By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
The last seven days have taken the Chester Coyotes girls basketball team from the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls, to Fort Benton for a Northern C challenge game, back to Chester and now to Belgrade for the Class C girls state basketball tournament.
Call the Coyotes road warriors, or call them survivors. Regardless, they are still playing basketball as the girls have the stage for the final weekend of the 2004 Montana High School basketball season.
The Coyotes (21-4) finished third at last weekend's Northern C divisional tournament in Great Falls. They then earned the trip to state with a 54-50 overtime win over Geraldine in a Monday night challenge game held in Fort Benton.
Now Chester will open state tournament play today at 2:30 p.m. in a meeting of the last two Class C girls state champions. Chester will take on defending state champion Charlo (21-4). The Coyotes won the Class C title two years ago.
The Charlo Vikings come into today's matchup as the Western C champions. They defeated Noxon 40-36 last Saturday night in Butte to claim their second straight Western C crown.
Charlo is paced by a trio of all-conference players, led by leading scorers Nichole Briere and Shianne Perry. The Vikings also get solid scoring contributions from Ma'Rya Hungerford and Jasmine Ray.
Chester will counter with the likes of Shawnee Norick, Brianne Wolfe, Mary DeVries and sharpshooter Keyla Wendland.
While the Vikings are considered a heavy favorite to repeat this weekend because two of the top three teams in the state failed to qualify in No.1 Hinsdale and No. 3 Culbertson, they will have their hands full in the the opening round with the very tournament-tested Coyotes.
After cruising to the District 10C regular season and tournament championships, the Coyotes were upset in the semifinals of the Northern C tournament last weekend in Great Falls by eventual Northern C champion Belt. Chester battled back to defeat Heart Butte and Winnett to claim third-place honors before knocking 8C favorite Geraldine on Monday night.
In other first round action today, the Scobey Spartans, who were the surprise Eastern A champions, open up with Southern C runner-up Harlowtown at 1 p.m. The night session will tip off at 7 p.m. with Southern C champion Reedpoint - the only unbeaten team remaining in Class C - squaring off against Eastern C runner-up Lambert (18-6). The nightcap will feature the Belt Huskies (19-6) taking on Western C runner-up Noxon (19-6) at 8:30 p.m.
All of the action at the State C tournament will take place this weekend at the Belgrade Special Events Center in Belgrade.