When a team jumps all over another team in the first quarter to take a dominating lead, it is tough to overcome, no matter what talented players you have on the floor.
The Chinook Sugarbeeters found that out first hand, as they fell to the Big Sandy Pioneers in the 9C championship game on Saturday night at the Havre High gymnasium. Both teams were playing well coming into the championship, but it was the Pioneers who had the dominating performance and grabbed the 63-44 win and the 9C title.
On the road to the title game, Chinook defeated Box Elder in the semifinal, while Big Sandy defeated North Star in the semifinals. The Pioneers remained undefeated in 9C play this season, and recaptured the title after walking away as the No. 3 team a season ago.
“This is a great feeling and it is what we have worked for all season,” Big Sandy’s Justin Stevens said. “This will be my first time playing down there (Northern C), so I am really excited. And as a team, we will just play well and play our hardest.
“What a weight lifted off of our shoulders,” Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner added. “I just dreaded coming back here on a Monday and risk getting beat, it has happened before. But I thought the kids played well. I think Chinook played well too, but they looked like they came out nervous, they are a young team and that can happen.”
The Pioneers were anything but nervous, as they came out and erupted in the first quarter for a huge lead. In the first seven minutes of play, the Pioneers went on a 19-0 run, and it wasn’t until there were just 41 seconds left in the opening frame before Brandon Riphenburg got the Beeters on the board with two-point field goal. But when the dust settled after the first quarter, the Pioneers already found themselves up 19-3.
From that point on, the Pioneers just wanted to play sound basketball, knowing if they did that, the win was as good as theirs.
“That hurt them,” Lackner said. “But we led them in Big Sandy 42-25 at halftime and they came back and led going into the fourth quarter. They are capable, and I mentioned to our kids that we have to come out playing hard.
“We wanted to run the ball,” Big Sandy’s Trevor Lackner added. “Play hard on defense and our guards needed to hustle. We did that well and that is why we jumped out to a big lead.”
Chinook never let up, and continued to battle, but the Pioneers were always in control. The Beeters rebounded for 11 points in the second quarter, but the Pioneers held a 35-14 lead at the half.
And making sure they weren’t’ going to suffer their first 9C loss of the year in the title game, the Pioneers never allowed any key runs by the Beeters. Chinook scored 30 second half points, but the Pioneers kept pace with 28 of their own. The Pioneers' defense was key in the win down the stretch, as they forced Chinook into a lot of deep shots as they tried to dig themselves out of the hole.
“We did not want them taking the ball inside,” Coach Lackner said. “That Grant Tilleman and Barry Murnion have some height on us, but when we can keep them off the boards and keep them from scoring inside, they have to try and live by the three.”
On the night, the Beeters were just 1-of-20 from 3-point range, and shot just 29.8 from the field because of that. And down low, Tilleman and Murnion were held to a combined 13 points.
Stevens played a big role in limiting the Beeters' points by their big men. He lacks a little in the height department compared to 6-3 Tilleman and 6-4 Murnion, but more than made up for that with aggressive play from start to finish.
“He plays so physical,” Coach Lackner said. “He isn’t very big, but he does a good job. He has lifted some weights, gotten stronger and holds his own.”
Brandon Riphenburg was a spark at times for the Beeters, finishing with 10 points. Scott Schmitt, who hit the lone
trey for the Beeters finished with eight points, while Lane Seymour finished with five. The Beeters did out rebound the Pioneers 39-31, and Riphenburg came down with 11 total boards to lead all players.
But Lackner’s 21 points were huge for the Pioneers, as were Stevens’ 14 and Zac Leader’s 11. The Pioneers also shot nearly 46 percent from the field, and hit 3-of-11 triples.
With the win the Pioneers will represent the 9C as the No. 1 seed at the Northern C tournament in Great Falls. Chinook still has a chance to keep their season alive, but will face North Star in a challenge game tonight at 7:30 at the Havre High gymnasium in Havre.
Big Sandy 63, Chinook 44
Chinook 3 11 12 18 — 44
Big Sandy 19 16 12 16 — 63
Chinook — Laney Seymour 5, Scott Schmitt 8, Zach Molyneaux 2, Chris Weber 2, Brandon Riphenburg 10, Dylan Surber 4, Grant Tilleman 10, Barry Murnion 3
Big Sandy — Jerry Hanson 4, Justin Stevens 14, Trevor Lackner 21, Kaden Beck 4, Zac Leader 11, Jessey Bailey 9.