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February 2019


The toughest district Box Elder and Fort Benton are the heavyweights, but this week's 9C girls tourney is filled with tough teams George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor gferguson@havredailynews.com

This week, district tournaments all over Class C will be played. But with all due respect to the rest of Montana girls Class C basketball, no district tournament will be as tough or exciting as the one played this week inside the Havre High gymnasium. From Wednesday through Friday, the District 9C girls basketball tournament will be played out in Havre, and with perhaps the two best teams in all of Class C, as well as a strong group of squads behind them, it is difficult to imagine any tournament being more difficult than this one. Of course, we’ll also hope to have the drama like the 2018 tournament provided, with the consolation game and the championship game going down to the last shot. And with so many great teams in the field, don’t expect anything less than three exciting days and nights of girls basketball in the HHS gymnasium. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the 9C Girls Tournament Box Elder Bears The Bears, of longtime head coach Joel Rosette, are undefeated, a perfect 18-0, and the defending Class C state champions. And yet, they’re not even the defending 9C champions. That’s something Box Elder is out to change this week. With double-digit scorers in Lilly Gopher and Joelnell Momberg, as well as stars in Maddie Wolf Chief and Eve The Boy, Box Elder’s starting five is as good as it gets. But what makes the Bears so tough is their rare depth for Class C. With Rosette playing as many 12 players on a given night, Box Elder just keeps coming at its opponents with talent. The Bears averaged more than 70 ppg in the regular season, and they also have a top-notch defense, so it’s easy to see why they’re heavy favorites this week in Havre. “Our team is a bunch of competitors who know what it is like to win and lose a title, and they know the margin for victory is small,” Rosette said. “Our girls are excited and hungry for the

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Rylee Conlan and the Turner girls were the Cinderella story of the 2018 District 9C girls basketball tournament. This week in Havre, the Tornadoes are no longer a sleeper, instead, their part of an incredible field set for the 2019 District 9C tournament, which runs Wednesday-Friday inside the HHS gymnasium.

chance to compete for the 9C title and opportunity to move onto Great Falls.” Fort Benton Longhorns Fort Benton is in fact the defending 9C champs, and the Longhorns have won three of the last four 9C crowns. They come to Havre loaded with talent to defend their title, too, and just like last season, their only regular season losses were to Box Elder. Fort Benton is led by star sophomore Aspen Giese, but like

the Bears, the Longhorns are deep, with a roster that includes veteran senior Leah Gannon, as well as McKenzie Clark, Cassie Nack, Maci Molinario and so much more, the Longhorns are poised for yet another deep run at the 9C. “For us to have success in the tournament, we need to be in shape and play good defense. We need to be resilient and play through adversities,” said Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton. Turner Tornadoes

Turner isn’t the dark horse it was a season ago, when the Tornadoes made a magical run to the third place at the 9C. No, with every starter back from last year’s squad, Turner has been a force in the 9C all season, and no one will look past them in Havre. Led by double-figure scorers Shyan Krass and Sarah Billmayer, as well as a veteran group of returners including Rylee and Raegan Conlan, the Tornadoes are not a Cinderella story anymore. Instead, they have their

sights set on even bigger goals, and that will be vying for a 9C championship this weekend. That’s something Turner is very capable of doing if it plays its best basketball. “Turner is no sleeper and has good players on their roster,” Pimperton said. “They will be a team that proves tough to beat as well.” North Star Knights If there is a sleeper this week in Havre, it very well could be the Knights. North Star has had

trouble keeping up with Box Elder and Fort Benton this season, but there’s no reason why the Knights can’t pull off an upset or two, and there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t advance to the Northern C in Great Falls. North Star has a veteran team in Havre, too, led by fouryear starter Paij Peterson, who averages in double figures. Shayla Borlaug, Kenidee Wolery and Olivia King also have plenty of 9C tourney experience,

■ See 9C Girls Page 4




February 2019


Everyone is chasing the Beeters, Longhorns this week in Havre Chinook, Fort Benton will be tough for the rest of the 9C field to top in Havre Chris Peterson Havre Daily News


Over the past two seasons, the Chinook Sugarbeeters have owned the District 9C when it comes to boys basketball and this week, the Beeters will look to cap off another impressive run in the district with a second consecutive 9C tournament championship. Throughout the regular season, the Beeters have proven to be one of the top teams in Class C boys basketball, and this week, they will look to build on their stellar season in the 9C the tournament, which should feature a pretty wide open field following Chinook and the other top contender, Fort Benton. The Longhorns and Beeters played two epic games in the regular season, and many expect a third this week. The Longhorns, who are coached by Tyler Pasha appear to be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of back-to-back titles for the Beeters, however, other teams like Hays-Lodge Pole, Big Sandy, Box Elder, Turner, Chester-Joplin-Inverness and North Star all have hopes of making a run. No matter what, three teams will see their seasons continue next week at the Northern C Divisional tournament in Great Falls and the competition to figure out the three teams gets under way Thursday. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the 9C Girls Tournament Chinook Sugarbeeters Chinook has dominated its competition both inside and outside of the 9C, except for a two-point win over Fort Benton earlier in the season. Outside of that, Chinook swept through the district and also knocked off Class B rival Harlem twice in the regular season by convincing margins. Two years ago, Chinook was young and talented, but now they have that same talent, along with depth and experience. The Beeters have made it to divisionals the past two seasons and reached the Northern C semis in 2017 and 2018. Now, under the direction of long-time

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Cord Schneider, middle, and the Chinook Sugarbeeters are the defending District 9C boys champions this week in Havre. But the Beeters will certainly have Fort Benton and others nipping at their heels this week when the 2019 9C Boys tourney runs Thursday-Saturday at the HHS gymnasium.

head coach Mike Seymour and led by All-State performers Isaac Bell and Cord Schneider, the Beeters are hoping to qualify for the Class C state tournament for the first time. Fort Benton Longhorns Like Chinook, Fort Benton has also been building over the past couple of seasons and now, head coach Tyler Pasha and the Longhorns look like a serious contender and not just in the 9C. While many 9C teams struggled to hang with the Beeters, Fort Benton nearly upset Chinook and that was the only team that bested Fort Benton all season. Led by All-State standout Garrett Diekhans, who is a force on both ends of the floor and his younger brother Hayden Diekhans, the Longhorns have talent at the top of their roster and plenty of depth to go along

with it. Fort Benton finished third in the 9C last season and won a couple of games at divisionals before losing in the consolation semifinals. Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds After just missing out on making divisionals last season, Hays-Lodge Pole has bounced back in a big way this season and heads into the 9C tournament as the No. 3 seed. While the T-Birds did suffer an upset to Turner recently, a talented lineup that features Gilbert Snow, Kyle Black Crow. Jr. and Jeremy Pretty Paint is going to be one that is hard to contain. The T-Birds also have a veteran coach in Derrick Shambo, who has directed the T-Birds to a divisional championship and the Class C state tournament. HLP’s goal is to get to the championship game, but more

than anything, another week of basketball is the first item on the agenda. “I think that a lot of people have overlooked us this year,” Shambo said. “The 9C is tough and it’s going to be competitive, but we think we have a chance to make a run and surprise some people.” Big Sandy Pioneers Over the past few years, the Big Sandy boys basketball team has been trying to rebuild, and this season, the Pioneers have taken some big steps forward. For most of the season, the Pioneers have been around .500 and will come into the 9C as a topfour seed. A huge part of their resurgence has been the play of Brock Proulx and Ryan Roth, two dynamic scorers who have each score 20 points or more on

multiple occsasions this season. Kade Strutz and Parker Proulx have also been key contrbutors for the Pioneers, who will to overcome their overall youth to try and advance past the 9C tournament or at the very least, into the game for third and fourth Saturday night. Led by head coach Thomas Dilworth, if the Pioneers can get past their first-round opponent, they could get a shot at Chinook in the semifinals. “I think that we have been getting better and better as the season goes along,” Dilworth said. “We still have some room to grow but we are hoping we can surprise one of those top three seeds and somehow get ourselves to divisionals.”: Box Elder Bears The Box Elder Bears are another 9C program that is trying

to reclaim its glory days and while the Bears have had some ups and downs during the regular season, Box Elder has played well in recent weeks under head coach LaVon Myers, which has to give the team hope heading into the 9C tournament. Outside of the elite teams in the conference like Chinook and Fort Benton, Box Elder has been competitive with just about everyone else and with guys like Chris Burns, Kadyn Duran and others, the Bears are still a team to take seriously. “I think that we definitely have the talent,” LaVon Myers said before the season. “We just have to build on that and learn how to be consistent. I think if we can do that, we can be a dangerous team.” North Star Knights

■ See 9C Boys Page 4




February 2019


9C Girls: Expect great games in the HHS gymnasium 9C Boys: Race to Great Falls is on this week in Havre ■ From Page 4

■ From Page 4 The Knights are another program that dealt with a lot of turnover heading into the 201819 as some of its key players graduated, along with the departure of head coach Walynn Burgess. Yet, the Knights have persevered and they have put together some solid stretches of play despite being in the bottom half of the standings. “We feel good about how we have been playing,” North Star head coach Cody Donoven said. “The boys have been learning and the 9C, after the first couple of teams, is pretty wide open. We like our chances as much as anyone.” Yet, with so much parity existing in the 9C this season, the Knights can’t be counted out in the tournament and one reason is veteran guard Caden Rettig, who started in the 9C championship game last year. The Knights have some other

scrappy players such as Austin Hansen and Bailey Spicher. Turner Tornadoes Turner is one team that is closing the regular season strong. The Tornadoes still find themselves as one of bottom teams in the 9C standings, however, the great thing about basketball is that everyone gets a fresh start when postseason play comes around. “Our goal has always been to make our season last as long as possible,” Turner head coach Zach Holland said. “I know our boys really want to make it to divisionals, especially after seeing our girls’ team accomplish that goal last year. In order to reach our goal, we will have to rely on our defense being aggressive, going after the basketball and not giving our opponent those second chances.” Cody Welsh and Shane Kim-

mel will be among the leaders in the tournament for the Tornadoes along with Austin Welsh. Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks CJI is a team that has struggled to find the win column this season and youth has been a big part of that. However, the team does boast some experience and two talented scorers in Spencer Richter and Tyler Wanken. The Hawks have also been playing well lately and recently notched a win over Class B rival Cut Bank. In order for them to make anything happen in the 9C tournament, T.J. Murphy’s bunch is going to need to have some hot shooting nights and guys like Evan Dahinden will have to step up and carry the load along with Ricther and Wanken.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Aspen Giese delivered Fort Benton a 9C championship last year with a game-winning shot against Box Elder. The Longhorns enter this week's 9C tourney with just two losses, both to the Lady Bears.

while Jade Wendland has had a breakout first season for the Knights, who should very much be in contention for a trophy this week.

ing, the Beeters will be a tough team to beat.

Chinook Sugarbeeters

No matter their record, the Thunderbirds are easily the most improved team in the 9C this season. They have some big regular season wins, and now, they come to Havre looking for their first tournament win in a long time. And, with the likes of talented returners in Mulleah Stiffarm, Lastasha Kirkaldie and the Chandler sisters, HLP is a top-notch offensive team, and one that will be dangerous for any opponent in this week’s tournament.

It’s been a roller coaster season for the Sugarbeeters. At times, Chinook has proved to be a very tough 9C opponent, and at others the Beeters have really struggled offensively. Still, with where they finished in the regular season, the Beeters are in a strong position to make some noise this week. Chinook, of head coach Lesa MacLeod, is led by seniors Kourtney Hanson and Megan Molyneaux, both of whom have a ton of tourney experience. Delaney Kellam and Rachel Gunderson have also been standouts for the Beeters, and if Chinook can get its offense go-

Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds

Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks

It’s been a tough year for

CJI, with depth being a key factor. And this week, the Hawks will be big underdogs. CJI’s numbers are way down this year, and that certainly makes it tough to compete in what is the best district in all of Class C. Still, led by Peyton Hawks and Abby Fraser, the Hawks will fight hard this week and, as always, anything can happen on 9C week. Big Sandy Pioneers Like CJI, it’s been a mighty struggle for a very young Big Sandy team this winter. The Pioneers were unable to climb out of the 9C cellar, and youth has played a big part in that. But Big Sandy does have one of the top scorers in the 9C in Jaylyn Cline, while Amanda Cline and Lainey Gregory have also played well this winter for new head coach Naomi Terry.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Kyle Young and the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds are one of the teams hoping to not only lock up a spot in next week's Northern C Divisional in Great Falls but also knock off defending champion Chinook in this week's 9C boys tournament in Havre.

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