Northern C boys get started today
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It was just two days ago that the District 9C boys basketball tournament wrapped up with Chinook winning a challenge game. Now, boys teams from all over North central Montana will get back on the floor when the Northern C boys basketball tournament begins this afternoon at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. A pair of 9C teams will be in action today, starting with 9C champion Big Sandy (17-3) taking on 10C runner-up Power (16- 5) at 2:30 p.m. Chinook (15-6) will start tonight's session when the Sugarbeeters face 10C champion Dutton-Brady at 6. Year in and year out, the Northern C is perhaps the most competitive basketball tournament in Class C, but this season, a few things will be different in Great Falls. Winifred and Rocky Boy have combined to win the last four Northern C titles, but the Stars are playing in Glasgow at the Northern B Divisional this week, so as the defending champion, there will be a new Northern C championship crowned when the tournament ends on Friday night. There will also be one less Northern C team headed to state next week in Billings. For the past three seasons, the Northern C has sent three teams to the state tournament because it had the most schools of any of the four Class C divisions. But in the interest of fairness, Class C has moved the third team to another division. And the third team the last two years out of the Northern C has been the Pioneers, this year's 9C champion. But Big Sandy has championship aspirations again this week. Center Blake Brumwell and Corbin Pearson, along with starting forward Taylor Ophus, have all three been part of four straight divisional tournament teams, and they want to make it four straight state tournament teams. However, the Pioneers' road will be daunting, starting with Power today. Big Sandy beat Power in the season-opening game for both teams, but the Pirates are tournament tested, having come within a game of making the state tournament last season. The Pirates have three posts at 6-4 with Travis and Gus Somerfeld and Hayden Vick, so Big Sandy won't have the size advantage it normally enjoys. The winner of today's game will likely play undefeated Winifred. The Red Raiders (20-0) are unbeaten and are no strangers to Northern C titles. Ranked No. 1 in Class C, Winifred opens tournament play today against 8C runner-up Centerville (16-4) at 1. Two of Big Sandy's losses this season have come at the hands of the Red Raiders. "We beat Power this season, but they have a really good team," Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner said. "And Winifred we played to the wire twice. Our game plan this week is Looking to stay inside out, but looking to run more. Pearson in the open floor is dangerous. Utilize that and set the pace. " Tonight's session seems to be a more wide open side of the bracket which favors this upstart Sugarbeeters. Chinook plays the Diamondbacks tonight after having played four games in three days at the 9C tournament, including beating North Star 43-41 in Monday night's challenge game. But the Beeters have a veteran club led by senior Dylan MacLean, one of the most dangerous shooters in all of Class C basketball. Chris Haider has also come on in the postseason, and head coach Chris Daniels also relies heavily on starters Taylor Erskine and Lane Schmitt for scoring and Matt Molyneaux for an inside presence. But the road to state will be tough for Chinook, which is playing in the divisional tournament for the first time since the Beeters dropped to Class B five years ago. A win tonight would put Chinook in the semifinals where the Beeters would face either 8C champion Belt (18-2) or 7C runner-up Denton (15-6). Those two teams square off in tonight's finale at 7:30 p.m. But to get to the second round, Chinook will have to take out the 10C champ tonight. The Diamondbacks have size and athleticism and are paced by 6-5 Jonas Fischer in the middle. But Chinook has it no different than any of the other teams in the field this week in Great Falls. With no team having more than six losses, this week's Northern C tourney could be one of the most competitive ever. Especially, with berths on the state tournament on the line. "They are all good teams at this point in the season," Lackner said. "You must go to divisionals and play well. If you can get out of this division you can play in a state championship." The Northern C boys tournament will run through Friday night's championship game.