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Tornadoes moving on in Great Falls

Turner girls win first Northern C game in more than two decades


February 22, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Turner's Rylee Conlan goes up high for a shot during a Northern C girls game against Heart Butte Wednesday night at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. The Tonadoes beat the Warriors, to advance to today's quarterfinal against top-seeded Belt. Wednesday was Turner's first Northern C game in more than 20 years.

GREAT FALLS - It took the Turner girls basketball team 21 years to reach the Northern C Divisional Tournament, but it took the Tornadoes only one game to find the win column.

Turner made history as the District 9C Tournament in Havre last week, playing their way into the Northern C with a third-place finish. But Wednesday in Great Falls, inside the Four Seasons Arena, the Tornadoes got another historic win, knocking off Heart Butte 52-44.

"It feels amazing," Turner guard Sarah Billmayer said after the game. "We have gotten all this support from our community. They are all here cheering us on. They wanted us to be here and we are sure glad we made it here for them."

Billmayer played as big a role as anyone in the win for Turner, as she poured in a game-high 25 points, despite missing a few point-blank layups in the first half. Yet, she recovered to knock a 3-pointer which helped the Tornadoes take a 26-19 lead at the intermission.

"It was her teammates that got her out of that," Turner head coach Jennifer Baird said. "They could tell that she was frustrated and these girls, when they see someone do, they do a really good job of supporting each other. And she came out in the second half and made it happen."

Whether it was her teammates or something else, Billmayer took over in the second half. She knocked down a triple early and converted a layup to put the Tornadoes up 10. Heart Butte responded with a 6-0 run, but Billmayer answered again with a layup. The Warriors eventually took the lead, 37-36, but a 2-pointers by Rylee Conlan and Billmayer gave Turner a 40-37 edge heading to the fourth quarter.

In the final stanza, the Tornadoes got two important buckets from Shyan Krass, which helped push the lead to six. From there, Billmayer helped salt away the win at the free throw line. When the game was over, she finished 11-of-14 from the charity stripe. She also finished with 25 points, 14 of them coming in the second half.

"That seems to be our M.O lately, it's not exciting enough so we have to let them get back into," Baird said jokingly. "But just like they have all season, the girls just keep digging deep. We come in like a whirlwind, but we settle in and keep finding ways to bring it home."

In addition to 25 points from Billmayer, Turner also got 10 points from Melanie Watkins, who had a double-double thanks to 13 rebounds. She also added three steals. Krass pitched in with eight points and seven rebounds, while Conlan had six points and eight rebounds.

Turner (15-8) will take on Belt today in the quarterfinals. Tip-off was this morning inside the Four Seasons.

Tri-City 62, Fort Benton 43

After winning the District 9C girls championship last week in Havre, the Fort Benton Longhorns headed to the Northern C Divisional on a high note. Yet, a 32-6 run by the Tri-City Titans brought them crashing back to earth.

Without star freshman Aspen Giese, who missed the game due to the flu, the Longhorns started out well against Tri-Cities, grabbing a 26-24 lead at halftime. But, a 28-point third quarter for the Titans and a 30-6 run, allowed the underdog and third-seeded team from the 8C to upset Fort Benton 62-43. The Longhorns will return to the Four Seasons today at 4, needing a win to keep their hopes of advancing to the Class C state tournament alive.

"We didn't have any heart, we didn't hustle and we let them do whatever they wanted," Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton said. "We have to come back and prove a point. We have to come ready to play."

The Titans started the game hot and grabbed an 8-5 lead in the first quarter, but a bucket by Abby Clark and 3-pointer by McKenzie Clark put the Longhorns up 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. Fort Benton built its lead to five points in the second quarter, thanks to hoops by Leah Gannon and Megan Clark, but by halftime, Tri-City had pulled within two at 26-24.

Then in the third quarter, the Titans broke the game wide open. They hit a number of 3-pointers and outscored the Longhorns 28-9 to 17-point lead in the fourth quarter and in the final stanza, the Longhorns (19-3) never threatened. McKenzie Clark led Fort Benton with 14 points, Gannon, Megan Clark and Abby Clark all had seven.

Turner 52, Heart Butte 44

Turner 11 15 14 12 – 52

Heart Butte 12 7 18 7 – 44

Turner – Raegan Conlan 3, Sarah Billmayer 25, Rylee Conlan 6, Melanie Watkins 10, Shyan Krass 8. Totals 17 16-25.

Heart Butte – Shealyn ArrowTopKnot 9, Cha'lissa Kipp 11, Rita Williamson 7, Chas'lin Kipp 9, Tearra Calf Boss Ribs 2, Azurdee Aimsback 2, Alia Heavy Runner 2, (unnamed player) 2. Totals 18 4-11.

3-pointers – Billmayer 2; Cha'lissa Kipp 3, Williamson. Fouls – Turner 11, Heart Butte 19.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's McKenzie Clark moves up the floor during the Longhorn's Northern C game with Tri-City Wednesday night in Great Falls. The Longhorns fell in the opening-round contest.

Tri-Cities 62, Fort Benton 43

TC 10 14 28 10 – 62

Fort Benton 13 13 9 8 – 43

TC – Chloe Derks 8, Savannah Hildreth 9, Sami Connerton 9, Kristen Vincent 10, Claire Stevenson 7, Briana Bergum 19. Totals 20 17-21.

Fort Benton – Cassie Knack 2, McKenzie Clark 14, Abby Clark 7, Maci Molinario 4, Megan Clark 7, Leah Gannon 7, McKenna Hanford 2. Totals 16 9-14.

3-pointers – Hildreth 3, Connerton 2; M. Clark, Gannon.


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