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Belle Fourche's Shayla Howell puts the ball up for a basket during the Cavalier Christmas Classic against Madison at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Journal file

Fueled by the leadership of eight seniors, Belle Fourche High School varsity girls basketball team is having one of its best seasons in the program's history.

Heading into this week's games, the Lady Broncs are 12-0.

We've had a couple of close games," said coach Bill Burr. Belle Fourche rallied from a nine-point deficit with 50 seconds remaining in regulation time, downing Madison in double overtime in the Cavalier Christmas Classic in Rapid City.

The previous night, Belle topped another Class A rated team in Aberdeen Roncalli."

"We had our best first half of the season," said Burr of a 54-49 triumph over Flandreau Saturday in the Hanson Classic in Mitchell The win culminated a busy week with road wins over Spearfish and Wright, Wyo.

Belle Fourche seniors include: Shayla Howell, Mandee Williamson, Taylor Hanson, Raymie Keegan, Kortni Grubb, Jade Burr, Jace Williams and Hannah Juelfs.

"Many of the girls have been playing together since third grade,"Burr said coach. "Shayla joined them in seventh grade. Mandee transferred from Newell three years ago."

Williamson leads the team in scoring (13.7 points per-game) and rebounding (6.9 per-game). "Mandee is a great contributor to the team," Burr said. "We're working on posting her up. She has improved a bunch on her post moves." Wiilimson has committed to play women's basketball at NCAA Division II Northern State of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference

Howell averages 12.9 ppg. and 6.2 rebounds. "Shayla has natural ability and can jump out of the gym," said Burr."She is a great athlete and is aggressive. 'Howell was honored as both the Most Valuable Track and Most Valuable Field Athlete at the 2017 State A Track and Fied meet. According to coach Burr, Howell will compete in track and field at the University of Wyoming.

Hanson tallies 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 steals per-game. "Taylor is one of the best guards in the state," said Burr. "She has quick hands and is aggressive out front. Taylor sets the tone for us at point guard. She can also take the ball to the basket.

"Raymie has hit some big shots for us," he said. "She is very unselfish and prefers an assist to a basket. We put Raymie on the opponent's best offensive player.

"Kortni can shoot the three and is a great free throw shooter," said Burr. She winds up playing bigger players when on defense. Grubb will play women's basketball at NAIA school Dakota Wesleyan University.

"Jade does some great things for her size (5-1)," Burr said. "She averages 4.5 points and connects on 48 percent of her three-point attempts." Coach Burr's daughter will attend DWU and compete in women's golf.

"Jace has a great attitude and works hard. It is a joy to have her in the gym. Jace shoots the ball well.

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"Hannah provides great support off the bench."

"Our defense keys a lot of stuff," said coach Burr. Belle Fourche allows only 36.1 points per-game.

"We try to create turnovers and get easy baskets." We'll mix things up on defense."

The Lady Broncs face a tough remaining schedule with road games versus Sturgis Brown (Jan.26), who recently beat previousy undefeated Rapid City Stevens, Douglas (Feb. 2) and Class B perennial power Warner (Feb. 10).

Belle Fourche hosts Lead-Deadwood (Jan. 23), St. Thomas More (Jan. 30), Custer (Feb.9) and Spearfish (Feb.13).

"You have to be ready to play every single game," said coach Burr.

Belle Fourche fell one game short of an appearance in the State A tournament last year after dropping a Sweet Sixteen game against Vermillion.

"The whole team is growing and gaining confidence," Burr said.

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Managing editor

Chris Huber is the managing editor at the Rapid City Journal.