By George Ferguson
The second-seeded Blue Sky Eagles began their march towards a District 9C title on Tuesday afternoon by routing the seventh-seeded Rocky Boy Stars, 82-46, in the first round of the 9C tournament at the Havre High Gymnasium.
Both the Eagles and Stars looked sluggish during the first four minutes of the contest in which they combined for nine turnovers. But the Eagles awoke in the last few minutes of the period to go an a 12-0 run behind Eric Groth, who scored eight straight points during the run, which ultimately set the tone for the rest of the contest.
Both teams heated up in the second half, as Rocky Boy stayed within 10 points most of the way. Junior forward Jesse Colliflower hit a pair of three-pointers in the quarter to keep things tight. But the Eagles responded with four three's of their own in the period, including two from Keenan Toner in less than a minute. That spurt gave Blue Sky a 36-23 lead going into halftime.
Blue Sky head coach Brian Campbell said that his team got off to a little bit of a slow start but also credits the Stars for hanging in during first half.
"We had a tough first quarter mainly because they threw a new look at us defensively," Campbell said. "But I thought Rocky Boy played us a lot tougher this time. They have some really good athletes. If they could eliminate some mistakes, they would have been right there."
The contest remained somewhat close during the third quarter as Ivan Whitford picked the Stars up offensively, scoring all nine of his points in the third period.
However, Blue Sky used two big scoring runs, one in the third quarter and another in the fourth, to put Rocky Boy away and advance to the next round.
Leading the way for the Eagles was Groth with 20 points. Jon Lipp and Ryan Wells also scored 14 points apiece while Mitch McKinley added 10. The Stars got a solid night from Colliflower with 16 points. Point-guard Eric Watson chipped in with 12 in the loss.
Rocky Boy will turn around and play Turner tonight at 8:30 p.m. in loser-out action while Blue Sky will face third-seeded Big Sandy at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday in the semifinals.
The matchup with the Pioneers has Campbell excited.
"We're ready to play Big Sandy," Campbell said. "I feel like we matchup well with them and we are playing good basketball right now. We're excited about our chances."