After a rare down season, the Rocky Boy boys basketball team is back in the hunt for Class B supremacy.
The Stars (20-2) are headed to the Northern B Divisional tournament this week in Cut Bank, and they are certainly one of the teams to beat.
After a strong regular season, which saw the Stars run away with the District 1B regular season title, as well as pull off a big win over Malta back in January, Rocky Boy pressed on at the 1B tourney in Conrad. The Stars won two games, and were barely threatened on their way to their third 1B title since moving up to Class B five years ago.
But things get infinitely more difficult for first-year head coach Derek Small’s club this week. The Northern B is widely considered the toughest of all the Class B Divisional tournaments, and with only three state tourney berths on the line this weekend in Cut Bank, it’s really a tournament of survival.
Rocky Boy certainly has the firepower to advance. The Stars are a high-scoring offensive team led by the likes of Junior Day Child and Desmond Parker, both of whom averaged over 15 points a game at the 1B in Conrad. Bubby Gopher is also an outstanding point guard, while Darien Lafromboise stands 6-4 and is an imposing presence for the Stars on both ends of the floor.
Still, as good as Rocky Boy is, this week will be its biggest challenge to date.
Several of the top teams in Class B will be in Cut Bank this week, including District 2B and defending state champion Malta. The Stars split with the Mustangs during the regular season. Choteau is also a force to be reckoned with this week, while Conrad and Wolf Point could be dark-horse teams, with enough talent to pull off an upset or two.
The Stars are first up in the tournament as they open with the Scotties Thursday at 1 p.m.. Glasgow is the No. 4 seed from the 2B and has had an up-and-down year. If Rocky Boy gets past the Scotties, the Stars will face either Conrad or Wolf Point in the semifinals. The game between the Wolves and Cowboys should be a close one. On the other side of the bracket, the Mustangs open with Fairfield, the No. 4 seed out of the 1B, while Choteau, the No. 2 seed out of the 1B battles the No. 3 seed out of the 2B in Plentywood.
The Northern B tournament will run through Saturday night, with the winner of the third-place game, joining the two teams in the championship tilt at next week’s Class B state tournament in Bozeman. All of the action this weekend takes place at the Willie DeGroot Gymnasium in Cut Bank.