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George Ferguson Column: It's a basketball rivalry weekend on the Hi-Line

From the Fringe...


January 16, 2014

Tournament time is still a month away. But if you’re a high school basketball fan, and you’re craving some postseason-like hoops, look no further than the Hi-Line this weekend.

Yes, the regular season of area high school basketball has reached the grind stage, with the lights at the end of the tunnel still just a low gleam in the distance. But at several area gyms this weekend, it will certainly feel like there’s plenty at stake.

One of those locals is the Havre High gymnasium, where big games will be played both Friday and Saturday night. The Havre High boys are home for a critical contest against Central A rival Browning on Friday night, and a win could really give the Blue Ponies a boost in the race to the divisional tournament.

But the fun really begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday night when the Blue Pony girls host the Rocky Boy Morning Stars, with the boys game to follow.

This is a matchup I’ve wanted to see since I first heard that Rocky Boy was moving up to Class B six years ago, and Havre High Activities Director Dennis Murphy can attest to that because I probably asked him at least 10 times a year when Havre and Rocky Boy were going to start playing each other.

But the wait is now over, and both communities should be excited. Not only will the games be exciting and competitive, but it also gives our area a new local rivalry. When Chinook dropped to Class C, Havre lost one of its longest and most intense rivalries in basketball, and for the Sugarbeeters, it was the same. Basketball games whether in Chinook, or Havre, were a great tradition, and one that for years, stood the test of time. In my days at HHS, I don’t think I ever missed a single trip to Chinook, whether it was to support the girls in the fall, or the boys in the winter.

Likewise, when Rocky Boy moved up, it too lost some important District 9C rivalries. Yes, Rocky Boy still plays Box Elder at the Native American Classic, but to me, that’s not the same as a home and away rivalry, like it used to be.

Now, however, Havre and Rocky Boy can start a new rivalry that is completely local. Now, the two fan bases can really have something to call their own. Now, we have a Hi-Line rivalry that will harken back to the Havre/Chinook days, or will be similar to the old rivalry between Glasgow and Glendive, and so many others where two schools are so closely related.

Now, the buildup is over too, and the fun begins in Havre on Saturday night.

But Havre won’t be the only place where the atmosphere should be electric.

In Chester, the Chinook Sugarbeeters will come calling Saturday night, and the games should be intense. The girls game will likely feature a pair of undefeated teams. The 10C Chester/J-I Hawks are ranked No. 7 in Class C, while the undefeated Beeters are ranked No. 9. Both teams have aspirations which go way beyond a district championship this season, and Saturday night is the first of two regular season meetings between the two Northern C powers.

The boys game in Chester will be fun, too, and Saturday night is also a prelude of things to come. Chinook and C/J-I have been playing non-conference games for some time now, so the rivalry isn’t new, like Rocky Boy and Havre. But things will get even more interesting next winter when C/J-I moves to District 9C, and it’s rivalries with Chinook and North Star become even more important.

I know, many of you can’t wait for tournament time, and neither can I. There’s pretty much nothing like postseason high school basketball in Montana. But we have more winter to get through before we get to tourney time.

But thanks to two great settings this weekend, in Havre and in Chester, we can get a little fix. Thanks to some exciting rivalries, new and old, this weekend will certainly have a postseason feel to it.


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