After a long, and successful regular season, the top two teams were rewarded for their efforts at the District 9C girls tournament at the Havre High gymnasium over the weekend.
Both the Chinook Sugarbeeters and North Star Knights will continue the postseason run after finishing at the top of the 9C on Saturday night.
The top-seeded Beeters defeated the No. 2 Knights 48-38 in the girls championship game at the Havre High gymnasium. It is the second 9C title in the last three years for the Beeters. Chinook had a first-round bye, but defeated Box Elder in the semifinals to get the chipper. North Star also had a first-round bye and had to get past Big Sandy in the semifinals.
“This was huge,” Chinook head coach Charlie Robinson said. “We lost seven girls from last year and three of them were starters. We had to have new and fresh girls come out and start and we knew it would be a rollercoaster. It at showed at times, but overall we kept improving and this was a great effort. We haven’t won the conference in 16 years, so winning the conference and the district tournament twice in three years is a great thing.
“This is crazy,” Junior guard Emily Dennis added. “We won it when I was a freshman and took second last year, but this year we made it our goal and won the conference championship and district championship, so now we are on to divisionals and it feels great.”
But what looked like a blowout win for a Beeters early on Saturday night, actually turned out to be a tough battle down the stretch.
After taking an 18-4 lead through the first quarter, the Beeters were poised for a dominating win. But the Knights are known for their quickness and physical defense, and after turning on the pressure early in the second quarter, the Knights were able to climb back into contention and give the Beeters a run for their money for solid chunk of time.
The second quarter was key for North Star. The Knights outscored the Beeters 12-5 and closed the gap to just seven points. The Beeters struggled against the Knights’ defense, missing their first three shots and turning the ball over two times in their first five possessions of the second frame. That opened the door for the Knights, as Tylynn Rettig knocked down eight of her 12 total points, including two 3-pointers to give the Knights a much-needed boost before the half.
“I think we should have pressed earlier,” North Star head coach Griff Bye said. “I wanted to get a few minutes into the game before we turned it up, but it is difficult to match up with their size. If you make a mistake against a team like that, it shows up as an easy layup for them.”
The Beeters were able to do just enough through the second half to keep the surging Knights from completing a comeback.
“We made big-time adjustments at halftime,” Robinson said. “We knew they were going to make runs at us because that is how they play. They are fast, they hustle, and they run their butts off. They came after us like we knew they would, so we just had to rotate some players and keep fresh, physically and mentally.”
Paced by 6-2 center and MSU-Northern recruit Makhayla Farmer, the Beeters outscored the Knights 25-22 in the second half. Chinook was able to overcome the North Star pressure with its size advantage, and Farmer got very comfortable inside the paint.
Farmer finished the contest with a game high 23 points, shooting 10-of-15 from the field, over 66 percent. The Knights didn’t have an answer for Farmer, as she helped seal the deal with seven points in the last three minutes of the game.
“Down the stretch,” Robinson said. “Farmer had a great game. That was our goal, to get inside, even with (Tavin) Schneider and (Alana) Smith. But we had to stick with Farmer, and North Star was switching defenders on her, but she maintained her composure and I just told her to play hard and smart.”
Farmer got help from Alana Smith who finished eight points and Dennis who finished with five points and five assists. Talya Johnson also finished with four points, while Hannah Weber, Madison McCann, Mikenda Seymour and Katelyn Neibauer all finished with two points each. The Beeters also shot over 51 percent from the field.
After a slow start, the Knights finished the game shooting just 28 percent from the field. They
were 6-of-11 from 3-point range and 12-of-42 from the field. Rettig led the way with 12 points, while Delainey Spicher added nine, and Graysen Spicher finished with five.
Both teams will continue to play this week at the Northern C divisional tournament in Great Falls.
As important as it is to play at a high level at the 9C tournament, it is even more crucial to do so at the Northern C. A state berth will be on the line for both the Beeters and Knights, and both squads know exactly what they have to do to continue on the road of success.
“We were disappointed in some things that we did tonight (Saturday),” Bye said. “I think it is important to look ahead because we only have a couple days before we are playing again, but we are excited for the next step. I think this environment was good for our kids. I think we played nervous in the championship, 21 turnovers is a lot for us. We have taken care of the ball a lot better than that. But I am hoping this experience will relax us and we play better next week.”
The Beeters will look to keep rolling, no matter the style of opponent they face.
“The best teams are there,” Robinson said. We just have to go down there and play each game one at a time and do what we do. I don’t coach that we have to concentrate on one thing. Whatever a defense is going to give us we have to take advantage of. The other night we had nine girls score, but tonight (Saturday) we focused on scoring inside because we had more size.”
Chinook and North Star move on to Northern C
Chinook 48, North Star 38 (1st)
Chinook 18 5 13 12 — 48
North Star 4 12 11 11 — 38
Chinook – Emily Dennis 5, Hannah Weber 2, Morgan McCann 2, Talya Johnson 4, Makhayla Farmer 23, Mikenda Seymour 2, Katelyn Neibauer 2, Alana Smith 8. Totals: 20-39 7-9 48.
North Star — Mackenzie Hansen 2, Delainey Spicher 9, Lisa Carlon 4, Grayson Spicher 5, Tylynn Re3ttig 12, Bettie Carlon 3, Sheridan O'Neil 1. Totals: 12-42 8-14 38.
Halftime: Chinook 23-16. 3-Pointers: North Star 6-11 (Delainey Spicher 3, Rettig 3), Chinook 1-5 (Dennis 1). Rebounds: North Star 23 (Rettig 6), Chinook 25 (Farmer 8). Fouls: North Star 14, Chinook 12. Fouled out: None.