GREAT FALLS — The Box Elder Bears have beat a lot of teams with a running clock in the second half this season. But it was at least a little bit of a surprise that they would have the clock running full time on the opening day of the Northern C boys divisional basketball tournament, one of the state’s toughest postseason events.
But a scorching first quarter led to the mercy rule taking effect in the third period as the Bears came out focused and determined from the onset.
The top-ranked Bears improved to 21-0 after bludgeoning the District 7C Winnett-Grass Range Rams Wednesday night at the Four Seasons Arena. The win pushed Box Elder into tonight’s semifinals where they’ll face 8C champion Belt (19-2) at 8:30.
The Bears were solely focused on the Rams, who face Chester/J-I this morning in a loser-out game, but they only needed the first quarter to put W-GR away for good.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Box Elder junior Clayton Morsette Jr., “It’s a great way to start out the tournament.”
Brandon The Boy’s two free throws at the 6:03 mark of the first broke a 4-4 tie and from there, the high-octane Bears went on a 13-0 run, and overall, outscored the Rams 21-4 in the final six minutes of the first. Things slowed down a bit in the second stanza offensively, but the Bears were every bit as good on the defensive end, holding the Rams to a scant five points in the second eight minutes.
But leading 37-13 at halftime, the Bears put on another offensive show in the third quarter, and by the time Morsette Jr., buried his third 3-pointer of the period, the Bears lead was 42 points and the mercy rule (running clock) was in effect the rest of the way.
Box Elder shot a scorching 51 percent from the field and forced 23 W-GR turnovers. The Bears also had a huge rebounding edge, beating the Rams 40-26 on the glass. Lonnie Plain Bull Jr. had 19 points and seven rebounds, while Morsette added 12 points and Randall Gardipee scored nine to help the Bears cruise into the semifinals where they hope to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss in that round.
The Bears played a dominant game and hopefully set the tone for the rest of the Northern C, a tournament Box Elder wants to win badly, and the Bears played like it Wednesday night.
“That’s what we want to do, play our style,” Bears head coach Jeremy MacDonald. “We want to push the tempo and play pressure defense. We executed our game plan about as perfectly as we could tonight. So I’m very pleased.”
But as pleased as MacDonald was with his team’s complete performance, he knows his team faces a big hurdle against the Huskies tonight.
“We played really well tonight,” MacDonald said. “Hopefully we can do it again. Tomorrow (Thursday) is a bigger game. But we’re ready.
“We know we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Morsette said. “Everybody wants to knock off the No. 1 team in the state. Belt’s a really good team but we’ll be ready.”
D-G-S 53, Chinook 46
The Chinook Sugarbeeters play hard and fight hard, and they had to in Wednesday’s opening game of the Northern C. The Beeters fell behind early against 7C champion Denton-Stanford-Geyser, and the Beeters battled down to the wire.
However, a valiant Chinook comeback fell short and the Bearcats prevailed 53-46. The loss dropped the Beeters into a loser-out game against 10C champion Simms this morning. The Tigers lost to Highwood Thursday afternoon.
“We fought hard. The kids never quit,” Chinook head coach Mike Seymour said. “But in this tournament, you have to come ready to play for a full 32 minutes, and we didn’t do that today. We just didn’t come out ready to play in the first half.”
The Bearcats jumped on Chinook, especially in the second quarter where they turned a 9-5 lead into a 22-13 edge with 1:41 left in the half. Jake Diemert hit a jumper with under a minute to go, but the Bearcats went into the half with a 24-15 advantage, as Chinook shot just 27 percent through the first 16 minutes.
The second half was a different story, and it featured a much different Beeter team.
Chinook cut the D-G-S lead to four points late in the third quarter, but two straight Bearcat buckets pushed the lead back to 35-27 with eight minutes left. From there however, Chinook battled to the bitter end. Jacob MacLean buried two 3-pointers, which cut the D-G-S lead down to 42-39. Then, Ian McIntosh got Chinook even closer. He stole an inbounds pass and laid it in, then seconds later, he nailed a trey to tie the game at 44-44 with 1:48 left to play. The trey capped a 10-1 Chinook run, and a shot by Zach Schellin kept the Beeters within one with :55 left. But from there, D-G-S made six key free throws, and the Beeters missed two golden opportunities for traditional 3-point plays that would have kept the game tied or given Chinook a late lead.
“I thought we started to finally play around the three minute mark of the third quarter,” Seymour said. “And the whole fourth quarter we played really well. But we didn’t capitalize on a couple of key plays at the end, and at this level, you have to finish those plays.”
MacLean and Diemert paced the Beeters (12-9) with nine points each, but MacLean fouled out in the fourth quarter, which took one of Chinook’s deadliest 3-point shooters out of the contest down the stretch. Lane Seymour added eight points and Zach Molyneaux finished with six. Chinook finished the game shooting 43 percent and out-rebounded the Bearcats (19-2) 21-20. But D-G-S made one more three than the Beeters and were more efficient from the foul line.
“We came here to win this game,” Seymour said. “And we had opportunites to do that today. But we just didn’t finish.
“We won’t hang our heads though,” he continued. “I told the kids I guess they came here and wanted to play a lot of basketball because now to keep going, we have a lot of games in front of us. So we’ll be ready to play at 8 a.m.”
Belt 48, C/J-I 34
The Chester/J-I Hawks had to win three straight games at last week’s District 10C tournament just to get to Wednesday’s opening round of the Northern C boys divisional tournament. But the Hawk’s win streak got stymied Wednesday night at the Four Seasons Arena.
The 8C champion Belt Huskies overcame a fast start by the Hawks and wound up winning 48-34, advancing to tonight’s semifinal against the Bears. C/J-I (17-5) dropped into this morning’s loser-out game against 7C Winnett-Grass Range.
The Huskies came in as a heavy favorite to beat the Hawks, but C/J-I had other ideas early on. Tim Stokes and Sion Norick combined for the first seven points of the game as the Hawks caught the Huskies off guard early on. But Belt lives by the 3-pointer and two bombs by Parker McCafferty helped Belt push in front 12-11 after the first eight minutes. But Stokes and Justin May hit shots in the second quarter to keep things tight, as Belt took just a 20-19 lead into the break.
“We were able to push the tempo early and kind of use Belt’s game against them,” C/J-I head coach Spencer Sartori said. “That allowed us to keep it close in the first half. But in the second half they started finding holes in our defense, and they have amazing shooters, and when they get open three’s they knock them down. And they were knocking them down in the second half.”
Belt did indeed knock down big shots in the final 16 minutes. Holden Maki and Koltin Haugrose each hit two triples in the third quarter and Belt led by 10 with just eight minutes to play. From there, the Huskies slowed things down, while also playing great defense, and were able to put the Hawks away in the final stanza.
“Holden Maki and Koltin Haugrose are amazing shooters and they got hot in the second half,” Sartori said. “That was a big difference. And I think their man defense was the best we’ve seen all year, and they defended us really well in the second half.”
The Hawks were held in check in the final two quarters, scoring just 15 points, and overall the Hawks shot just 31 percent from the field. Stokes paced the Hawks with 11 points and Justin May added nine, but C/J-I didn’t make a 3-pointer after halftime, while the Huskies hit six and got 15 points from Haugrose.
Tonight’s semifinals start with the Highwood/D-G-S game at 7 p.m. while Box Elder faces the Huskies at 8:30. The winner’s will meet in Friday night’s championship game at 8:30 p.m.
Denton-Stanford-Geyser 53, Chinook 48
Chinook 5 11 12 21 – 53
DGS 9 15 11 18 – 48
Chinook – Lane Seymour 7, Ian McIntosh 7, Zach Molyneaux 9, Jacob MacLean 9, Cody McCracken 4, Zach Schellin 4, Jake Diemert 8. Totals 17 8-12.
Denton-Geyser-Stanford – Connor Bokma 16, Chase Hill 8, Kade Woodhall 2, Ty Martin 11, Kendall Carpenter 12, Kash Perry 4. Totals: 18 17-23.
3-pointers: McIntosh, MacLean 3. Fouls: Chinook 13, DGS 12. Fouled out: MacLean. Technical fouls: none.
Belt 48, Chester/J-I 34
C/J-I 11 8 5 10 – 34
Belt 12 8 14 14 – 48
C/J-I – Brandon Theel 1, Cody Ramberg 5, Justin May 9, Sion Norick 4, Steven May 2, Tim Stokes 11, Tory Harmon 2. Totals: 11 10-13.
Belt – Harry Green 2, Holden Maki 8, Koltin Haugrose 14, Matt Metrione 5, Parker McCafferty 12, Paxton Maki 4, Tristan Cummings 2. Totals: 16 10-14.
3-pointers: May, Stokes, H. Maki 2, Haugrose 3, McCafferty. Fouls: CJI 14, Belt 14. Fouled out: none.
Box Elder's Randall Gardipee, middle, flies in for a shot during Wednesday night's Northern C boys game between the Bears and Winnett-Grass Range in Great Falls. Box Elder plays Belt in the semifinals tonight at 8:30.
Box Elder 77, Winnett-Grass Range 29
Box Elder 25 12 26 14 – 77
WGR 8 5 8 8 – 29
Box Elder – Brandon The Boy 2, Chris LaMere 5, Clayton Morsette Jr. 12, Jacob Jones 7, Jerrod Four Colors 3, Lonnie Plain Bull Jr. 19, Quinn Baker 8, Randall Gardipee 9, Ryan Gardipee 4, Slayte Duran 2, Thomas Parisian 4, William Ketchum 2. Totals: 32 9-11.
WGR – Cale McCarthy 8, Kaden Keith 2, Logan Slugett 3, Roman Wollman 12, Tucker Bevis 4. Totals: 12 5-6.
3-pointers: Morsette 2, Jones, Plain Bull. Fouls: Box Elder 5, WGR 7. Fouled out: none.