Chinook favored, but 9C boys is wide open


Tournament time is here, and with the 9C looking to be more competitive than it has been in years, this weekend in Havre should live up to the high standard of competition it brings year every season.

Tonight at the Havre High gymnasium, the No. 1 Chinook Sugarbeeters (14-4), No. 2 Big Sandy Pioneers (7-11), No. 3 North Star Knights (7-10), No. 4 Hays-Lodge Pole Thunderbirds (8-10), No. 5 Box Elder Bears (6-12) and No. 6 Turner Tornadoes (3-14) will all compete at the District 9C boys basketball tournament.

In round one action the Thunderbirds will face the Bears at 6:30 tonight. And at 8, the Knights will face the Tornadoes. And in semifinal action on Friday, the winner of the Thunderbirds/Bears game will face the Beeters at 2:30 p.m. and the winner of the Knights/Tornadoes game will take on the Pioneers at 8 p.m.

A season ago the Pioneers dominated the 9C and even earned the Class C state championship. But without Blake Brumwell and Corbin Pearson, the Pioneers haven't had their usual dominating season. Instead, the Beeters have moved into the top spot, going undefeated in the conference season led by Lane Schmitt, Taylor Erskine, Tyler Molyneaux and Chris Haider.

Now heading into the 9C tournament, the Beeters are holding down first place and are poised to finish that way.

And though the Pioneers are without Pearson and Brumwell, they have still found success this season, finishing 6-4 in conference play. The Pioneers still have a talented squad with names like Colter Darlington, CJ Hanson, Justin Stevens, Trevor Lackner, Dallas Briese, Jessey Bailey, Kaden Beck and Zach Leader making up the roster. They are a younger and smaller squad from a year ago, but proved they can still compete as they forced the Beeters into overtime before losing this season.

The Knights and Thunderbirds should also be competitive this weekend. Both squads had their share of ups and downs, but still have teams that can push for a top one or two finish. Jordy Donoven continues to shine for the Kinigts, but has gotten plenty of help from Dylan Crittendon and Conor Kline. And the Thunderbirds are dangerous as well as they have hung around the middle of the pack all season long. Scott Bradley, Clifford Black Elk and Derek Doney will be key in the Thunderbirds success this weekend.

The Bears and Tornadoes have both struggled this season, but shouldn't be overlooked.

They combine for just 5 wins during the conference season, but have talent that can quickly take over a game. Travis Daniels, the leading scorer in the 9C has put up over 30 points on multiple occasions this season and could help the Tornadoes surprise some teams this season. And the Bears have been led by Jessie Ramos and Dakota Standing Rock, but also return the dangerous Jacob Parker to the floor. Parker can hurt a team if overlooked and had a season high of 38 against the Tornadoes.

Even with the Beeters sitting at the top of the 9C ranks, no game is a guaranteed this week. Every team has shown they can compete against the rest of 9C field so no team can be overlooked.

The 9C tournament starts tonight with two first round games. The semifinals are set for Friday and the boys consolation game will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The boys championship game will be at 8 p.m. Saturday night with the top two teams moving on to next week's Northern C in Great Falls.


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