GREAT FALLS — Youth and inexperience can sometimes be a detriment when playing on a stage as big as the Northern C boys basketball tournament. But don’t tell that to the Box Elder Bears.
In their first Northern C game in three years, the Bears came out and took it to the District 10C Simms Tiger Thursday night at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. Despite playing just two seniors, and starting a freshman point guard, the Bears moved into today’s Northern C semifinals by beating the Tigers 68-61. Box Elder (18-3) will now face top-ranked Roy-Winifred (21-0) for a berth in Saturday night’s championship game.
“We’re very happy to just get a win,” Box Elder coach Jeremy MacDonald said. “At this point in the season, the goal is to advance to the next game. Simms played very well tonight. They shot the ball very well. They were effective against our press. So we had to really step up our game and play well, and for the most part, I thought we did that tonight.”
Simms did force the Bears into a relatively close game throughout. The two teams traded baskets for much of the first quarter, and wound up knotted up at 17-17. The Bears did manage to slip away some in the second after an 8-0 run, mostly on Lonnie Plain Bull Jr. and Randall Gardipee baskets in the interior. And after 16 minutes of their first Northern C tilt, the Bears were ahead 34-29.
“We knew Simms would come into this game ready,” Gardipee, who scored a game-high 21 points said. “They upset a couple of teams in the 10C, so we knew we had to step it up against them. Everybody in this tournament is tough, no one will lay down for us. So we had to be ready tonight.”
Simms really pushed the Bears in the third quarter, and took the lead on 3-pointers from Zeb and Jake Bloom. But it wasn’t enough as Box Elder’s high-octane offense took control late in the third. Box Elder finished the period with a layup by Brandon The Boy, and wound up carrying a 14-2 run into the fourth period. Later, a three by Clayton Morsette pushed Box Elder’s lead to 11 points with 2:51 left, and The Boy capped a 9-0 run which put the Bears up by 13 points with under two to go. And that was enough of a cushion to hold off the upstart Tigers.
The Bears made 5-of-12 three’s and shot 48 percent for the game. Plain Bull and Morsette added 12 points each to Gardipee’s 21 and eight rebounds. The Tigers (9-12) got 21 points and nine rebounds from Zeb Bloom in the loss. Simms faces Great Falls Central this morning in loser-out action.
And the 9C champion Bears, they are moving on, as was MacDonald’s goal. He says the Bears played well Thursday night, but will have to play even better against the Outlaws this afternoon.
“I thought tonight we moved the ball well, we really shared it well and I’m very pleased with our effort,” MacDonald said. “We are a team you can’t just key on one of our guys. We have good balance. But we also have some things we need to clean up. They (Outlaws) are one of the best team’s in the state, they are undefeated and they are favored to win this tournament. So this will be the first time in a while we’re the underdog. But we’re fine with that role. We know we just have to come out well prepared and play as well as we can.”
“We know we have to step it up again,” Gardipee added. “Every team will be ready for us at this point in the season. So we just have to come out and be ready to play again tomorrow night.”
In other first-round action Thursday, the Outlaws took down GFC and Highwood battled past Denton. Highwood will face Dutton-Brady today at 4 in the first semifinal, while the Bears and Outlaws will meet at 5:30.
Pioneers nudged at the end
The Big Sandy Pioneers are no strangers to close games. At last week’s District 9C tournament, the Pioneers lost the District 9C championship game in triple overtime, then came back to beat Chinook by two points in Monday’s 9C challenge game.
Just three days later, the Pioneers found themselves locked in another tight battle, this time with the Dutton-Brady Diamondbacks in the opening game of the 2013 Northern C boys basketball tournament.
But unlike on Monday night, when the Pioneers survived a couple of missed shots by Chinook down the stretch, they couldn’t find the same fate against the 10C champion Diamondbacks. Dutton-Brady’s Justin Fritz scored on a put-back with :12 remaining, which ultimately lifted the D-Backs to a 63-61 win over the Pioneers Thursday afternoon at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.
Big Sandy had two chances to answer in the final seconds but couldn’t get a game-tying shot to drop, which means the Pioneers will have to win three games over the next two days in order to still have a shot at reaching the Class C state tournament.
“We wanted the last play to go inside,” Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said of his team’s last shot attempt with four seconds to go. “But they (D-Backs) defended it well. We just didn’t get the look we wanted.”
For much of the game, the Pioneers, who also lost to Dutton-Brady by one point way back in December, did get the looks they wanted. Jessey Bailey hit two 3-pointers and Jerry Hanson hit another as Big Sandy raced out to a 19-14 first-quarter lead. The second quarter was just as fast-paced as the Pioneers went inside to Kaden Beck, and eventually led 33-27 at halftime.
However, the Diamondbacks shot a stellar 58 percent in the second half, as Matthew Hitchcock and Brody Dahlman combined for three triples, giving the D-Backs a two-point lead with eight minutes to go. Then in the fourth, Dutton-Brady went up by as much as five points before Hanson knocked in a three and Zac Leader scored six straight points, which ultimately led to the Pioneers leading 60-59 with 1:23 to play. The D-Backs went ahead on a Tiegan Johnson layup with :39 left, but Leader made a free throw to tie it up at 61-61 with :27 to play. The backbreaker then came when Fritz found himself wide open under the basket after a teammate missed a game-winning shot. Fritz put it back in and the Pioneers couldn’t answer in the final :12.
“We played pretty well at times,” Lackner said. “It was a good game. But we could have been better defensively. We didn’t rebound well enough and we didn’t contest enough shots in the second half.”
Trevor Lackner scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace the Pioneers (14-8). Hanson hit three treys and scored 15, while Leader added 11 and Beck had 10 boards. Dutton-Brady (19-2) got 19 points by Johnson, while the D-Backs advanced to this afternoon’s semifinal against 8C champion Highwood. The Mountaineers thrashed Denton Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Big Sandy dropped into loser-out action this morning against Denton.
“This tournament isn’t over for us,” Lackner said. “We just have to come back and do the best we can and take it as far as we can.”
Dutton-Brady 63, Big Sandy 61
Big Sandy 19 14 11 17 – 61
Dutton-Brady 14 13 19 17 – 63
Big Sandy – Jerry Hanson 15, Trevor Lackner 18, Kaden Beck 8, Zac Leader 11, Jessey Bailey 8. Totals: 24-59 7-14 61.
Dutton-Brady – Trent Duty 4, Austin Shorle 4, Matthew Hitchcock 11, Tiegan Johnson 19, Brody Dahlman 15, Braxton Hasner 4. Totals: 25-58 8-11 63.
Halftime: Big Sandy 33-27. 3-pointers: Big Sandy 6-20 (Hanson 3, Bailey 2, Lackner 1), Dutton-Brady 5-15 (Hitchcock 2, Johnson 1, Dahlman 2). Rebounds: Big Sandy 34 (Lackner 11), Dutton-Brady 35 (Fritz 12). Fouls: Big Sandy 11, Dutton-Brady 11. Fouled out: None.
Box Elder 68. Simms 61
Box Elder 17 17 21 13 – 68
Simms 17 12 17 15 – 61
Box Elder – Brandon The Boy 9, Clayton Morsette Jr. 12, Randall Gardipee 21, Thomas Parisian 8, Jacob Burns 2, Kyle Fiddler 4, Lonnie Plain Bull Jr. 12. Totals: 29-52 7-10 68.
Simms – Cody Crumley 2, Eric Pschnernig 7, Logan Rushton 3, Jace Beaver 11, Zeb Bloom 21, Jake Bloom 5, Josh Kersch 12. Totals: 26-54 4-8 61.
Halftime: Box Elder 34-29. 3-pointers: Box Elder 3-9 (The Boy 1, Morsette 2), Simms 5-12 (Pschnernig 1, Rushton 1, Beaver 1, Z. Bloom 1, J. Bloom 1). Rebounds: Box Elder 29 (Gardipee 8), Simms 22 (Z. Bloom 9). Fouls: Box Elder 10, Simms 11. Fouled out: None.