By Harvey Brock
The Rocky Boy Northern Stars ended their season by pounding the Judith Gap Tigers Saturday night in Great Falls 85-50. The impressive victory left the Northern Stars and their fans wondering what might have been.
Rocky Boy battled back from a tourney-opening loss to defending state champion Heart Butte to finish third and just miss a trip to state.
Rocky Boy followed its opening loss with an overtime 68-66 win over Geyser Friday. The Northern Stars saved their best play for Saturday, routing a good Sunburst team in the morning 82-65, before dismantling Judith Gap in the consolation game.
Rocky Boy seniors Marcus Standing Rock and Mike Morsette combined for 14 first-quarter points as the Northern Stars led at the end of the period. Fellow senior Justin Four Colors came off the bench to score six points in the second period as Rocky Boy stretched its lead to 10 at the half.
Trailing 42-32 at the half, Judith Gap tried to mount a second-half rally in the third period. The Tigers' Mike Machler and Cedric Snelling combined to score 13 third- period points, but still trailed by 10 at the end of the period 59-49.
Rocky Boy played a near perfect fourth period, outscoring Judith Gap 26-1. Everyone on the Northern Stars scored in the game, with Morsette and Standing Rock combining for 30 in the victory.
Rocky Boy coach Tim Henry knew pressure was the key. "We came out in a full-court press and if they got by the press, we played hard half-court defense. We ran our offensive sets well."
Coach Henry was proud of his team's effort Saturday. "We stepped up our defensive effort after the loss Thursday to Heart Butte. I was really proud of the way the kids played after Thursday. We played team ball on Saturday; all of our kids contributed. We're a very good team when we play team ball. I'm really proud of this team. I hope we get a chance at a challenge game"
Standing Rock, who had been on crutches following an injury during the morning game, also thought teamwork was the key. "Nobody can beat us when we play like a team."
Standing Rock and his team needed a Heart Butte win in the finals for a chance to play a challenge game against Hays-Lodge Pole for a berth at state. Hays-Lodge Pole ended those chances with an 86-73 thumping of Heart Butte.