The last two seasons, the Big Sandy Pioneers just didn’t have the kind of 9C tournament showing that tournament fans were used to seeing. But on Saturday afternoon, the young Pioneers capped off a strong run by handily winning the girls consolation game.
On Saturday, Big Sandy defeated Box Elder 63-54 in the Havre High gymnasium, giving the Pioneers a third-place finish. And while the Bears were the defending 9C champions, and played a great first half, Big Sandy delivered a knock-out blow in the third quarter.
“That third quarter was so important,” Big Sandy first-year head coach Serena Cator said. “We actually have a goal of always coming out strong in the third quarter and today we actually did it. I’m really proud of this team for showing the kind of heart and determination they have. We’ve had some lulls this season, but we’ve had some really high moments too. And coming back to win this game is one of them. I’m just really proud of this team.”
Box Elder (12-10) ripped off a 12-2 run in the second quarter to trail the Pioneers just 33-31 at halftime. However, Big Sandy took over the game with a devastating 19-2 run in the third, which included a 13-point stretch from junior Molly Herron, and some consistently strong inside play by Kaylie Gilman. In the same stretch, the Pioneers dug in on defense and shut the Bears down.
“We knew we had to come out and get a lead in the third quarter,” Herron said. “We didn’t want to have this game come down to the fourth quarter. And we did that. We played really good in the third quarter.”
Big Sandy also played well in the first period. The Pioneers got seven early points from Gilman, while Box Elder battled with back-to-back buckets by Krista Chief Stick, as Big Sandy led just 18-17 after eight minutes. The second stanza was more of the same. The lead changed hands five times, with Box Elder going on a big run. Big Sandy battled too, and Leela Engle’s bucket just before halftime allowed the Pioneers to take a slim lead into intermission.
But from there it was all Big Sandy. The Pioneers shot 50 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Bears 42-23 for the game. Herron finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Gilman scored 14 and had 12 boards. Engle chipped in with 12 points and Brooke Leader scored 11.
“We obviously have no control over what happens in the championship game,” Cator said. “But we gave ourselves a chance with this win. I am really proud of these girls. This was our seventh game in 11 days and we played all very tough teams at this tournament. It has been a tough tournament and I’m just really proud.”
Box Elder, which finished the season with a 12-10 record, got 16 points from Chief Stick and 11 from Rebecca Rossette in the loss. The Bears reached the consolation game by eliminating Turner 60-38 on Friday afternoon. In that game, the Bears were led by Rossette with 15 points, while Stephanie Sutherland and Michelle Winchell each scored 12. In what was Turner’s final game of the season, the Tornadoes got a game-high 18 points from Laura Pillon.
Big Sandy (14-8) reached the consolation final after fighting off Hays-Lodge Pole Friday night. The Pioneers used yet another strong second half to upend the T-Birds 53-41. Leader led the way for the Pioneers with 13 points, while HLP got 23 from Shakayla Whitecow in what was the T-Birds’ final game.
The Pioneers weren’t able to challenge however, as Chinook defeated North Star in the championship game Saturday night.
Big Sandy 53, Hays-Lodge Pole 41 (LO)
HLP 11 10 8 12 —41
Big Sandy 8 15 13 17 — 53
HLP — Pauline Siers 7, Kallie Martin 3, Chassana Doney 6, Shakayla Whitecow 23, Jessica Parker 2.
Big Sandy — Brooke Leader 13, Molly Herron 6, Leela Engle 6, Kaylie Gilman 3, Shelby Gasvoda 8, Mateila Cline 17.
Box Elder 60, Turner 38 (LO)
Turner 4 12 14 8 — 38
Box Elder 15 13 20 12 — 60
Turner — Ella Billmayer 4, Rennay Watkins 2, Shania Maloney 9, Kristan Conlan 2, Mary Beth Baldik 2, Laura Pillon 18, Lyndsay Hutton 1.
Box Elder — Michelle Winchell 12, Lelani Gardipee 5, Alicia Wolf Chief 4, Misty Baker 4, Krista Chief 8, Rebecca Rosette 15, Stephanie Sutherland 12.
Big Sandy, 67, Box Elder 51 (3rd)
Box Elder 17 14 7 13 — 51
Big Sandy 18 15 22 12 — 67
Box Elder — Michelle Winchell 6, Lelani Gardipee 7, Alicia Wolf Chief 7, Krista Chief Stick 16, Rebecca Rossette 11, Stephanie Sutherland 4. Totals: 21-55 6-9 67.
Big Sandy — Brooke Leader 11, Molly Herron 17, Leela Engle 12, Kaylie Gilman 14, Shelby Gasvoda 5, Mateila Cline 3, Michelle Maxwell 2, Kylie Cline 3. Totals: 28-56 9-17 67.
Halftime: Big Sandy 33-31. 3-pointers: Box Elder 3-11 (Gardipee 2, Chief Stick 1), Big Sandy 2-5 (Herron 1, Cline 1). Rebounds: Box Elder 23 (Rossette 6), Big Sandy 42 (Gilman 12, Herron 11). Fouls: Box Elder 17, Big Sandy 10. Fouled out: None.