Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
Making it to the boys Class C state basketball tournament is a big accomplishment, but battling through the tough competition and landing a spot in Saturday’s championship game is even bigger. The Northern C Rocky Boy Stars entered the tournament a perfect 23-0, the No. 1 seed out of the North and as a heavy favorite to win it all. But after they defeated the Culbertson Cowboys 78-63 in the quarterfinals, on Friday, the Stars were defeated 63-61 by the Twin Bridges Falcons in Saturday night’s championship game at the Metra Park Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings. “Rocky Boy is one heck of a team.” Twin Bridges head coach Niel Christiaens said. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. That is one great ball club and they represented Rocky Boy well tonight. Our kids just fought and we got the win.” A year ago, the Stars earned a second-place finish at state, but were hoping to take their finish one step further this time around. They held a top ranking all season long, and were heavily favored to be this year's Class C state champs. But after failed free-throw opportunities at the crucial times in the fourth quarter by the Stars and two game changing 3-pointers by the Falcon’s Jake Schmit, the Stars were defeated in the last two minutes Saturday night, and found themselves runners-up for the second straight season. The Stars could have used the extra cushion by made free throws, because with 24.5 second left to play Schmit brought the Falcons within one, trailing only 61-60. What happened next was almost unbelievably shocking. On the ensuing inbounds play the Stars threw the ball out of bounds and gave it right back to the Falcons under their basket. And with 12.5 seconds left Schmit stepped up and drained the biggest shot of the year, a three that gave the Falcons a 63-61 lead and ultimately the state championship. “That was indescribable.” Christiaens said. “That’s what you dream of, I just don’t have words to describe this, I don’t. Schmit hit one heck of a shot. It was unbelievable. But also on defense, our kids didn’t stop believing and we got it done.” There was still time on the clock, and the Stars did have one more opportunity to upstage Schmit’s heroics, but a last second shot by Glen Doney fell short. “Free throws.” Rocky Boy head coach Tim Henry exclaimed. “If we make three free throws we win the game.” The Stars Mike Sangrey Jr. Missed the front end of a bonus free throw opportunity with 1:19 in the game, keeping the Stars’ lead at 60-57. Lindsey Eagleman followed with two missed attempts with :52.5 left. And Eric Schildt went 1-of-2 with :33 seconds on the clock, putting the Stars up by four, 61-57. This was a game that was controlled by the Stars from the very beginning. After the first quarter they led 13-6, and at the half they led 28-16. Schildt was almost unstoppable in the first quarter for the Stars, giving a 10-point effort. And in the second quarter Doney took over with his 10 points. And, as a team in the first half, the Stars shot for more than 40 percent from the field while holding the Falcons to just 18 percent from the field. In the second half the Falcons slowly snuck back into the game, but never tied or took the lead until Schmit’s game-winning shot in the fourth. In the third quarter Jerod Parker and Sangrey Jr. Helped keep the Stars ahead 44-38 by combining for 14 points. It seemed that whenever the Falcons would make a run the Stars had an answer. In the fourth quarter the Stars even stretched their lead back out to as many as 10 points. “Our game plan worked to the 'T'.” Henry said. “We controlled that game for 31 minutes and 48 seconds. We came out in a triangle-and-two on defense. Those two studs they have, we held them in check (Clay Pierson and Ryan Tilstra). We just didn’t make free throws.” Pierson was 0-for-7 shooting in the first half while Tilstra was 1-for-4. And both only combined for four total first half points. In the second half they would combine for 10 more, but overall they had a relatively quite night. Also in the second half the Falcon's shooting heated up to over 52 percent, while the Stars also increased to over 45 percent. Doney and Parker led the Stars with 17 points a piece while Sangrey Jr. And Schildt both put up 13. Garrett Lafromboise also got on the board with one point for the Stars. And Schmit led the Falcons with 17 while Austin Mailey added 16 of his own. Pete Anderson finished with 12 and Pierson would finish 10. “We should have won the game and we didn’t.” Henry said. “That’s the bottom line. We should have won the game.” But before the Stars got their chance to play for a state title in front of a sold-out arena, they had to get through a tough Cowboys team with the same goal. On Friday night the Stars came out and jumped all over the Cowboys early. In the first four minutes the Stars led 20-9, and were hitting shots from all over the floor. But in the remaining four minutes it seemed that the roles were reversed. The Stars were having trouble getting their shots to fall, and the Cowboys took advantage. The Cowboys slowly clawed their way back into the game and only trailed by six heading into the second quarter. And though the Cowboys kept rolling and got on the board first in the second frame, it wasn’t long before the Stars were back to their old selves. The Stars went on numerous point runs including a 6-2 and 8-3 run and quickly re-stretched their lead. At the halfway point the Stars led 43-29. Parker had 15 first-half points for the Stars and Eric Schildt had nine. And both Parker and Schildt had three first half three’s for the Stars. The Stars used good defense and excellent offense to build their first half lead, and when they took the floor for second half action, they continued to dominate in both. They built their lead to 60-43 at the end of three quarters, and then stretched that to a 78-63 win at the end of regulation. Jake Reynen led the Cowboys with 23 points, but Parker matched his efforts with 23 of his own for the Stars while Schildt pitched in 17 and Sangrey Jr. Added 15. Rocky boy entered the tournament undefeated (24-0) and as a strong favorite for the state title, but their only loss of the season came at the most inopportune time. The Falcons defeated the Stars for their first boys basketball state championship, and gave the Stars their second-straight second-place finish (25-1). Still, the last two years have been a remarkable two seasons for Rocky Boy. The Stars have won two District 9C championships, finished second and first at the last two Northern C tournament's, respectively, and finished second twice at state. Rocky Boy will now prepare to move to District 1B next year.