By Ryan Divish
After 21 consecutive years, the Havre Central Eighth Grade Basketball Tournament wasn't going to let the change in high school sports seasons stop it.
However, the change in seasons did definitely effect the long standing tradition maybe for the better.
The Central tournament used to feature many of the junior highs from Class 9C schools up and down the Hi-Line. But the change in high school seasons, placed gym space at a premium. Consequently, the 9C junior highs decided to play their seasons over a six week period.
With the short time frame, almost every weekend was used for league games and none of the teams could commit to the Central tournament.
But that didn't deter Havre Central athletic director Shannon Patterson or the Havre Central Booster Club. Instead, the tournament welcomes several new schools to the eight-team tournament. Despite the change, the traditionally tough competition of the tournament hasn't dropped. In fact, it may have gotten stronger.
"Shannon must have made a hundred calls," said booster club member Mike Evans. "She really worked hard to get eight teams."
Said Patterson: "We were just thrilled to come up with eight teams."
But these eight teams aren't just some fill in scraps.
Joining the host 49ers will be tournament regular Chinook, Stanford, Cascade, a pair of teams from Lewistown and a pair of Catholic Schools from Great Falls: Our Lady of Lourdes and Holy Spirit.
"Both Lewistown teams are supposed to be equal and have only lost two games each this season," Patterson said. "Stanford has a record of 11-3 on the season as well."
Cascade, Lourdes and Holy Spirit all participate in the Valley League in Great Falls. Cascade won the league going undefeated. Our Lady of Lourdes is solid as well beating Havre Central earlier this season in Great Falls. Stanford is a 11-3 on the season and should also be solid.
Havre Central brings a 15-4 record into the tournament. The 49ers, coached by Jennifer Wendland, open the tournament t0night against Chinook at 5 p.m.
Central team members include: Jaleesa Barthel, Erika Briese, Katie Mariani, Jenna McCann, Katie McLeod, Danika Patterson, Kalsey Purkett, Stacey Sheppard and Patricia Toldness.
The tournament action will continue on Friday with the remainder of first round games taking place. The first game of the Friday session begins at 3:30 p.m. and features Stanford taking on Cascade.
Admission for the tournament is $2 for adults and $1 for children and seniors.