After an undefeated conference season and a good start to the post season, streaky shooting and a slow start almost cost the Chinook Sugarbeeters the 9C championship.
Thursday-Saturday the Havre High gymnasium was home to the 2011 District 9C basketball tournament. And after earning a first round bye on Thursday with the No. 1 seeding, the Beeters survived the Box Elder Bears 67-48 on Friday, earning their way into the championship.
The Pioneers also had a first round bye as the No. 2 seed and defeated North Star 58-51 in the semifinals.
Capping off an outstanding tournament, the Beeters defeated the Big Sandy Pioneers 63-35 and claimed the 9C championship.
“We got behind right away and I felt like we rushed our offense,” Chinook head coach Chris Daniels said. “And when you do that you don’t get the shots you really want. Then I felt like we were trying to get all those points back with one shot which is impossible.”
As the game got underway it appeared the Pioneers were going to run all over the favored Beeters. But a spark from an unlikely source turned things around mid second quarter.
The Pioneers jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first four minutes. Taylor Erskine had the only two points for the struggling Chinook offense. And in the last four minutes of the opening quarter, the Pioneers used a 5-2 run to take a 15-4 lead.
Four turnovers in the first quarter didn’t help the Beeters’ cause, but the inability to knock down shots was the biggest issue.
But what happened in the second quarter was just what the Beeters needed to turn things around. Freshman Zach Molyneaux came off the bench and gave the Beeters a huge boost. Chinook trailed 15-6 and Molyneaux hit a deep two after being left wide open by the Pioneer defense. In a span of two minutes Molyneaux knocked down two 3-pointers and helped tie the game at 19-19. From there the Beeters went on a 10-0 run to close out the quarter and half, including another Molyneaux trey at the buzzer to put the Beeters up 29-19. Molyneaux had 11 points in the quarter and finished the game with 11.
“Chinook couldn’t hit the side of a barn in the first quarter,” Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said. “If you don’t hit a basket you can’t get ahead. But after the first quarter they started shooting better. Molyneaux hit some shots and he never shoots. We weren’t going to guard him, you have to step up and he did, that made a big difference.”
Molyneaux was hesitant to start at first, but soon took advantage of the Pioneers defense who was daring him to shoot.
“That was awesome,” Molyneaux said. “It’s always good to come out and help your team like that. It was kind of a surprise (shooting that well), but when they leave you open like that you have to shoot.
“Zach (Molyneaux) gets in shooting competitions with Taylor Erskine and Lane Schmitt every day,” Daniel added. “And he is right there with them everyday. But we spent five minutes telling him he needed to shoot and he finally put some shots up. He knows he can shoot and we knew he could shoot; he’s just never done it. But today was a great day to step up.”
From then on the Beeters rolled. Their offense continued to produce and their defense was solid. Chinook outscored Big Sandy 14-8 in the third quarter and 15-8 in the fourth quarter. The Beeters also overcame a tough first quarter to shoot 46 percent from the field. The Pioneers shot just 29 percent from the field. Chinook also shot 9-of-19 from behind the arc while Big Sandy was just 2-of-10.
“We switched some defensive matchups up,” Daniel said. “We had some kids get into some foul trouble early because we weren’t ready. But we were able to make the adjustments and once we did that and talked about our rotations we were ok.”
Defensively Tyler Molyneaux and Grant Tilleman did a solid job in the post with a combined nine defensive rebounds. And Erskine also did a nice job on Zach Leader, holding him to 13 points in the game.
The Pioneers were led by Lackner with 13 points and Kaden Beck with eight. Justin Stevens also had seven for the Pioneers while Zac Leader added five.
Erskine had another solid game for the Beeters and led the way with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from behind the 3-point line. Molyneaux added his 11 and Grant Tilleman followed with eight while both Lane Schmitt and Chris Haider had seven each.
“We came together this year and played as a team and it is great to get this win,” Erskine said. “And we just maintained our composure and kept it together, played together as a team and got it going. It’s always great to be the best you can be at the end of the season when it matters, and that’s what we did here and that’s how we are going to go to divisionals.”
Chinook (16-4) will face the District 7C runner-up in Thursday's opening round of the Northern C in Great Falls at 4 p.m. Meanwhile, the Pioneers will try and reach the Northern C for a sixth straight time when they take on Box Elder in a 9C challenge game tonight at 6 at the HHS gymnasium.
More hardware for the
Chinook 63, Big Sandy 35 (1st)
Chinook 4 59 0 15 — 63
Big Sandy 15 20 0 8 — 35
Chinook — Lane Schmitt 3-10 1-1 7, Tyler Molyneaux 0-4 2-4 2, Taylor Erskine 8-11 0-0 20, Zach Molyneaux 4-7 0-0 11, Jacob MacLean 1-1 0-0 3, Chris Weber 0-1 0-0 0, Chris Halder 2-7 2-4 7, Brandon Riphenburg 1-1 0-0 2, Dylan Surber 0-1 0-0 0, Grant Tilleman 3-6 2-4 8, Berry Murnion 1-1 1-1 3. Totals: 23-50 9-14.
Big Sandy — Jace Solf 0-1 1-2 1, Dallas Briese 0-2 0-0 0, Justin Stevens 3-6 0-2 7, Trevor Lackner 6-16 0-0 13, Kaden Beck 2-7 4-8 8, Zac Leader 2-11 1-2 5, C. Berlinger 0-0 1-1 1. Totals: 23=50 8-14.
Fouls: Chinook 14, Big Sandy 11. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Erskine 4, Z. Molyneaux 3, MacLean 1, Halder 1, Stevens 1, Lackner 1.