By Kim Staudinger
Three Havre-area teams opened their boys' basketball season at the Big Sandy tournament Friday and Saturday as Turner, KG and Big Sandy all hoped to win some non-conference games to start the season off on the right foot.
The Turner Tornadoes were the only team who played a conference game, taking on Judith Gap on Friday. The Tornadoes surprised a few, upsetting Judith Gap 83-65. Judith Gap is favored by many to win the District 7C title, but Turner gave them a challenge from the beginning.
The Tornadoes led by only three after the first quarter, but outscored the Tigers 22-12 in the second to take a 39-26 lead into the half.
Judith Gap cut the lead to 53-45 after the third, but faltered in the final eight minutes to suffer an 18-point loss.
Branden Simons led all scorers with 26 points for Turner, followed by Michael Van Voast with 23. Robert Van Voast added 14 points in the win for the Tornadoes.
Cedrie Snelling scored 23 points to lead the way for the Tigers, Dustin Gaugler added 12.
Big Sandy's head coach Roy Lackner said after the tournament that he was impressed with the way Turner played and that teams need to be prepared to play them, noting "they are playing so well," and that they "hustled hard the whole game."
Turner fell just short in its second game, falling in overtime to Winifred 56-51.
Turner bounced back from a 10-point deficit after three quarters of play to send the game into overtime, but only scored two points as the Red Raiders scored seven.
Branden Simons once again led the way for Turner with 14 points. Michael Van Voast added 10 and Robert Van Voast eight.
Darrell Dyer scored 17 for Winifred, followed by Steve Foran with 12 and Liam Robbins with 11.
The Big Sandy Pioneers came out of their own tournament with an undefeated record, defeating Winifred Friday 71-47 and Highwood Saturday 76-45.
Despite being very young, six sophomores and only one junior see playing time for Coach Lackner, the Pioneers appeared to dominate.
"It was a team effort," Lackner said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but we're getting there."
In Big Sandy's first game against Winifred, the game was close until the fourth quarter. Big Sandy led 18-14 after the first quarter and 28-25 at the half. The lead increased to 52-43 after the third quarter, but was put out of reach as the Red Raiders only scored four points in the final eight minutes of play.
Chris Yirsa led the even scoring for the Pioneers with 20 points. Three other Pioneer players scored in double figures Jay Jamieson (15), Gage Brumwell (15) and Mason Ophus (14). Skylar Pearson added five points and Adam Jespersen two in the win.
Dirk Thompson led Winifred with 15 points, followed by Liam Robbins with 10. Boone Shirey and Steve Foran each added eight.
Big Sandy's next game Saturday was not nearly as close as the Pioneers came away with a 76-45 victory over Highwood.
The Pioneers took a commanding 19-4 lead after the first quarter and led 42-19 at the half. The lead increased to 65-31 after three quarters of play.
Gage Brumwell led all scorers with 32 points, followed by 16 from Jay Jamieson and 13 for Mason Ophus. Chris Yirsa added seven, Adam Jesperson six and Skylar Pearson two.
Charlie Knudson scored 16 for Highwood, followed by C.J. Blessum with 11.
The Kremlin-Gildford KouGars fell on some hard luck this last weekend, falling in both of their games.
Highwood took advantage of KG's inexperience Friday night to pull out the 76-42 win. The Mountaineers led 28-7 after the first quarter and 48-18 at the half. The score was much more even in the second half as Highwood only outscored the KouGars 28-24.
Weston Birkeland led all scorers for the Mountaineers with 19 points, followed by C.J. Blessum with 16 and Charlie Knudson with 14. Ty Pasha added nine points and Mike Lee added eight.
Casey Crites led the KouGars with 11 points, followed by Thomas Marshall with nine, Luke Antonich with six and Kyle Donoven with five. Richie Melby and Tyler Kapperud each scored four points and Darby Donoven two and Dan Kloppenburg with one.
KG bounced back to nearly defeat Judith Gap Saturday, before giving up 20 points in the fourth quarter to lose 66-49.
Lackner said the KouGars simply opened Friday night with inexperience, but that they looked much better the second night and were competitive right until the end.
"Don't let the first game be an indicator of how they'll be," he said. "They have so much physical talent. They'll be tough."
Four players scored in double figures for the KouGars, led by three with 11 points Thomas Marshall, Richie Melby and Tyler Kapperud. Casey Crites added 10 in the game. Luke Antonich accounted for the remaining KouGar points with six.
Cedric Snelling led the Tigers with 24 points and Dustin Gaugler added 12. Levi Heller followed with nine and Jim Page with eight.