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2020

February 2020

9C DISTRICT TOURNAMENT

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A Longhorn Stampede?

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Fort Benton's Cassie Nack runs away from the Box Elder defense during a District 9C game this season. The Longhorns and Bears played for the 9C championship last year, and while Box Elder is one of many tough teams in the upcoming 9C tourney, Fort Benton is heavily favored.

Another deep 9C girls field, but Fort Benton might just be too much George Ferguson

Havre Daily News sports editor gferguson@havredailynews.com For quite some time now, the District 9C has easily been the toughest district in all of Class C girls basketball. That’s been due in large part to the fact that the Box Elder Bears have won the last two state championships, and have been a major factor on the state level for the better part of a decade now. But, it isn’t just Box Elder that has made the 9C so difficult over the years. In fact, just two of the eight teams in the 9C have not made an appearance in the Northern C in the last

seven years, and, one of those teams aims to change that this week in Havre. In other words, the 9C tournament is not only tough to get out of, it’s loaded with really good teams, and after the way this regular season has gone, this week in Havre will be no different. Defending champion Fort Benton has been perfect all season long, while stalwarts like North Star and Box Elder will be tough outs. However, Turner is once again in the hunt, and Hays-Lodge Pole is having its best season in decades, so expect plenty of excitement and maybe some surprises as the 9C girls tournament hits the HHS gymnasium this week. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the 2020 9C girls tournament. Fort Benton Longhorns Fort Benton has rarely been tested this season. Loaded with

not only talent but depth, too, the Longhorns are heavy favorites to repeat as 9C champs this week. But they also are looking at the 9C tourney as the first step in a big journey, with goals of winning Northern C and state C titles. And the Longhorns have the squad to do it. A healthy Aspen Giese, along with veterans McKenzie Clark, Megan Clark, Maci Molinario and Cassie Nack make up just part of a roster that sees head coach Cassie Pimperton play as many as 12 players per night, and that makes Fort Benton really tough to beat this week. Still, Pimperton is taking nothing for granted. “The 9C is a battle and it comes down to who can get it done at the right time,” Pimperton said. “I think it's going to be a battle and there could be numerous teams that come out as the top three to advance to divisionals.”

Turner Tornadoes Turner has been the darling of the last two 9C tournaments. But the Tornadoes are no longer a surprise, and they’re no longer flying under the radar. Instead, head coach Julie Welsh’ team not only expects to reach the Northern C for the third straight year, but they expect to compete for the 9C title this time around. And Turner has the team to do it. Veterans Sarah Billmayer and Shyan Krass have been as advertised all season long, while Brooke Reed and Brandy Calvert have stepped up as well, in the absence of the star-studded senior class the Tornadoes graduated a year ago. So, while Turner may not be as deep as the last two teams to make it to Great Falls have been, the Tornadoes are every bit as good, and, they also

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February 2020

District 9C boys title, more up for grabs Fort Benton and Chinook may be on a 9C collision course, again Aarron Thompson

Havre Daily News sports gferguson@havredailynews.com Last season, the Chinook Sugarbeeters and Fort Benton were dominant forces in the District 9C when it came to boys basketball. This season, the two teams once again find themselves atop the rankings and next week, the Longhorns and Beeters will look to add a 9C tournament championship to the year. Throughout the regular season, Fort Benton has proven to be one of the top teams in Class C boys basketball. Now, they will aim to add onto their magical season in the District 9C Tournament. The Longhorns and Beeters are the top two seeds of the 9C but other teams, like North Star, Box Elder and Big Sandy will try to stand in their way in Havre. In the end, three teams will be pushing to continue their seasons at the Northern C Divisional Tournament in Great Falls later this month. The three teams moving to Divisionals will be decided starting Wednesday in the Havre High Gymnasium. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the 9C Boys Tournament Fort Benton Longhorns Red-hot all season long, Fort Benton is a serious contender under head coach Tyler Pasha. The 9C has had a big struggle in keeping up with the Longhorns offensive pace, which has wreaked a lot of havoc all season. Fort Benton is not only a force on the court, but a team that has each other’s back at all times. Led once again by the dynamic duo of brothers Garrett and Hayden Diekhans, the Longhorns are not only a team with a lot of talent, but the two brothers help bring a great height advantage to the hardwood, too. But Fort Benton carries a lot of depth, as well, making them a team that can have players like Jace Thompson putting up big baskets for the top team in the 9C. In the end, Pasha is looking for his team to do well amongst the tough 9C to make it to the top.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Chinook's Ethan Bell shoots over the Big Sandy defense during a 9C boys game earlier this season. The Sugarbeeters are the three-time defending 9C champions this week in Havre, while Big Sandy is poised to make a run at the divisional tournament.

“The 9C Tournament is gonna be tough,” Pasha said. “Obviously, we’ve been playing hard all year to kind of dictate where we stand, but as soon as the tournament starts, that all goes out the window and you got to show up every single night. You see toughness with some of the teams that are three, four or five in the district that are even beating Class B schools, like North Star beating Conrad. It’s gonna be a tough tournament that’s for sure.” Chinook Sugarbeeters Like the Longhorns, Chinook has been another tough team to beat this season. Under head coach Mike Seymour, the Sugarbeeters, the defending 9C champions, have kept pace with the top of the standings all season. As another serious contender once more this year, Chinook has a good shot at pushing their way to the top and taking a title. With standouts like Reese Elliot, Toby Niederegger and Ethan Bell putting up big games throughout the season, the Beeters carry an aggressive offense that can trouble any team.

And similarly to Fort Benton, Chinook carries a lot of depth on the team, where players like Oskar Pula and Hunter Neibauer contributing heavily. Especially with teams like Fort Benton, Big Sandy and Box Elder pushing in the top four spots of the 9C, Seymour knows that anyone in the conference can make a big push in the tournament, but if his team focuses on the right things, they can get to the top. “I think the teams that come and are peaking at the right time and have a great defense will be the teams that come out of there,” Seymour said. “I think if you go by records, the favorite would be Fort Benton. Defensively, we need to polish off our intensity and get into the passing lanes, which will lead into some transition baskets for us.” Big Sandy Pioneers Big Sandy has been fighting all season to stay at the top half of the standings of the 9C and have had one of its best seasons in quite some time. There has been a lot of back-and-forth throughout the season when it

comes to where the Pioneers have been seeded, but the team still has a big trait on their side, a no-quit attitude. Players like Ryan Roth, Clint Darlington, Kody Strutz and Kade Strutz help define that attitude, with Roth dropping over 20 points multiple times this season, while Darlington and the Strutz have broken into double digits many time, as well. At the end of the day, head coach Thomas Dilworth and Big Sandy are a dark horse that can bring the heat when they get the chance. The Pioneers have suffered both big wins and heartbreaking losses, but with the determination Big Sandy carries, it can go quite far in the 9C tournament and get a chance to punch a ticket to the Northern C Divisional Tournament. Box Elder Bears Like Big Sandy, Box Elder has had an up-and-down 9C season, especially with some tough conference losses recently. But, despite the struggles of the season, the Bears have a lot of po-

■ See Boys Page 5

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February 2020

9C DISTRICT TOURNAMENT

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Girls: District 9C tourney loaded with star teams, and a few surprises ■ From Page 2 gave Fort Benton their toughest game of the regular season. So for the third year in a row, expect Turner to be in the mix at the end of the week. North Star Knights It’s been another steady, solid and consistent season for the Knights, and that’s the way it’s always been. North Star is always really consistent. Now however, the Knights want to do something they haven’t done in a couple of years, and that’s get back to the Northern C, and they’re certainly capable of doing just that. Head coach Jennifer Wendland’s squad is led by returning standouts Jade Wendland, Shayla Borlaug and Kenidee Wolery, but the likes of Laynie Sattoriva, Kaitlyn Domire, Rainee Watson and others have really stepped up this winter, and in doing so, the group has provided the Knights with excellent depth, and that’s something that goes a long way in the 9C tourney. So there’s no doubt that North Star is back to being one of the teams in the hunt for a trophy this week in Havre. Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds HLP hasn’t advanced out of the 9C in a long, long time. And, at times, the girls program

in Hays has really struggled. But not this winter. The Thunderbirds, under longtime head coach Cory Morgan, have already put together one of their best seasons in school history, and they want to do the same at the 9C tourney. HLP is led by Mulleah Stiffarm, who has been one of the top scorers in the 9C each of the last three seasons. But, the talent doesn’t end there, as Nashone Shambo, Tahtianna Morgan, the Chandlers, Kassie Perez and more make up a very tough, and talented HLP squad — a squad that very much will be in the mix for one of the three spots to divisionals. “We are a very young team who have worked very hard together,” Morgan said. “Their basketball IQ and experience has been improving, especially in the second half of the season. They remain focused and keeping their eye on their goal. I think the key is their ability to adjust to different styles of play. They are improving on their pressure defense and learning to be patient.” Box Elder Bears No one is used to Box Elder finishing in the middle of the 9C regular season standings, but the Bears’ incredible run

was certainly going to hit a few speed bumps at some point. And while the Bears have still played well after successful head coach Joel Rosette moved, they will have an uphill climb if they want to reach more success this week in Havre. Sarah Parisian is the veteran on an otherwise young Box Elder squad that, at times, has really struggled offensively. Still, with Brenna Bacon and other younger players starting to mature on the court, Box Elder should by no means be overlooked this week. In fact, the Bears have already shown they are more than capable of being one of the top three teams in the 9C. Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks It’s been a season of real ups and downs for the young Hawks. They have been short on numbers all season long, but, they have some very good wins to their credit. At other times, that lack of numbers has really hampered the Hawks in varsity games. Still, CJI comes to the 9C tournament expecting to make some noise and led by star athlete Tatum Hull, the Hawks could be a real dark horse this week. Averie Mattson, Molly

Nelson and Haddie Woods will also be key players for CJI. Chinook Sugarbeeters It’s been a couple of years since Chinook has truly contended in the 9C, but this season has been especially tough for the Sugarbeeters. Head coach Mike Jones has a very young team this season, and it’s shown as the Beeters have struggled to keep up with the top of the 9C field and, offensively, Chinook has really lagged behind, averaging less than 30 points per game. Trying to pull an upset or two this week, Chinook will look to veteran Lily Surber to lead a team that otherwise has very little 9C tourney experience. Big Sandy Pioneers Big Sandy was once the best 9C program around, but times have been hard for the Pioneer girls the last decade. So scoring an upset or two will be the goal this week in Havre. And the Pioneers could do it. Lainey Gregory, Seanna Demontiney and Amanda Cline have a lot of tournament experience, so the Pioneers are certainly a team that the field will have to not overlook inside the HHS gymnasium.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Hays-Lodge Pole's Jaedyn Chandler, left, drives to the basket during a District 9C girls game at Chester-Joplin-Inverness earlier this season. It's been a long time since the Thunderbirds have had much success at the 9C tournament, but they might just have the team to break that streak this week inside the Havre High gymnasium.


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Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson North Star senior Caden Rettig looks to shoot over the Fort Benton defense during a District 9C boys game earlier this season. Rettig and the Knights are looking to get back to Great Falls and the Northern C, but they'll have to battle a tough 9C tourney field this week in Havre. For full coverage of the 9C tournament, stay tuned to the Havre Daily News all week long.

Boys: Tough teams battle for three spots at Northern C in Great Falls ■ From Page 2 tential to make a deep run this week. With head coach Jeremy MacDonald back at the helm, Box Elder is a scrappy team with some big scorers offensively. Players like Kadyn Duran, Tyrus LaMere and Malique Rosette can break out if left unchecked on the court, while others like Tayce St. Pierre and Jaden Jilot work hard to contribute to the score every game. With tough teams like Fort Benton, Big Sandy and Chinook all being obstacles in the 9C tournament, it will not be an easy path to the top, but MacDonald sees an opportunity to make up for the mistakes in the regular season. “There’s a couple stats we work at consistently like rebounding,” MacDonald said. “Most night we’re a little undersized, so if we can hold our own on the rebounding, statistically, I think we have a chance.” North Star Knights North Star is another team capable of making a run this week. The Knights have fought tooth-and-nail with teams like Fort Benton, Big Sandy and Box Elder to try and keep up. Along with the ups and downs of the

regular season, North Star has made some good noise in the conference overall. Players like standout Caden Rettig have been leading the offense multiple teams throughout the year, but others like Hayden Massar, Garrett Spicher and Payne Ditmar have helped push the Knights forward in the always difficult 9C. Under head coach Cody Donoven, North Star will look to be strong in the 9C tournament. “Fort Benton and Chinook are both pretty tough,” Donoven said. “I think we’re right in the mix. It’s congested that’s for sure.” Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks Last season was rough for Chester-Joplin-Inverness, but this year the Hawks have improved, and are among the many teams that can fight hard with any team in the 9C. Head coach Joe Horel and CJI do not give in so easily, especially since they have to go head-to-head with the toughest teams in arguably the roughest conference in Class C. But hardworking players like Caden Woods, Kyle Harmon and Spencer Richter, who has hit a gamewinning 3-pointer at the buzzer

this season, have proven to be essential offensive weapons for the Hawks all year. At the end of the day, Horel knows the 9C tournament will be chaotic and unpredictable with all the teams that can make some noise. “Chinook and Fort Benton are talented, but any of the other teams can beat each other, too,” Horel said. “An eight seed can beat a second seed on a good day. It’ll be interesting to see how the matchups unfold.” Hays Lodge-Pole Thunderbirds Head coach Derrick Shambo and Hays Lodge-Pole have experienced a lot of struggles throughout this season but are a team that can bring the thunder to the hardwood in every game. After going all the way to state a year ago, the T-Birds have had to rebuild this season. HLP does have a fairly spread out offensive attack, too. Players like Lane Kirkaldie, Wyman Bringinggood, Siris Grandchamp and Estevan Granados can all drop baskets in a game, giving any team some tough competition to face. Even if HLP sits lower among the 9C standings, the Thunderbirds do not know the meaning of giving up.

Anything can happen in the 9C tournament and Shambo is looking forward to the matchups next week in the Havre High Gymnasium. “Chinook and Fort Benton will probably make the championship, but after that it’s kind of a tossup for that third spot,” Shambo said. “It’s pretty well-balanced in that area, but I wouldn’t count us out. We haven’t been healthy, but I still think we have a chance, even if people are already considering counting us out.” Turner Tornadoes Turner is a team that has struggled to find the win column this season and have not had the fortunate luck of picking up a win in or out of the 9C. Even so, the Tornadoes have some talented players like Shane Kimmel, Austin Welsh, Jack Harmon and Charlie Calvert that have worked hard every game for Turner. Head coach Dylan Welsh and the Tornadoes will have to make up a lot of ground to make anything happen in the 9C tournament. It will not be an easy bout, but Turner will have to fight tough to make a Cinderella story come to life this week.

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2020

February 2020

9C DISTRICT TOURNAMENT

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Welcome to Havre, MT

We hope you enjoy your visit while in town for the 2020 9C Tournament

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson Above are photos taken at the 2019 9c Tournament held in Havre, MT.

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9C District Basketball Tournament  

9C District Basketball Tournament  

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