Chris Peterson Havre Daily News email@example.com
In need of a dramatic comeback, the North Star Knights turned to Brandon Melby and he delivered a victory against Chinook in the first round of the District 9C boys basketball tournament Wednesday night at the HHS gymnasium. Down 49-46 with less than a minute left in the game, Cody Jurenka nailed a jumper to pull the Knights to within a point at 49-48. After a Chinook turnover, Melby was fouled and made one of two free throws to tie the game at 49-49. On the ensuing Chinook possession, the Sugarbeeters’ Trevor Nicholson got to the free-throw line for a one-and-one, but was unable to convert, giving the Knights the final possession of regulation. After a timeout, the Knights took the ball out of bounds with 10 seconds remaining. However, the inbounds pass was tipped and a mad scrum for the ball ensued. Melby eventually corralled the loose ball and took the ball to the basket, drawing a foul with 0.5 seconds remaining. Melby hit the first of two free throws, sealing the 50-49 come-from-behind victory. “We just never gave up,” Melby said. “There was a lot of pressure on those free throws at the end of the game. But I have been a pretty good free-throw shooter all year, so I figured I had a good chance to make them.” The game turned into a shootout between the teams’ star players. Marty Birky was spectacular for the Beeters pouring in 31 points in a valiant effort. “”I thought that Marty Birky was unbelievable tonight,” North Star head coach Charlie Robinson said. “He made 13 shots in the paint. He beat us with jump shots, spin moves and offensive rebounds. We just could not guard him.” Returning All-Conference players Melby and Darius Wendland each scored 17 points in the game to lead the Knights to a key 9C tournament victory. “I was really pleased with the way our kids played tonight,” Robinson said. “I thought that our team showed a lot of maturity, and those three juniors that didn’t play in the tournament last year played with a lot of composure.” North Star took a 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, following a fade away 3-pointer by Wendland that beat the first-quarter buzzer. The Knights took their biggest lead of the game midway through the second quarter when Josh Beaudry nailed a trey to put them ahead 22-13. However, the Beeters refused to back down and led by Birky, they outscored the Knights 10-5 to finish out the half pulling to within five points at 27-22. “I don’t think that I could have asked anything more from my players tonight,” Chinook head coach Chris Daniels said. “We played about as good as we could have possibly played, I don’t think we could have played any harder. “Marty was tremendous tonight,” he added. “He has played that way all season long and he really stepped up big again tonight.” Chinook and North Star traded baskets early in the third quarter, and the Knights clung to a 33-30 lead. Birky scored back-to-back baskets to give Chinook the 34-33 lead. But it wouldn’t last, as the Knights took a 39-37 advantage into the final stanza. Down 44-41, the Beeters went on one final run that gave them the upper hand. Birky scored two spectacular baskets off spin moves that sandwiched a clutch jumper by Colton Davies to put Chinook ahead 47-44 with just 1:08 to go. “We knew that it was going to be a really tough game,” Robinson said. “There is not much difference between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in our league that has six pretty good teams. We just played well enough at the end to win the game.” Chinook (5-14) will play again on Friday night against the loser of tonight’s semifinal between Hays- Lodgepole and Rocky Boy. The Knights advance into the semifinals today against Big Sandy at 2:30 p.m.