District 9C girls tourney up for grabs
There's always a few surprises when it comes to the District 9C girls basketball tournament. But as area teams get set to invade Havre for the 2010 9C girls tournament this week, things have never been more wide open. Big Sandy has had a stranglehold on the 9C girls championship for the better of a decade, and when the Pioneers weren't on top, it was the Rocky Boy Morning Stars. But Big Sandy comes into this week's tournament at the Havre High gymnasium as the No. 3 seed, something a little unfamiliar to the Pioneers, and Rocky Boy has moved on to the Class B ranks. So when things culminate with the championship game on Saturday night, the 9C might have a whole new look. "I think the district is wide open," veteran North Star head coach Brian Campbell said. "Box Elder is playing really well right now. I feel good about our chances of advancing. Big Sandy understands what it takes to do well at this tournament. Chinook and Hays-Lodge Pole have both played well against teams that are the favorites in our district." Wide open might be an understatement. Campbell's Knights are the top seed this week in Havre after tying Box Elder for the regular season 9C title. North Star made it to the championship game a year ago and finally advanced to the Northern C tournament. The Knights (6-2, 11-7) came back strong this season with the likes of Britnee Dyrland, Bridjour Han and Sarah Helmbrecht and are poised to take the step and hoist the 9C trophy on Saturday night. "I have been encouraged by the way our team is rounding out the season," Campbell said. "We have been executing our gameplans pretty well and seem to be progressing heading into the tournament. The keys for my team are to limit our mental mistakes, play with confidence, defend, and rebound." Box Elder (6-2, 13-5) has also been playing well and also has recent 9C success to draw on. The Bears made it to the Northern C two years ago and came within a game of doing so again last season. Although young by grade, the Bears are tournament tested, and have the firepower to play with anybody. The quartet of Rylin Burns, Kaycee Henry, Aricka Wolfcheif and Megan Parker all have plenty of 9C experience, making Box Elder another team which could be crowned champion at the end of the week. North Star and Box Elder will have byes into Thursday's semifinals. The Knights will play the winner of Wednesday's first-round game between Chinook and Hays-Lodge Pole. That game is set for 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Chinook comes into the tournament as a wildcard. The Sugarbeeters (3-5, 7-10) finished fourth in the regular season, and have never advanced to the Northern C. However, the Beeters have played well against the top teams in the conference all season long, but have been inconsistent at times as well. Still, Chinook is one of the most athletic teams in the tournament. The Beeters are led by forwards Alyssa Brown and Kayla Hanson, and sophomore Taryn Norby is a capable player from any spot on the floor. Chinook's first-round opponent. The Thunderbirds (0-8,1-16), may have only won once all season long, but they could have easily been 8-8. HLP played all of the 9C teams close this season, making them one of the most dangerous teams in the field this week. The T-Birds have plenty of offense with Lexi Kirkaldie and Monique Denny, and if they can limit mistakes, turnovers and fouls, an upset somewhere in the tournament is highly possible. Wednesday's other first-round game will feature the Pioneers taking on Turner at 6:30 p.m with the winner moving on to face Box Elder in the semifinals Thursday night. Big Sandy (5-3, 9-7) lost four starters from last year's championship team and is under the direction of first-year head coach Michelle Beck. But despite an up-and-down season, the Pioneers are still the defending champions and will be until somebody takes the title away from them. Big Sandy has a premier center in sophomore Hannah Williams, as well as an excellent all-around player in Amber Amsbaugh. Suzy Faber has also been dominant at times, and no matter their record, as always, the Pioneers are tournament savvy and still stand two wins away from yet another 9C championship. Turner, Big Sandy's first-round opponent, is an interesting story. The Tornadoes have not played a varsity schedule for two seasons and did not compete in last year's postseason. However, the decision was made this week for the Tornadoes to compete at the district tournament, so little will be known about the Tornadoes until they take the floor. Still, it's good to have the green machine back in the 9C field. Friday's action will all be loser-out action. The girls consolation game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday and the championship game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The top two teams from the 9C advance to next week's Northern C Divisional tournament in Great Falls. The 2010 9C girls district tournament gets underway at 1 p.m. Wednesday and runs through Saturday night at the Havre High gymnasium.