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2 February 2014 9C girls race always competitive Powerful Chinook out to defend its 9C crown George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com The 2014 District 9C girls basketball tournament will be the last one of an era. Next winter, Chester/J-I and Fort Benton will join the fight, making the league, and the tournament even bigger than it already is. But, this week in Havre will be no less exciting as six teams battle it out for the right to be called District 9C champions. The 9C girls race has been exciting no doubt. Chinook went unbeaten in league play, but the league was very competitive, and while the Beeters are the favorites this week in Havre, no game will be easy. Last year’s runner-up, North Star is talented and will push Chinook, while Big Sandy has had a good year in league play, and may just be the x-factor in the tournament. Box Elder is also a wildcard, and the Bears have proven they can play with anybody in the league, while Turner won’t be an easy win for anybody either. Yes, the 9C is a year away from major changes, but this week’s tournament in Havre will be as exciting as ever. The top two teams from this week’s 9C girls tournament at the HHS gymnasium advance to the Northern C tournament next week in Great Falls. Chinook Sugarbeeters (17-1) Chinook is the defending 9C champion and the reigning regular season champ as well. The Sugarbeeters, under veteran head coach Charlie Robinson, didn’t lose a game in the 9C during the regular season, and they’ll be tough to beat this week at the HHS gymnasium. Senior Makhayla Farmer (6-2), who’s headed to play for the Montana State UniversityNorthern Skylights next fall, is averaging a double-double this season, and is also the leading shot blocker in Class C basketball. Farmer is a dominant force and no one in the 9C can really match up with her. But what makes the Beeters tough to beat is the fact that they have so much talent around Farmer. Veteran Emily Dennis is a solid scorer and excellent defender, while junior Katelyn Neibauer is having a breakout season. Brooke Nicholson is a standout guard and Tavin Schneider gives the Beeters more presence in the post. Chinook is also deep on the bench, and the Beeters can match up with any team in the tournament on both ends of floor. Chinook is also on a quest to get back to the Class C state tournament. The Beeters have been to the Northern C the last three years, and want to go further over the next three weeks. And it all starts with them defending their 9C title in Havre. North Star Knights (13-5) Like Chinook, the first goal for North Star is to get back to the 9C title game, then the Northern C. North Star did both of those last year, and the Knights, under head coach Griff Bye, have a good chance to do it again. 9C DISTRICT TOURNAMENT 2014 www.havredailynews.com Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Chinook's Makhayla Farmer, left, looks to pass during the 2013 District 9C girls championship game last February in Havre. The Sugarbeeters are the top seed in this week's 9C tourney which runs Wednesday-Saturday at the HHS gymnasium. See 9C Girls Page 4 3 February 2014 9C DISTRICT TOURNAMENT 2014 www.havredailynews.com Box Elder will be tough to catch in Havre Top-ranked Bears are heavy favorites to repeat at 9C boys tournament Daniel Horton Havre Daily News sports writer firstname.lastname@example.org The District 9C boys basketball tournament is always is exciting. It’s always one of the best district tournament’s in Montana, and it will be again this season. But, one year ahead of Chester/J-I and Fort Benton joining the party, there’s no doubt, this 9C tournament will be different. For the first time in years, the Big sandy Pioneers won’t be a factor. Big Sandy has had a place in Saturday night 9C games for seemingly ever, but this season has been a monumental struggle. It’s been a struggle for North Star too, another former perennial 9C power, while HaysLodge Pole has had a revival this season, and will battle Chinook to go back to the Northern C next week in Great Falls. But while plenty has changed this season in the 9C, one thing that hasn’t is Box Elder. The Bears dominated the regular season for the second straight year, and they look poised to make short work of the rest of the field this week in Havre. Box Elder is unbeaten, is the No. 1 team in Class C and averages 88 points per game, while usually resting its starters in the fourth quarter. Those facts spell doom for the rest of the 9C field, so in reality, there is really only one sport in next week’s Northern C field up for grabs this week, unless someone else rises up and pulls the biggest upset of the season so far. Still, with the ups and downs of the regular season in the past now, the 9C tournament will once again provide plenty of excitement this week at the Havre High gymnasium. Box Elder Bears (18-0) Preseason predictions have come true, and the Box Elder Bears have ruled the District 9C ranks this season. The Bears, the defending 9C champions And they want to go to Great Falls badly this year. But the Beeters know just how tough the 9C can be as they battled extremely hard to maintain a spot near the top of the ranks during the regular season. “That is about where I thought we would finish up this season,” Head coach Mike Seymour said. “Hays Lodge-Pole and us have kind of distanced ourselves from the bottom half of the pack, but North Star is still a wild card, even though they play better in Rudyard than anywhere else. “It will be important for us to play well offensively,” he added. “We run some sets against both man and zone defenses and it is important for us to execute and be smart. And defensively, we also have to get after it and keep track of scorers and hopefully keep them down and make somebody else beat us.” Chinook’s key scorers have been Lane Seymour and Zach Molyneaux. They have traded big games most of the season, but Ian McIntosh and Jacob MacLean can post numbers too, and Chinook’s depth could play a key role in how well the Beeters do this weekend. Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds (13-5) After spending the majority of the regular season sitting in second or third place, the Hays Lodge-Pole Thunderbirds are looking to put a run together that will lead to a spot in the District 9C championship game. The Thunderbirds have battled back and forth with Chinook for a top spot. The Thunderbirds are still chasing a distant Box Elder team, but they are hoping to chase them right into championship night. HLP continues to play a signature up tempo and high paced basketball game under the guidance of head coach Charlie Ereaux, but that may not be enough come post season. Every game means the Thunderbirds must bring their best. Their scoring has come from all over the lineup this season, but they have leaned heavily on Tyson Shambo, Sterling White Cow, Nate Doney and Frank Runsabove. The Thunderbirds also have some decent depth with Bryce Denny, Keenan Stiffarm, and Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Box Elder's Clayton Morsette Jr., drives by Big Sandy defenders during the 2013 District 9C boys championship game last February in Havre. The Bears enter the 2014 9C tournament this week as the No. 1 Class C team in the state. The likes of Chinook, HaysLodge Pole and North Star will all be fighting it out to try and dethrone the Bears. have made it look easy this season, racing past all of the 9C competition. And they charge into Havre ready to repeat. “Our goal was to win the conference, we are defending 9C tournament champions and we have most of our players back from last season,” Box Elder head coach Jeremy McDonald said. “We kept the boys focused and have been taking it one game at a time. We wanted to win two games at the Native American Classic, then we set a goal to win the conference and we wrapped that up last Friday when we beat Hays Lodge-Pole. Our next goal is to finish the regular season undefeated, then to win the 9C. We are meeting our own expectations, but making sure not to look too far ahead.” With athletes like Brandon The Boy, Clayton Morsette Jr., Randall Gardipee, Jerrod Four Colors, Thomas Parisian and Lonnie Plain Bull Jr., the Bears have offensive and defensive talent scattered all over the floor. But Box Elder typically plays around 10 of their 14 guys a game, making it almost impossible for the more shallow 9C opponents to keep pace. McDonald’s starters have rarely played a fourth quarter minutes this season because of their blowout wins, but Gardipee still turns in outstanding numbers on a nightly basis. Gardipee leeds the deep and talented Bears with over 20 points, five boards, four assists, one block and one steal a game. “A lot of our key players, our statistical leaders haven’t played a lot of fourth quarters this regular season,” McDonald said. “That plays into our depth because we have guys coming off of our bench that can still produce. Our guys come in and hold their own, we carry 14 guys on our roster and we expect all of them to be ready to produce if their number is called.” If the Bears continue to dominate the 9C opposition, they will find themselves with back-toback titles and headed to the Northern C in Great Falls. Chinook Sugarbeeters (11-7) A year ago in the 9C tournament, Box Elder used the Chinook Sugarbeeters as a stepping stone into the championship game. But this year the Beeters are on the opposite side of the bracket and could very well run into the Bears in this years’ title game. Chinook came dangerously close to getting out of the 9C a year ago, losing a Monday challenge game to Big Sandy. ■ See 9C Boys Page 4 4 February 2014 9C DISTRICT TOURNAMENT things at the right time, getting the rebounds in crucial situations, taking care of the ball, making smart shot selections and having patience on offense, as well as playing aggressive defense. But then again, these are things that you need to do every time you play. So basically, we just need to play our game.” Big Sandy has the leading scorer in the 9C in senior Molly Herron, and the Pioneers are also one of the most veteran teams in the league. Brooke Leader is a four-year starter alongside Herron, while Shayna Gilead and Shelby Gasvoda are talented and experienced too. Abby Gregory has also upped her scoring production this season, while Kylie Cline has had a strong year as well. Box Elder Bears (10-8) The Box Elder Bears have been a young team the last two seasons. But age and experience won’t stop the Bears from being a tough out this week in Havre. Box Elder finished the regular season above .500 and in fourth place in the 9C standings. And like last season, the Bears will contend in Havre again this week. “We have improved all year long, and need to keep building for the tourney,” Veteran Box Elder head coach Joel Rosette said. “The 9C is always an exciting time for north central Montana, and I expect all the teams to be playing at their best. I would hope our team is peaking at the right time.” Leilani Gardipee and Alicia Wolf Chief lead the Bears in scoring, and while Box Elder is undersized, the Bears play fast, can shoot from the 3-point-line and love to pressure the ball on defense. So look for guards like Krista Chief Stick and Stephanie Sutherland to also make an impact in Box Elder’s games this weekend. Turner Tornadoes (3-15) Turner isn’t content on just being in the 9C tournament this season. The Tornadoes want to win at the 9C tournament. And under new head coach Jeff Nix, Turner has improved dramatically. The improvements didn’t translate into many wins this season, though the Tornadoes beat Hays-Lodge Pole twice to earn the No. 5 seed in the tourney, but in how Turner plays, fans can see drastic differences. Turner, led by Ella Billmayer, Kristina Conlan, Lyndsay Hutton and Rennay Watkins, is much more efficient on offense this season. The Tornadoes also take better care of the basketball, and play very hard on defense. And while they may still be a year away from seriously contending in the 9C tourney, the Tornadoes will be fun to watch this week, and they certainly won’t be an easy win for anybody they face. Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds (0-18) It has been a rough season for Hays-Lodge Pole, and things won’t get any easier this week in Havre. The Thunderbirds have been on the verge of doing great things the last couple of years, but this season didn’t go according to plan. Still, HLP will play hard and compete. The T-Birds are led by Treaunna Stiffarm and Cory Carrywater, both of whom can score in double figures. Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Big Sandy's Shelby Gasvoda, left, fires up a shot during a 9C girls consolation game against Box Elder last February in Havre. The Pioneers are one of a host of teams with Northern C aspirations at this weekend's District 9C girls tournament in Havre. The tourney begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday night at the Havre High gymnasium. 2014 www.havredailynews.com 9C Girls: Good teams compete for Northern C spots ■ From Page 2 Senior Bettie Carlon leads the Knights in scoring, but just like Chinook, the Knights have depth. Mackenzie Hansen has played consistently all year long, while Grayson Spicher, Delainey Spicher and Tylynn Rettig are all capable scorers, as is Kiera Miller in the interior. And North Star’s depth and 9C tourney experience should take the Knights far again this season, especially with the way they play defense. Big Sandy Pioneers (10-8) Finishing third in the regular season, it’s been a good year for the Big Sandy Pioneers. But, the Pioneers haven’t been to the Northern C in four years and they want to change that this week in Havre. In order to do so, they’ll have to win a semifinal game on Thursday night, something Big Sandy has failed to do in recent years. But head coach Serena Cator thinks her team can do just that this week in Havre. “Well, we obviously are looking to go to divisionals so that would mean we need to make it out of the semi final game on top,” Cator said. “We need to do the small things in order to do that. Focus on doing the right 9C Boys: Six teams battle for the 9C boys title in Havre ■ From Page 2 and Darrell Longfox, allowing them to match up fairly well with Chinook, and maybe even Box Elder if they can play well on both sides of the ball. The Thunderbirds need to execute their signature style, but also not turn the ball over themselves as they get out and run the floor. If they can execute at a high level, the Thunderbirds look to get beyond the semifinals. Last season the Pioneers took the Thunderbirds title hopes by defeating HLP in the semifinals. North Star Knights (5-13) The North Star Knights aren’t at the bottom of the 9C barrel, but they aren’t at the top of the 9C ranks either. Continuing to hover around the middle of the pack, it has been a couple of years since the Knights have truly been a force to be reckoned with in 9C play and in the District 9C tournament. North Star has the ability to turn in solid outings, but they are in the same boat as Turner and Big Sandy, as they lack the depth to run with the top teams in the standings. But that doesn’t mean the Knights can’t surprise somebody. Gavin Spinler has really come on late in the season and has found a nice scoring groove. He can shoot from all over the floor, and despite his small stature, he can also get into the paint. But Quinn Spinler and Cooper Spicher need to use their experience to help lead the way on offense. North Star has to play extremely well no matter the opponent, but with the top end of the 9C typically playing with a very high tempo, the North Star defense will also have to come up with big time stops on a regular basis. As the fourth seed this week in Havre, North Star has a chance to get to at least the consolation game, and anything can happen from there. Turner Tornadoes (5-13) In past years, the Turner Tornadoes have gone through seasons without a win, conference or non-conference, and regular season and postseason. But this year the Tornadoes are entering the 9C in Havre with a handful of wins, including unfamiliar conference wins over the last-place Big Sandy Pioneers. Wins during the regular season can be scratched off the Tornadoes’ list of things to do, but now a long awaited 9C tournament win would be another huge accomplishment for the player sand head coach Kevin VanValkenburg. With teams like North Star on the same side of the bracket as the Tornadoes, Turner knows they have a winnable game, but also a challenging game. Turner may not be at a level to be able to win a 9C title, but they could take that next step and find a post season win. The Turner roster is still relatively young, but they do have some experience. Dylan Welsh, Tyler Humphreys, Tristan Billmayer and Bret VanValkenburg led the Tornadoes in nearly all of the statistics and will look to lead the Tornadoes again through the weekend with some ability to shoot midrange jumpers and score inside. Turner doesn’t play much of a press game, but they can score in transition if a team under estimates their guard play. Big Sandy Pioneers (0-18) It has been quite the change of for the Big Sandy Pioneers fromlast year’s 9C tournament to this yea. After a battle in the 9C championship game, and ultimately a trip to the Class C state tournament in 2013, things have changed drastically in Big sandy. After graduating four of the five starters from a year ago, and losing long time coach Roy Lackner, the Pioneers entered a new season young and inexperienced. And after a tough regular season, the Pioneers may be in store for an even tougher postseason under first-year head coach Ronnie Simpson. The Pioneers have struggled to limit the opposition with their defense, but have also struggled to score with a lineup that basically had no varsity experience prior to this season. Players like Cody Bailey, TJ Shipp, and Levi Edwards will try to carry the load, but tournament time isn’t panning out to be too kind to Big Sandy. For the Pioneers to find much success they will have to play the best ball they have played all year long. Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Hays-Lodge Pole's Sterling White Cow, left, goes in against the North Star defense during the 2013 District 9C boys tournament in Havre last February. Both the Thunderbirds and Knights will be in contention when the 2014 9C tournament convenes Wednesday-Saturday at the HHS gymnasium.