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Exciting Hi-Line Invitational Tournament brings prep hoops talent to Havre


March 22, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Kyndall Keller is one of many local players who will compete in the prestigious Hi-Line Invitational Tournament this weekend in Havre. The event is in its 32nd year and brings the top high school players in Montana for one last weekend of hoops. The HIT runs tonight through Saturday in the Armory Gymnasium.

While the high school basketball season wrapped up a couple weeks ago with the completion of state tournaments across Montana, there is one more tournament to play and it features some of the top players from both all over.

The tournament is the 32nd annual Hi-Line Invitational, which features some of the best boys and girls players from Class AA, Class A, Class B and Class C. The tournament starts tonight and will run through Saturday with all games being played inside the Armory Gymnasium on the campus of Montana State University-Northern.

Things will tip off with a pair of games between Class A and Class C. Class A will take on Class C in the first girls game of the tournament tonight at 5:30, followed by the Class A boys vs the Class C boys at 7. In addition to the two games being played tonight, there will be eight games Friday and six games Saturday. The girls championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m., followed by boys title game at 4:30 p.m.

The HIT will also have both a 3-point shooting contest and a slam-dunk competition. However, instead of those taking place Saturday, like in previous years, both will take place Friday night starting at 5. The tournament will also feature a 24-second shot clock.

"We have some really good players coming from all four classifications," Skylights head coach Chris Mouat said. "We have six of the eight state tournament MVPs, and over 30 First Team All-State selections. There is going to be a ton of talent in our gym, and a lot of kids who will be playing in college once their high school careers are over. We have some great seniors who will be here and some really good underclassmen. I think fans will enjoy the format of the HIT and know they will see some very competitive games."

A couple of those state tournament MVPs Mouat was talking about will be in action tonight as Kyndall Keller from Havre leads the Class A girls against Lilly Gopher of Box Elder, who leads the girls of Class C. Keller led the Havre Blue Ponies to the Class A state title, while Gopher helped the Box Elder Bears win the crown in Class C. The rest of the Class A team, which will be coached by Nick Luoma features Micalann McCrea of Ronan, Leah Gannon of Fort Benton, Syndie Peterson of Anaconda, Olivia Hall and Ronnal Jordan of Browning, Ryley Kehr of Columbia Falls, Brynley Fitzgerald of Dillon and Shannon Reny of Libby.

The Class C girls, who will be coached by Belt's Jeff Graham will consist of Gopher, Rae Ann Bendon and Kaylie Oliverson of Twin Bridges, Dani Urick of Belt, Soda Rice of Savage, Morgan Mason of Froid-Medicine-Lake, Alyssa Vandenburg of Arlee, Mackenzie Dethman, also of Froid Medicine-Lake and Cecillia Vielle of Box Elder.

The nightcap Thursday night will feature the Class A boys, coached by Walynn Burgess of North Star. His roster won't have any locals, but will have Central A standouts Jaden Graham and Tanner Trafton of Lewistown. Dawson Fowler of Belgrade and Rydell Floyd of Livingston are also on the roster, as well as Tanner Goligoski, Hunter Omlid and Carter Kearns of Hamilton, Chrishon Dixon and Sam Gray of Billings Central, Bridger Larson of Sidney and M.J. Haverfield.

The Class A boys team has plenty of firepower, but it will have to face a loaded Class C team that is coached by Graham and has Philip Malatare of Arlee for the second straight year. Will Mesteth of Arlee will also be on the team, along with C.J. Nelson of Scobey, Treyton Pickering of Sunburst, Brody Grebe of Melstone, Riley Spoonhunter of Heart Butte, Caleb Bellach of Manhattan Christian, Trevor Herzog of Reedpoint-Rapelje and Chinook's Isaac Bell.

"We are excited about the group of boys our coaches have recruited this year," Lights head coach Shawn Huse said. "We are truly grateful for their hard work, and truly feel most of the best players in our state are here. It should be a great weekend of competition."

Each team will play the three other classifications and the teams with the best records will meet in the championship games Saturday. The other teams will play for third and fourth. The Class AA boys team will be coached by Shaughn McKeon and features three members of CMR's state championship team in AA state tournament MVP Garrison Rothwell, Sam Vining and Jake Olsen. Billings West will send Cade Tyson and Jesse Owens, while Great Falls High will have Blake Thelen and Kendall Kynett. Tyler Johnson and Sam Elliott of Kalispell will also be in attendance, along with Rollie Worster of Missoula Hellgate,

The girls AA roster also has a state tournament MVP in Kamden Hilborn of Helena High. Her teammate McKayla Kloker will also join the team. Kalispell will have Clara Vandenbosh, Mary Heaton and Taylor Henley on the roster, while Great Falls High will have Erin Watt. TyRaa Manuel and Tylee Manuel of Billings West will round things out.

Both Class C teams have some local favorites on the roster, but so does both the boys and girls teams from Class B. The Class B boys are going to be led by coaches Zach McLean and Kelly Niesking and will boast Ben Iron Eyes and Kendall Windy Boy of Rocky Boy. Both players were All-State performers and helped the Stars finished third at the Class B state tournament for the second time in four years. Shelby, which finish second at state, will also send Aaron White and T.J. Reynolds, who is already committed to playing for Northern next season. The rest of the team includes Taylor Rowlinson of Joliet, Marcus Zeiler of Florence, Max Freight of Whitehall, Sayer Patton of Choteau and Taylor Matthews of Malta.

Former Chester-Joplin-Inverness head coach Pat Goldhahn will lead the Class B girls team, which will feature a slew of local players in Sean Henry and Jaylynn Mitchell of Rocky Boy, as well as L'Tia Lawrence of Harlem. Danielle Zahn and Makenna Liles of Florence-Carlton will also be playing for Class B, as well as Kyle Olson of Three Forks, Mariah Dietrich of Harlowton, Darcy Walker of Powell County, Aubrey McMaster of Jefferson, Jaime Berg of Bigfork and Imani Bighorn of Poplar.

The Class B girls have won four consecutive titles at the HIT, while the Class AA boys have won three in a row. The girls championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday. The boys title game will tip off at 4:30 p.m.


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