C.M. Russell lets Sentinel escape the Electric City with a win

Diondra Denton and the CMR Rustlers took on Missoula Sentinal Tuesday night. / CMR File Photo/Rion Sanders

Diondra Denton and the CMR Rustlers took on Missoula Sentinal Tuesday night. / CMR File Photo/Rion Sanders

The C.M. Russell girls’ basketball team put forth a defensive effort worthy of a victory Tuesday night, holding defending state champion Missoula Sentinel to just 23 points through three quarters.

The culprit? A feisty 2-3 zone employed by Chad Olson’s Rustlers.

“I thought that CMR did an excellent job in that 2-3 zone,” Sentinel coach Karen Deden said.

The Spartans found themselves in a 28-23 deficit with about five minutes to play. That’s when Olivia Roberts and Madeline Keast took over.

The duo began to drive the basket in earnest and finally began to finish shots, while drawing contact virtually every time.

“You know what I like about that is both of them are able to attack the basket, stay under control and finish,” Deden said.

Olivia is the younger sister of former Sentinel and Missoula Mavericks star Ben Roberts, who eschewed the Major League draft to play baseball at Washington State, where he redshirted his freshman season.

I don’t know about any family connections for Keast, but she was stellar off the bench as Sentinel starters Lexi Steele and Amanda Bearmedicine each picked up their fourth fouls early in the third quarter.

“I thought everybody who came in kind of did their job,” Deden said. “I thought each one keyed a little momentum.”

The Rustlers certainly had ample chances to put the game away, particularly after getting into Sentinel’s bench so early. But 26 turnovers and a 7 of 28 performance from the field helped negate a rebounding advantage of 32-20.

“We had a couple breakdowns, but that’s to be expected,” Olson said. “We rebounded the snot out of the ball. We really went after loose balls. Maybe there were a couple more we should have gotten, but I’m very happy with our defensive effort.”

Twenty-one of those rebounds came on the defensive end for CMR, which forced the Spartans to settle for 3-point attempts for the first three quarters. Then Roberts and Keast began driving and finishing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Certainly some of the recent struggles are due to the Rustlers’ youth. CMR has only three seniors, including starters Diondra Denton and Hannah Vining. The defense and rebounding appear to be solid.

But the Rustlers have struggled to put the ball in the basket so far this season. If they hope to make some noise in the Eastern AA Conference, they’ll have to come up with some go-to scorers.

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