George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
The District 9C boys basketball season has been a coronation of the Rocky Boy Stars and their quest to capture the Class C boys basketball championship in 2009. However, the 9C boys tournament, which gets under way Wednesday at the Havre High gymnasium will be about so much more. While its true that Rocky Boy rolled to a perfect regular season and a second straight 9C regular season title, and the Stars are heavy favorites to capture a repeat 9C championship this week in Havre, the tournament also features plenty of dangerous teams, and no one is safe from an upset. "They (Stars) are undefeated and there is a good reason for it," Big Sandy head coach Sonny Broester said. "Having played both Winifred and Rocky Boy, I would have to consider Rocky Boy the best team in the state." Indeed, the Stars (18-0) are one of the top teams in Class C, just as they were a year ago when Tim Henry's team rolled to the 9C title, beating Big Sandy in the final, only to lose to Winifred in both the Northern C and Class C title games. From that team, Rocky Boy returned the deepest team in Class C, led by a host of talented players like guards Mike Sangrey Jr., Lyndsey Eagleman and Jarod Parker, as well as 6-6 center Erik Schildt. But the Stars won't have an easy time of it this week. As in recent years, the Pioneers (13-5) are a strong contender, not only in the 9C, but in all of Class C boys basketball. Under Broester, the Pioneers finished second this season in a rollercoaster of a 9C. But Big Sandy, with star forwards Corbin Pearson and Blake Brumwell, who combine to average almost 41 points per game, are tournament savvy. The Pioneers have finished second and third at the previous two state tournaments. "I would expect we would run into Big Sandy again," Henry said. "Both times we played Big Sandy, they played real well. I still think they have a good and dangerous team." But the Pioneers aren't the only team capable of making it to Great Falls. Turner (9-9), Chinook (7-10), North Star (6-12) and Box Elder (6-12) all spent the season beating up on each other, and all of those teams also played the top two teams in the league very tough on occasion. The Tornadoes and Sugarbeeters saw vast improvements during the regular season, and both teams are capable of putting together good games in the 9C. Last season, Turner nearly reached the consolation game and under now veteran head coach Kevin Keller and senior Taylor Fouts, who's played in three 9C tourney's in his career, the Tornadoes have a legitimate chance to make it to Great Falls. And so does Chinook. The Beeters have had their best season since joining the 9C, and yet they are still a young team, playing mostly sophomores and juniors under head coach Chris Daniels. Box Elder, which also had a nearmiss in last year's 9C tourney, has a great scorer in Daniel Nault, and the Bears, with all of their players back in the lineup, will be as dangerous as anybody this week. And the Knights can never be counted out with head coach Charlie Robinson at the helm. North Star started slow this year, but Kellan Warren, Skylar Melby and a host of players have helped North Star come on strong as of late. "I like our chances," Daniels said. "Everybody besides Rocky Boy has been beating up on each other. It's pretty much roll the dice and here we go." The question mark in this year's tourney is last-place Hays-Lodge Pole. Just two years ago, HLP captured the Class C state championship, its second this decade. But the Thunderbirds went just 4-14 this season and have struggled to find any consistency. However, in the tournament, anything can happen, and the T-Birds have the league's leading scorer in senior Cole McCabe, so they too could find themselves playing for a spot in the divisional tournament. The 9C boys tourney begins Wednesday with three first-round games. Rocky Boy has the bye and will await the winner of Wednesday night's 8 p.m. game between Chinook and North Star. Wednesday's action begins at 11:30 a.m. with Big Sandy taking on HLP. At 2:30 p.m., Turner faces Box Elder and the winner of those two games will square off in Thursday's last semifinal at 8 p.m. The 9C boys tournament runs through Saturday with the consolation game at 2:30 p.m. and the championship tilt slated for 8 p.m. The top two teams will advance to the Northern C Divisional next week in Great Falls. The Northern C tourney begins next Thursday at the Four Seasons Arena.