Havre Daily News
All year long the Chester/J-I Hawks have overcome every obstacle in their path all the way to the Class C state tournament in Hamilton.
And after overcoming even more adversity in Hamilton, the Hawks found themselves in the championship game on Saturday night.
Unfortunately, the Hawks' opponent in the title game; Reed Point-Rapelje, was the one obstacle the Hawks couldn't overcome.
Coming into the state tournament, it seemed like a long shot that the Hawks would even make it to the championship game. Not because they weren't good enough, but because they had to win an extra game to get there due to the field being expanded to nine this year.
But the Hawks won an unprecedented two straight games Thursday and then knocked off Scobey in the semifinals Friday night to reach the title game.
What the Hawks found when they got there was a defending state champion that was on a 51-game winning streak. And in the end, Chester/J-I came up five points short of claiming a coveted state championship.
“All year we have overcome obstacles,” Chester/J-I head coach Dustin Gordon said. “That is just kind of the characteristic of our team. We never do things the easy way and we definitely had to go the hard way at this tournament by winning three games to reach the title game.”
At the start of the game, the Pirates looked like a state championship team as they quickly jumped ahead of the Hawks 7-0. But then Chester/J-I senior Mary DeVries made her presence felt as she scored nine straight points to end the first quarter with the Hawks ahead.
The teams battled to a 16-16 tie late in the second quarter, then DeVries nailed two free throws to put her team ahead 18-16 at halftime.
“They were able to jump out ahead with a 7-0 run to start the game and they hit some big shots and they really hurt us on the boards early on,” Gordon said. “But we were able to make some adjustments and get ourselves back into the game and even go ahead at halftime.”
At the start of the second half, the Pirates went on another 7-0 run led by Dani Henderson to put them ahead 25-18. And after a 3-pointer by Elly Bruursema, the Pirates had a comfortable 29-22 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter the Pirates extended their lead to 31-22 and then started slowing the pace of the game down in an effort to control the clock.
But DeVries brought the Hawks back once again with two baskets and a free throw sandwiched in between. The Hawks had gotten back within five points at 32-27 with just under three minutes left in the game.
“Mary really played well,” Gordon said. “She was the best player out on the floor in that game and she really dominated throughout most of the game.”
Unfortunately, DeVries fouled out moments after cutting the lead to five points, leaving the Hawks without their best player, who had scored 20 of their 27 points in the game.
“It was tough when Mary fouled out,” he said. “We had to make some adjustments, but it left us limited in some areas.”
Down 33-27, senior Keyla Briese hit two free throws to cut the lead to 33-29 and then Amanda Violett added a free throw of her own to cut the deficit to 33-30 with time getting short.
Then, with 45 seconds left, Briese's 3-point attempt to tie the game went awry and the Pirates grabbed the rebound. After two free throws by Melissa Haines, the Pirates grabbed control of the championship, held on for a 37-32 victory and their second straight Class C state title, and extended their winning streak to 52 games.
“Keyla got the ball, took a tough shot and she missed it,” Gordon said. “But I give her credit for taking that shot in the state-title game. That takes a lot of guts and you need to take those shots to win state titles. Unfortunately it just didn't go in.
“We played really well, but they are just a great team,” he added. “It was a great defensive battle throughout and we just came up short. I am really proud of these girls because they battled through so much, and they wanted to play Reed Point because they believed they were better and they thought they could win.”
The Hawks were led by DeVries, who scored 20 points in the loss. Briese added seven points.
Henderson led the way for the state champion Pirates with 10 points. On Friday night, the Hawks knocked off Scobey 45-42 to earn the right to play in the state championship game.
In a back-and-forth game, the Hawks held a 43-39 advantage late in the contest when Kyla Selvig of Scobey nailed a clutch 3-pointer to cut the lead to 43-42. And after the Hawks turned the ball over, Scobey had a chance to take the lead with just seconds remaining.
But the Hawks forced a turnover, and after a foul, Briese stepped up and hit two free throws to put her team ahead for good. Scobey failed to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded, and C/J-I escaped with a dramatic 45-42 win.
Briese paced the Hawks with 16 points, including her two game-clinching free throws. DeVries added 12 points.
Even though the Hawks fell short of a state title, after placing at state for the second straight season, Gordon knows his team has nothing to be ashamed of.
“I can't even put into words how proud I am of this team,” he said. “The heart, effort and the guts they showed this weekend was unbelievable. It's tough. I have coached these kids since seventh grade and we have put our blood, sweat and tears into this team, so it's disappointing to come up short. But they played great all weekend and I am just extremely proud of them.”
Chester/J-I 45, Scobey 42 (sf)
Scobey 8 13 14 7 - 42
Chester/J-I 7 14 11 13 - 45
Scobey - Gerry Richardson 3-6 2-2 10, Kyla Selvig 2-10 2-2 7, Brittney Selvig 0-1 0-0 0, Erin Fosland 3-7 0-0 6, Laura Gunderson 6-10 4-6 17, Ashley Laurie 0-2 2-6 2. Totals: 14-36 10-16 42. 3-point FG: 4-7 (Richardson 2-2, K. Selvig 1-2, L. Gunderson 1-2). Fouls: 16. Rebounds: 24 (L. Gunderson 8). Assists: 9 (K. Selvig 6). Steals: 4 (Richardson 2). Turnovers: 12.Chester/J-I - Amanda Violett 1-3 0-0 2, Brittney Kolstad 0-0 1-2 1, Mary DeVries 5-11 2-4 12, Chelsea Stokes 0-0 0-0 0, Brianne Wolfe 4-9 1-2 9, Keyla Briese 5-9 4-4 16, Jackie Alisch 2-6 1-1 5. Totals: 17-38 9-13 45. 3-point FG: 2-4 (Briese 2-4). Fouls: 12. Technical foul: Violett. Rebounds: 23 (Wolfe 8). Assists: 11 (Violett 5). Steals: 5 (DeVries 2, Briese 2). Turnovers: 11.
Reed Point-Rapelje 37, Chester/J-I 32 (1st)
C/J-I 11 7 4 10 - 32
Reed Point-Rapelje 9 7 12 9 - 37
C/J-I - Amanda Violett 0-1 1-2 1, Brittney Kolstad 0-0 0-0 0, Hannah Pimley 0-0 0-0 0, Mary DeVries 7-12 6-7 20, Brianne Wolfe 2-4 0-0 4, Kayla Briese 2-6 3-4 7, Jackie Alisch 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-23, 10-13, 32. 3-point goals: 0-2 (Briese). Rebounds: 18 (DeVries 5). Assists: 5 (Violett 2, Kolstad 2). Steals: 1 (DeVries). Turnovers: 15. Fouls: 16. Fouled out: DeVries.
Reed Point-Rapelje - Elly Bruursema 3-5 1-3 9, Melissa Haines 0-0 2-2 2, Dani Henderson 2-6 6-7 10, Katelin Schneidt 0-1 0-1 0, Jordan Bruursema 3-8 1-2 7, Kristin Ballbach 3-8 2-4 9. Totals: 11-28, 12-19, 37. 3-point goals: 3-13 (E. Bruursema 2-4, Henderson 0-2, Schneidt 0-1, J. Bruursema 0-3, Ballbach 1-3). Rebounds: 16 (Henderson 5, J. Bruursema 5). Assists: 7 (Schneidt 3). Steals: 4 (E. Bruursema 2). Turnovers: 10. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: J. Bruursema.