murray believes the reason why this team, and the program as a whole, is a tight-knit group, is because they've been together for as long as they can remember.
"We're very close, we've known each other our whole lives," Murray said. "Growing up in a small community, that's how most things are and we are very grateful for that. We're a big family and all the girls I've grown up with that have graduated, we're just one extended family that just continues growing every year when we add to our program."
The Cowboys are aiming for a trip to the state tournament, a goal of theirs well before they put on an orange and black Killdeer uniform.
"We definitely want to come out on top of the regional tournament this season," Anderson said. "That's been a goal since we were young. We've been playing together since the third grade, this group of seniors and some of the juniors."