By Rober Everingham
GREAT FALLS -- They didn't make it last year, but this year the Big Sandy Lady Pioneers will be taking their perfect 23-0 record into the Adams Center in Missoula in two weeks for the State Class C tournament.
The Pioneers downed Denton 75-63 in the Northern C championship Saturday at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls.
Big Sandy downed Belt on Friday night in semifinal action 59-48 to advance to the championship game.
Big Sandy jumped out to a 21-15 lead Saturday. Pioneer Sasha Ritter scored 19 points in the first quarter. Big Sandy then extended their lead to 39-30 at the half.
The Pioneers kept the pressure on in the third quarter, as they outscored Denton 18-15. Big Sandy cruised through the fourth quarter on its way to the divisional crown.
Ritter finished with 34 points to lead the Pioneers. Celeste Darlington finished with 15 for Big Sandy.
"We didn't get one last year, we were overdue," said Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said about the divisional title.
Lackner said his bench players really came through in the game, after having to bench three starters in the second quarter due to early foul trouble.
"It was our depth that won the game," Lackner said.
The Pioneers are now ready for the state tournament. Lackner said his team will practice everyday expect Thanksgiving and Sunday and the tournament will come very quickly.
Big Sandy opens its bid for a state title at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2, against West Yellowstone. Lackner said all he knows about West Yellowstone is that it has a couple of good players and is a quick team.
Even with state hosting the best eight teams, Lackner said, he doesn't expect to see any stiffer competition than what he saw at divisional.
"You can't win state unless you're there," Lackner said.
The Chester Coyotes came in the No. 1 seed from 10-C but fell Friday night to Denton. The Coyotes rebounded and came back to win the consolation game over Belt 78-53. With Denton in second place, Chester is unable to challenge.
In the consolation game, Chester was up by the margin of 16-14 at the end of one. In the second quarter, the Coyotes exploded for 23 points, holding the Huskies to just 12, to take a 39-26 halftime lead.
Chester outscored Belt 20-16 in the third quarter and 19-11 in the fourth.
Michelle Van Dyke led the way for the Coyotes with 21 points while Carlane Jensen had 12 points.
The Coyotes made it to the consolation final by beating Winifred 73-55 on Saturday morning.
Chester led 19-18 after one quarter before racing out to a 41-28 halftime lead. Winifred had a slight scoring edge in the third, but Chester kept the pressure on in the fourth to get the win.
Jamie Graham led the Coyotes with 17 points.