In most cases, the tighter the game, the tougher the loss and even the sweeter the win. Fans saw both sides of that over the weekend in the girls 9C championship game.
Saturday night at the Havre High gymnasium, the Box Elder Bears and defending 9C champion Chinook Sugarbeeters faced off for the 9C title. And in a very tight game almost start to finish, it was the Bears knocking off the Beeters 47-42.
“That has been our goal since the start of the season,” Box Elder head coach Joel Rossette said. “Conference champions and district champions. The girls came out and executed perfectly and I can’t complain. I guess the ending wasn’t perfect, but it was still a good win.”
The ending wasn’t perfect because the Beeters almost pulled off a major come-from-behind victory.
The contest had been close all night. Chinook held an 11-10 lead after the first quarter, while the game was knotted at 18-18 at the break. And heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears held just a 30-24 lead. Neither team ever held a major lead through three quarters of play, and the lead was exchanged several times, especially early.
But heading into the fourth quarter, the Bears looked like they were finally going to run away with the game. They pushed their lead to 39-29 in the first five minutes. The lead was 41-31 with just two minutes to play, but the Beeters weren’t’ finished, as they crawled within one point, trailing 43-42 with 1:00 still to be played. In the Beeters’ run, Taryn Norby grabbed seven quick points to lead the surge.
It was an exciting final push by the Beeters, but the Bears held on, outscoring the Beeters 4-0 in the final minute on clutch free throws.
“It was focus (that was key to the win),” Rossette said. “We had our goal in mind, and I don’t think our team was going to be denied tonight. We talked about finishing all year and that is what they did.
“We needed to play smart and not get scared,” Box Elder’s Aricka Wolf Chief added. “We had to keep the ball under control and I think our defense was huge, it could have been better at times, but we pulled through.”
Nobody was more important to the Bears’ win than 5-11 Caitlyn Gamble. She had just four points through the first three quarters, but dominated the paint in the fourth with 10 more points. She had Chinook’s 6-1 Makhayla Farmer guarding her all night, but finally broke out with a huge performance, keeping the Bears out in front when they needed it most.
“I am happy for her,” Rossette said.
“She really stepped up for us this game and is a great player. I look forward to more big games from her.
“Aggressiveness and intensity was key for me,” Gamble said. “You just have to use your body and know how to work it down low. I had to execute the fundamentals and not get fancy, early in the season I was trying to be fancy and hurt my ankle, it is just the little things that pay off. This feels different, it is my first 9C championship, and I hope this feeling last all night. But there is more out there, this isn’t the end and we are going to keep pushing when we get there (Northern C).”
The Bears were also led by Wolf Chief’s 16 points, and Brandi Buffalo’s eight. Chinook got 18 from Norby, as well as eight from Farmer to help lead the way.
Chinook’s season isn’t over yet, as the Beeters will face North Star tonight at 6 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium in a 9C challenge game.
For the Bears, their season will continue in Great Falls for the Northern C tournament as the No. 1 seed out of the 9C. Box Elder is now a perfect 20-0 on the season and headed back to the Northern C for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
Box Elder 47, Chinook 42
Chinook 11 7 6 18 — 42
Box Elder 10 8 12 17 — 47
Chinook — Taryn Norby 18, Makhayla Farmer 8, Haley Swank 7, Slana Smith 3, Talya Johnson 2, Kayla Hanson 2, Emily Dennis 2.
Box Elder — Aricka Wolf Chief 16, Caitlyn Gamble 14, Brandi Buffalo 8, Crystal Stamper 4, Jaylin Parker 3, Tristan Parisian 1, Kylee Raining Bird 1.