Bears heavily favored, while Chinook and C/J-I have high hopes as Northern C gets underway today
Hi-Line teams have had their share of dominance when it comes to the Northern C boys divisional basketball tournament. And the 2014 Northern C might just see a local squad return to the throne in the Four Seasons Arena.
Box Elder, Chinook and Chester/J-I will all begin play in the Northern C divisional today at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls, joining District 8C stalwarts Denton-Stanford-Geyser and Winnett-Grass Range, 8C powers Belt and Highwood and 10C champion Simms.
“The Northern C is a tough tournament,” Jeremy MacDonald, the head coach of the top-ranked and undefeated Box Elder Bears said. “There isn’t one team in that tournament that you can ever overlook. We’ve got to bring our A-game.”
The Bears’ (19-0) A-game is really good, and if they have it this week in Great Falls, they’ll be tough to beat. Box Elder just capped off a perfect 9C season with the district championship Saturday night in Havre. In competition against 9C teams, the Bears won every game this season by double figures, and heading into the Northern C, their best might still be ahead of them.
One of the keys to Box Elder’s chances of capturing the Northern C title and moving on to state, something the Bears fell short of doing a season ago, will be their depth. Box Elder boasts a great starting lineup in Randall Gardipee, Lonnie Plain Bull Jr., Clayton Morsette Jr., Thomas Parisian and Brandon The Boy. But MacDonald can also go deep into his bench with the likes of Jerrod Four Colors, Jacob Jones, Chris Lamere and Ryan Gardipee, and the Bears won’t miss a beat.
But as good as the Bears are, averaging nearly 80 points per game and playing a swarming full-court defense, MacDonald says they’ll have to be even better to get past a loaded Northern C field. Box Elder squares off against an upset-minded Winnett-Grass Range (8-12) team tonight at 7:30 in the first round. The Rams pulled an upset in the 7C semifinals and will look to do the same to Box Elder tonight.
“We checked a big goal off our list winning the district championship,” MacDonald said. “Now we’re focused on the quarterfinal game at divisionals. We have to play better. I think we can play better. So now our new goal is that quarterfinal game on Wednesday. We can’t look any farther than that. One game at a time.”
If the Bears take care of business tonight, they’ll face either 8C champion Belt (19-2) or 10C runner-up C/J-I in Thursday night’s semifinals. The Hawks (17-4) face the Huskies tonight at 6 after taking the hard road to Great Falls, a place they haven’t been in a few years. C/J-I had to win three straight games at the 10C tourney in Conrad just to get to the Northern C. The Hawks were upset by Simms in the semifinals Friday, but rallied, and wound up beating Power in a challenge game Monday night.
The Hawks bring a talented and athletic team to tonight’s game against the Huskies, who knocked off defending 8C champion Highwood in the championship game last week. Tim Stokes, Justin May, Steven May, Dell Harmon and Sion Norick have all paced the Hawks at one point this season, while defensively, C/J-I might be as good as any team in the field. But they’ll have to be extra good in order to get past the Huskies, who are a young and up-and-coming squad. Parker McCafferty and Holden Maki are a tough 1-2 scoring punch for the Huskies, but like C/J-I, they have talent and athleticism throughout the lineup.
Meanwhile, Chinook (12-8) is back in the Northern C after a few years of not quite getting there, and the Sugarbeeters will be a team no one wants to play this week. They are another athletic and physical team in what should be a very physical tournament. The Beeters have also gained valuable experience having played Box Elder three times and also having faced C/J-I twice as part of a tough nonconference schedule.
Chinook also has dynamic scorers in Lane Seymour and Zach Molyneaux, who can both play inside and light it up from the perimeter. Add in the play of Ian McIntosh, Jacob MacLean and Jake Diemert, and the Beeters will be a tough matchup for 7C champion Denton-Stanford-Geyser (18-2) in the opening round this afternoon. The Trojans have one of the top scorers in Class C in Ty Martin.
“I’m really proud of how far this team has come this season,” Chinook head coach Mike Seymour said. “They’ve really progressed. Advancing to divisionals was a big goal, but now we have a new goal, and that’s to go there and advance to the state tournament.”
The winner of the Chinook/D-G-S matchup will face either 10C champion Simms (16-5) or 8C runner-up Highwood (18-3) in the semifinals Thursday night. The Tigers upset C/J-I 53-52 in the 10C semis, then beat Power in the championship game to punch their ticket to the Northern C. Zeb Bloom is a force for the Tigers, but he and his team will have their hands full with the Mountaineers, who have a veteran squad with Northern C experience. Highwood lost a heartbreaker to Big Sandy in a challenge game a season ago, after reaching the championship game against Roy-Winifred. Darren and Jacob Malek along with Luke Davison, pace the Mountaineers, who are one of the biggest teams in the field. The Tigers and Mountaineers meet today at 2:30 p.m.
The 2014 Northern C runs through Friday night’s championship game which is slated for 8:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons Arena. The consolation game is set for 7 p.m. and if a challenge game is needed, it will be played on Saturday at 5 p.m. The top two teams from the tournament move on to the Class C state tourney next weekend in Butte.