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Bears romp to a rematch with Belt

Box Elder runs past GFCC to the semifinals; All three 9C girls teams still alive in Great Falls


February 23, 2018

Colin Thompson

Box Elder's Lilly Gopher, left, fights for a shot during the Bears' first-round Northern C girls game Thursday morning against Great Falls Central at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. The Bears rolled to victory, setting up a showdown today with top-seeded Belt.

Following their first loss of the season in the District 9C championship game last Saturday, the Box Elder girls basketball team took the floor at the Northern C Divisional with a vengeance and it was Great Falls Central that paid the price.

Great Falls Central kept pace early with the Bears, but it wasn't long before Box Elder (21-1) pulled away and won easily, 78-38 inside the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls Thursday.

"At 9:30 (a.m.) after a tough loss, I thought our kids responded pretty well," Box Elder head coach Joel Rosette said. "I was really happy with our defensive intensity."

As much as anything in the first half against the Mustangs, it was that defensive intensity and full-court pressure of the Bears that caused problems, forcing Great Falls Central into 14 first-half turnovers. Box Elder converted many of those into baskets, as Lily Gopher, Joelnell Momberg and Cecilia Vielle combined for 32 points as the Box Elder grabbed a 23-18 lead.

"43 points in the first half, we will take that," Rosette said. "When those three players are out there and playing well, it gives us as good a chance as anyone."

In the second half, the Bears continued their onslaught. Gopher added five more points to finish with 15. She also added four steals, four rebounds and three assists. Momberg matched her with a game-high 15 points and Vielle also contributed with 13.

"We had to bounce back from our loss, Fort Benton was a good team," Gopher said. "Any team can beat anyone on any given night. But we came out and played fast and played our game and just dominated."

Maddie Wolf Chief added seven points in the second half, including a 3-pointer and late in the fourth, the Bears pushed their lead to 40 points, which would be the final margin. While the quarterfinal win was important, the Bears have a bigger challenge ahead of them and that's Belt.

The Huskies are the two-time defending Class C state champions and the have beaten Box Elder at the Northern C Divisional in each of the past two seasons. The two teams met in the divisional championship in 2016 and the semifinals last season. They also played for the Class C state championship in 2016, with Belt winning all three games.

"It's just like anything, if you want to be the champs, you need to beat the champs," Rosette said. "Belt dominates this Northern C and they dominate the state. We have to beat them. We have known that and we are excited for the challenge."

That challenges comes tonight at 5:30 inside the Four Seasons Arena.

Belt 60, Turner 20

The Turner girls basketball team has had a magical run this postseason, but Thursday against Belt, the two-time defending Class C state champs, the clock finally struck midnight on the Tornadoes' Cinderella run.

That's because as hard as they tried, the Tornadoes simply couldn't hang with Belt, a team that has won the Northern C six years in a row and five of the last six Class C state titles.

"Belt is a legendary program," Turner head coach Jennifer Baird said. "It was still really fun to get to play. We did some good things. Belt has always had a really good team, we knew that walking in. It was just wasn't our time."

The Huskies suffocated the Tornadoes with their imposing pressure defense, forcing Turner into more turnovers than it had field goal attempts, 25 to 24. Dani Urik scored eight points in the first half as Belt built a 36-10 lead at half. Over the final two quarters, Urik added seven more for a game-high 17. Shelby Paulson also added 10, as did Kyelie Marquis. Shyran Krass was the high scorer for Turner with seven.

Turner (15-9) played Great Falls Central this morning in loser-out action.

"We still have a chance to come through the back door," Baird said. "Those morning games are all about heart. We have to come out and get off the bus ready to play."

Fort Benton 71, Heart Butte 25

The Fort Benton girls didn't play like themselves in the opening round at the Northern C Wednesday and the Longhorns lost badly to Tri-Cities.

Yet on Thursday, they looked like a completely different team and after drubbing Heart Butte 71-25, Fort Benton is alive and well in the race for the state tournament.

"The girls came out and played hard," Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton said. "They came out and got after it. They worked hard and that was the difference. We didn't do that (Wednesday)."

Thursday, the Longhorns started quickly and never looked back. Thanks to a 3-pointer by McKenzie Clark, Fort Benton jumped out to a 10-2 lead. Then Aspen Giese, who missed Wednesday's game with the flu, connected from deep as the first quarter expired to put the Longhorns in front 13-4. Then came the offensive explosion.

Fort Benton poured in 35 points in in the second quarter, outscoring Heart Butte by 27 points in the stanza. McKenna Hanford helped start the run with a trey. But the Longhorns also got bombs from Clark and Giese, as they built a 48-12 halftime lead. At that point, the result was a mere formality.

Clark led the Longhorns with 14 points, including 11 in the first half. Maci Molinario added 13 points and Giese, playing limited minutes off the bench, finished with eight.

"It's exciting to play well because this is a big stage," Clark said. "We just really wanted to show people that how we played (Wednesday) isn't us. We know that we can play with anybody and we just wanted to show that."

Fort Benton will try to keep its state tournament hopes alive this morning in a loser-out matchup with Simms.

Box Elder 78, Great Falls Central 38

Great Falls Central 10 8 16 4 - 38

Box Elder 20 23 21 14 - 78

Great Falls Central: Emily Pahut 2, Sydney Hill 12, Bre Cook 6, Hattie Fauque 6, Bryn Anderson 8, Mackenzy Leray 4. Totals: 16 4-10.

Box Elder: Sarah Parisian 8, Nikayla Anderson 10, Eve The Boy 2, Maia Henderson 1, Maddie Wolf Chief 7, Lillian Gopher 15, Zayna Henderson 2, Joelnell Momberg 15, Brittany Lafromboise 3, Tallen Oats 2, Cecilia Vielle 13. Totals: 31 11-19.

3-pointers: Hill 2, Anderson, Wolf Chief, Momberg 2, Vielle. Fouls: Central 13, Box Elder 13. Fouled out: none.

Belt 60, Turner 20

Turner 4 6 4 6 – 20

Belt 19 17 13 11 – 60

Turner – Sarah Billmayer 3, Rylee Conlan 4, Melanie Watkins 3, Brooke Reed 3, Shyan Krass 7. Totals 5 10-17.

Belt – Morgan Cooper 3, Kyelie Marquis 10, Brianna Wall 2, Shelby Paulson 10, Dani Urick 17, Grace Norstedt 1, Kolby Pimperton 5, Ryan Schraner 2, Abby Gliko 1, Adelle Meissner 3, Adrian Malel 6. Totals: 24 7-14.

3-pointers: Cooper, Paulson, Urick, Pimperton, Malek. Fouls: Turner 11, Belt 16. Fouled out: none.

Colin Thompson

Turner's Melanie Watkins, right, tries to shoot over a Belt defender during Thursday's Northern C first-round game in Great Falls. The Tornadoes fell to the undefeated Huskies, but, with wins by Box Elder and Fort Benton Thursday, all three District 9C teams are still playing today at the Northern C. The tournament runs through Saturday.

Fort Benton 71, Heart Butte 25, LO

FB 13 35 11 12 - 71

Heart Butte 4 8 10 4 - 25

Fort Benton - Cassie Nack 4, McKenzie Clark 14, Aspen Giese 8, Abby Clark 6, Maci Molinario 13, Megan Clark 11, Leah Gannon 7,McKenna Hanford 8. Totals: 23-58 19-37 71.

Heart Butte - Shealyn Arrow Top 10, Cha'lissa Kipp 5, Rita Williamson 3, Deanndra Little Dog 1, Chas'lin Kipp 2, Autumn Falcon 2, Azurdee Aimsback 3. Totals: 9-43 6-9 25.

3-Pointers: Giese 2, McKenzie Clark, Hanford 2, Molinario, Williamson, Aimsback. Fouls: Heart Butte 21, Fort Benton 10. Fouled out -- none.


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