The District 9C boys and girls basketball tournaments certainly have started off with a bang.
And from what I’ve seen over the first two days at the Havre High gymnasium, the weekend can hold nothing but ever more excitement.
How about the performance by the North Star Knights and a couple of supremely talented individuals so far.
On the first day of the tournament, North Star junior Lisa Carlon was nearly unstoppable in scoring 28 points against the Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds. Carlon is a very gifted athlete and she’s certainly showing off her basketball skills this weekend in Havre because she backed up her Wednesday performance with another 18 points on Thursday in the semifinals.
North Star has been stellar on the boys side too, and a lot of that goes to perhaps the 9C’s most talented player, senior Jordy Donoven. He put on a classic scoring display on Wednesday night, lifting the Knights to a three-point win over HLP with 26 points. Donoven is a pure shooter, but he does so much more than that. He runs the point, he passes well and he is tough when he goes inside, as displayed by his 16 points and eight rebounds.
It’s been a distinct pleasure watching Carlon and Donovan operate, and it’s been fun watching a pair of North Star teams battle it out for two days. And they’re not done yet.
Speaking of battling. How can you not want to watch Turner play? Yes, the Tornados don’t have the numbers, or at times, the size, talent and depth that some of the higher-seeded teams in the 9C have, but they play with such emotion and heart – it’s infectious. Turner and its fans come to the 9C every year with passion and intensity and the Tornados play to win, each and every time they step on the floor. They did that again on Wednesday night, and for me, one of the joys of the 9C tourney each year is watching Turner take the floor in the green and black and give it their all. I just have nothing but respect for that program and what it brings to the 9C tourney every February.
Then there’s the Box Elder girls. Wow. What a roll the Lady Bears are on right now.
The Bears are 19-0 heading into Saturday’s championship game – a rematch with Chinook. And you can’t help but think, this Box Elder team has something special brewing. The North Star Knights played extremely well against Box Elder on Thursday afternoon, and yet, the Bears still found a way to win by 20 points.
And the Box Elder fans feel it too. Thursday’s girls semifinal game between the Bears and Knights drew a large Box Elder contingent and I’m guessing Saturday night, that section will only grow.
Finally, Chinook is definitely turning into the 9C power everyone predicted when the Beeters dropped down from Class B seven years ago. On Thursday night, both Chinook teams rolled right back into the championship games – making it the second straight year the Beeters will have a chance to sweep the 9C titles.
While it’s true the 9C tournament is shorter, with less teams, the excitement hasn’t changed. The basketball is still a high-stakes brand of basketball with every school, every fan base and every town completely behind their respective teams.
If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, there’s no better high school basketball tournament in Montana than the 9C tourney. And this last two days inside the Havre High gymnasium has only strengthened my feelings on that.