By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
After a week of rest, the girls basketball season in Class C will resume today at the start of the Northern C girls basketball divisional tournament at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.
And the Hi-Line will be very well represented when the tournament gets under way. District 9C champion Blue Sky and District 10C champion Chester will be two of the favorites this weekend in Great Falls, while the Rocky Boy Morning Stars will also be a team that could surprise people.
"I think that both us and Chester have a good chance to do well this weekend," said Blue Sky head coach Elizabeth Campbell. "But we're on the same side of the bracket so we are anticipating having to play each other.
"I think that Rocky By is a team that people will overlook this weekend and that will be a mistake," Campbell added. "They are a hot team and they are playing great basketball right now. They deserve to be where they are."
The Morning Stars (14-8) will be the first of the Hi-Line teams to hit the floor today. Rocky Boy will open the tournament against District 8C champion Geraldine at 3 p.m.
The Morning Stars are still riding high this week after coming through the loser-out bracket two weeks ago at the District 9C tournament in Havre to capture second-place honors.
Rocky Boy knocked off Big Sandy in the 9C consolation game and then turned around to upset KG in a Monday night challenge game to reach the divisional tournament for the first time in more than a decade.
"We're really excited to be playing this weekend," said Rocky Boy head coach Derek Small. "We're going to take the same approach this weekend as we took at the district tournament. We want to go out there and play our style of basketball and stick together as a team. If we do that then I think we have as good a chance as anybody this weekend."
As for the Morning Stars' first-round opponent, Geraldine (17-3) comes into the tournament after having run away with the District 8C tourney. The Tigers have had a very successful season in 2004 and Small believes that they will be a very tough team to handle this afternoon.
"Geraldine is a little smaller than some of the teams that we have played this season," Small said. "Hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of that with Chelsey (St. Pierre). Her size was a big factor in the district tournament and hopefully it will be again.
"But (the Tigers) take really good shots and they are quick," Small added. "That means that we have to be patient on offense as well and not turn the ball over."
Tonight, the Blue Sky Eagles (17-3) begin their march toward a state tournament berth when they square off against perennial 8C powerhouse Belt at 7.
The Huskies (17-6) were not expected to be at the divisional tournament this year, but they knocked off archrival Highwood in the 8C tournament to qualify. Even though the Huskies won't be favored this weekend in Great Falls, Campbell said that they are a team that cannot be overlooked.
"That is our approach to the whole weekend," Campbell said. "We are going to take this tournament one game at a time. All we are concerned with is Belt right now and they are a good basketball team.
"Belt is very big inside and they have pretty good guard play," Campbell added. "But I like our chances in this game. I think we match up pretty well with them and we are playing good basketball coming into the weekend."
Indeed, the Eagles left little doubt of who the dominant team in the District 9C tournament was. The Eagles ran away with that tournament and bring a very deep team to Great Falls led by the tandem Kaila Warren and Lindsay Anderson. Maia Aageson, Holly Haas, Brianne Horinek and Robyn Schnitzmeier are solid contributors for the Eagles.
But if the Eagles were hot at the end of the 9C tournament, they still haven't played a game in almost two weeks and they don't have a player on their roster who has gone this deep into the season. Campbell admitted that experience is not a concern, but the layoff might be.
"We are a very experienced team and our girls understand what it means to be playing this weekend, so I don't think our lack of tournament experience will hurt us," Campbell said. "But I think the girls would have rather played this tournament last weekend. They have been really excited for the last two weeks and they are chomping at the bit to get going."
In the nightcap tonight, the Chester Coyotes will take on the Grass Range Rangers at 8:30. The Coyotes (17-3), like Blue Sky, dominated their district tournament en route to reaching the divisional tournament. Chester ripped the Heart Butte Warriors in the District 10C title game two weeks. They are also a team that will be considered by many as one to watch this weekend in Great Falls.
"Chester is a very good basketball team," Campbell said. "They are talented and they really play good defense. If we get a chance to play them it should be a tremendous game."
Said Small: "I think you have to consider Chester one of the favorites this weekend. They play really hard and they have a very talented team. If they play well, they should be really tough to beat."
Chester is a relatively young team this season but is not short on talent. The Coyotes get senior leadership from Alisha Fossen and Courtney Fraser and have talented sophomores in Keyla Wendland, Mary DeVries and Brianne Wolfe.
While the Rangers (15-8) may be the underdog tonight in Great Falls, they have been to several consecutive divisional tournaments and should be ready to play the Coyotes tonight, according to Campbell.
"I have coached in the 7C, so I have had a chance to scout the teams from that district and Grass Range is a good basketball team," she said "They are scrappy and they really play good defense."
With all of the talent in the Northern C tournament this weekend, it would appear that things are up for grabs. And the pressure will be on everyone's shoulders because only two teams will be able to move on to the state tournament next weekend in Belgrade.
"This is a very competitive tournament and you can't overlook any of the other seven teams," Campbell said. "But our goals haven't changed at all. We are focused on getting to the state tournament and that is our ultimate goal.
"If we play like we have been, I think we have a very good chance to get there."
The Northern C girls divisional basketball tournament will get under way today at 1:30 p.m. when Winnett (20-1) faces Heart Butte (15-6). The tournament will run through Saturday night and all the action will take place at the Four Seasons Arena In Great Falls.
Northern C Divisional
at Great Falls
(2 teams advance)
1:30 p.m. - Winnett (20-1) vs. Heart Butte (15-6)
3 p.m. - Geraldine (17-3) vs. Rocky Boy (14-8)
7 p.m. - Blue Sky (17-3) vs. Belt (17-6)
8:30 p.m. - Chester (17-3) vs. Grass Range (15-8)