By Harvey Brock
The Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds defeated the Blue Sky Eagles Monday night, 71-61, earning them second place at the District 9-C Boys Basketball Tournament and an invitation to the Northern C Tournament in Great Falls on Thursday.
The two teams were forced to play a challenge game Monday night to decide which would go to divisionals. Hays-Lodge Pole finished second in the tournament behind Rocky Boy last weekend in Havre; Blue Sky finished third. Both teams only had one loss and hadn't played each other.
Only the top two teams go to the divisional tournament.
The Thunderbirds and Eagles battled to a virtual stalemate in the first half, with both teams exchanging leads throughout. Seniors Mike Hutchinson and Brent Petrick, who combined for 20 first-half points, paced the Eagles. The Thunderbirds relied on the outside shooting of Shawn Shambo to stay close.
After trailing 31-30 at the half, the Thunderbirds controlled the third period, outscoring the Eagles, 22-8, to lead by 13. Senior guard James Flying combined with Shambo to score 25 second-half points, leading Hays-Lodge Pole.
The Eagles proved in the fourth quarter why they were the 9-C regular season champs, rufusing to quit. Led by juniors Jon Lipp and Keenan Toner, Blue Sky made several runs at the Thunderbirds.
Trailing by six with two minutes to go, the Eagles started to foul and forced the Thunderbirds to win the game at the free throw line. Hays-Lodge Pole senior guard Nathan Martin stepped up to make seven of his 11 attempts to put the game away for the Thunderbirds.
Blue Sky coach Darrin Hannum said he was sad to see the season end.
"I feel bad for our seniors. Brent (Petrick) was the only one who ever got the chance to play at the Northern C, and he hurt his knee and didn't get to play much," Hannum said.
Hannum also said he was impressed with the play of the Thunderbirds. "They got all the rebounds and loose balls, and we just made too many turnovers. We tried to pound the ball inside and get them into foul trouble, but it didn't work. Hays played well. We wish them and Rocky Boy the best of luck at the Northern C."
First-year Hays-Lodge Pole coach Shawn Backbone said he thought his seniors made the difference.
"All six of our seniors played well. They just played to the best of their abilities, and played together as a team," he said. "Nathan Martin played well for us. He is a hustler, and played a good overall game."
Coach Backbone said reaching the Northern C tournament has been a goal for the team all year long. "We haven't been to the tournament for eight years. At the start of the season we talked about reaching the tournament and playing the Winnett Rams. We have never played them and they are pretty close to us."
Hays-Lodge Pole and their seniors will get their wish. The Thunderbirds will play the 7-C champs, the Winnett Rams, Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at their opening game at the Northern C.
Hays-Lodge Pole 71, Blue Sky 61
12 18 22 19 71
14 17 8 22 61
Hays-Lodge Pole Doney 4 (FG made) 2-4 (FT made) 10 (points); Sh.Shambo 6 4-4 20; Flying 8 1-3 20; Small 3 2-6 8; Martin 2 6-9 10; Werk 0 0-0 0; Fox 1 0-0 3; Boushie 0 0-0 0; St.Shambo 0 0-0 0; Stiffarm 0 0-0 0; Messerly 0 0-0 0; Flansburg 0 0-0 0; Totals 24 15-26 71.
Blue Sky Lipp 5 2-3 15; Petrick 6 3-5 16; Hutchinson 5 2-5 13; Groth 0 0-0 0; Toner 5 0-0 12; McKinley 1 0-0 2; Wells 1 0-0 3; Jurenka 0 0-0 0; Haas 0 0-0 0; Alex 0 0-0 0; O'Neil 0 0-0 0; Aageson 0 0-0 0; Totals 23 7-13 61.
3-pointers: Sh.Shambo 4, Flying 3, Fox (HL); Lipp 3, Toner 2, Petrick, Hutchinson, Wells (BS).