Havre Daily News sports editor
Chinook girls basketball head coach Mark Roseberry has characterized the Sugarbeeters' first season in Class C as one that has had an intense learning curve.
On Wednesday afternoon at the Havre High gymnasium, Roseberry and the Beeters learned firsthand what the District 9C tournament is all about. Despite difficult stretches offensively and a horrific performance from the free-throw line, the fourth-seed Beeters earned their first 9C tournament victory ever, a 54-47 defeat of fifth-seeded Hays-Lodge Pole.
“It wasn't pretty at times, but sometimes that's how you have to win,” Roseberry said. “I thought our kids did a real good job of staying focused, even when we weren't playing that well.
“This was a lot of fun,” he added. “This is a totally different experience than the tournaments we're used to playing in. The crowd was intense and it is just an amazing atmosphere here.”
Neither Chinook nor Hays-Lodge Pole could decide which team was going to take advantage of the other's mistakes early on. Both teams came out and turned the ball over in the first quarter and neither team had much success finding the basket. By the time the first quarter ended, the Beeters and T-Birds had combined for 17 points with Chinook holding a 9-8 lead.
The two teams continued to trade baskets well into the second quarter, but scoring was few and far between. That is until HLP guard Cara Obey started to heat up from the outside. Obey knocked in three of her four 3-pointers in the second period, and that helped the T-Birds take a 24-23 lead into halftime.
“I thought we played OK offensively in the first half,” Hays-Lodge Pole head coach Rick Adsit said. “But we couldn't really stop Chinook either. Things were very close, and it seemed like the only time anyone would score was when the other team missed a shot.
“We also got into some foul trouble late in the first half, which hurt us in the second half,” Adsit added.
The second half turned out to be one of missed opportunities on both sides.
Chinook found its offensive rhythm in the third quarter by going inside to forwards Dawn Kellam and Kassie Dugan. Senior Georgia Barber also got aggressive, taking the ball to the basket and having success doing so. That offensive spark spurred the Beeters to a 10-0 run in the third quarter that gave them the lead, 40-35.
“We got four or five really good touches in the paint during that stretch, and I think that was really key for us,” Roseberry said. “We knew coming in that we had a pretty good size advantage over Hays-Lodge Pole, and in the second half we finally took advantage of it a little.”
Chinook extended its lead to eight points twice in the fourth quarter, but because of turnovers and poor free-throw shooting, the Beeters didn't put the T-Birds away.
HLP continued to cut the lead down to four or five points in the final five minutes but didn't take advantage of Chinook's miscues, and eventually fell short of mounting a fourth-quarter comeback.
After the game, both coaches saw the contest in essentially the same way. Chinook's 4-for-27 performance from the free-throw line played a large role in the outcome of the game.
“If we could have made our free-throws, we might have won a little more comfortably,” Roseberry said. “But free-throw shooting has been a problem for us all season long and it could have come back to hurt us tonight.”
Said Adsit: “They gave us chances to win the game in the fourth quarter. They missed a ton of free throws, but it seemed like we couldn't do anything with it. Every time they missed a free throw, we would go down and turn the ball over or miss an easy layup. Foul trouble also hurt us some, but we still had chances at the end of the game.”
Dugan led a balanced Chinook attack with 11 points and nine rebounds. Barber led Chinook in scoring with 12 points and Kellam added nine. Crystal Roseberry was the Beeters' main threat from the perimeter, scoring eight points.
The T-Birds got a game-high 16 points from Obey, including four treys. Suzi Kirkaldie chipped in with 13 points, and Fanci Bouchie scored nine.
The loss was the T-Birds' third at the hands of Chinook this season. HLP will now play the loser of the Rocky Boy and North Star game in loser-out action on Friday night.
“I am pleased with our effort,” Adsit said. “We just have to get over this and be ready to play again. This tournament isn't over for us.”
Meanwhile, Chinook moves on to today's semifinal, where it will face top-seeded Big Sandy at 2:30 p.m.
“We haven't had a lot of success against Big Sandy this season,” Roseberry said. “And there won't be many people in the gym that think we have a chance. But I have already told the kids that we are going into this game with nothing to lose. Sometimes that can be a very good thing.”
Beeters 54, T-Birds 47
Chinook 9 14 17 14 - 54
HLP 8 16 11 12 - 47
Chinook - Dawn Kellam 9, Cheyanne Hamilton 4, Crystal Roseberry 8, Jaque McMaster 3, Morgan Obie 7, Kassie Dugan 11, Georgia Barber 12. Totals: 25 4-27 54.
HLP - Fanci Bouchie 9, Suzi Kirkaldie 13, Sheena Shambo 8, KK Kirkaldie 3, Kara Obey 16. Totals: 16 12-19 47.
3-pointers - Chinook 0, HLP 5 (Obey 4, Shambo 1); Totals fouls - Chinook 19, HLP 23; Fouled out - Hamilton S. Kirkaldie.