By George Ferguson
If there were any pre-tournament jitters before Tuesday night's first-round game, the Big Sandy boys basketball team didn't show it. The Pioneers blitzed the Turner Tornadoes, 77-32, in the final game of the first day of District 9C tournament action at the Havre High Gymnasium.
The Pioneers opened the contest with a 16-7 first quarter - including 10 straight points off Turner turnovers in the final four minutes of the period.
Big Sandy continued to push the pace in the second quarter, getting some easy transition baskets off Turner missed field goal opportunities. The Pioneers went on a 15-0 run, sparked by 12 consecutive points from junior Gage Brumwell.
While Big Sandy was scoring at will, the Tornadoes couldn't buy a basket. Turner had trouble getting the ball inside to Clancy Kegel, who was being harassed by a box-and-one defense, and the open shots they did get simply didn't fall. .
Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said the combination of Turner's shooting troubles and shutting down Kegel were key factors in the first half blitz.
"Turner had one of those night's where the ball didn't go in the basket," Lackner said. "They are a much better shooting team than that. I think our ability to take Kegel out of their offense really put a lot of pressure on their shooters and their misses turned into a lot of easy looks for us."
Turner's shooting woes continued in the second half as miss after miss continually turned into more transition baskets for the Pioneers. By the end of the quarter third, the Pioneers had ripped off 12 straight points to finish the quarter with an insurmountable 63-20 lead.
Lackner said Tuesday night's win was a good way for his team to start its quest for a 9C title.
"I liked our effort tonight," Lackner said. "Our kids came out and played hard. I think we are playing well right now."
The Pioneers were paced by Brumwell's game-high 24 points. Jay Jamieson chipped in with 12 points as well. Turner got eight points from Brandon Simons and Robert Van Voast while Evan Hauge added six apiece in the loss.
The Tornadoes will now move into loser-out play tonight when they take on the Rocky Boy Stars at 8:30 p.m. Big Sandy will face the second-seeded Blue Sky Eagles in Thursday night's second semifinal at 8:30 p.m. That matchup is one that Lackner is looking forward.
"We're excited to play Blue Sky and we feel good about our chances against them," Lackner said. "They have beaten us twice and they are a very good team, but we are looking forward to seeing them again."