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5 Things to watch in local prep boys basketball in 2018-19


November 28, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Isaac Bell and the talented Chinook Sugarbeeters could be one of the favorites to win the Class C state title this season.

When it comes to sports fans along the Hi-Line, it's hard to find one who doesn't like basketball. Football and wrestling are right there when it comes to the most popular sports in this state, however, roundball is right there with all the rest.

Last season, in terms of local boys basketball, it was an exciting year. None of the teams within close proximity made it to the state tournament in boys hoops, but, a number of them got close. And now, with some coaching changes and the return of a number of talented players across the Hi-Line, this boys basketball season is shaping up to be even better and with that in mind, here are five things to watch this season.

Can Chinook make a run at the Class C state championship?

Last season, Chinook was a win or two away from reaching the Class C state tournament, and if the Sugarbeeters had been able to knock off Heart Butte in a thrilling semifinal game at the Northern C Divisional tournament, they likely would have been among those final eight teams.

Yet, it wasn't meant to be for head coach Mike Seymour and Chinook. But with a loaded team coming back, Chinook is not only a favorite to make it to state, it's among the favorites to win it all. The Beeters have a unique roster that features Isaac Bell and Cord Schneider, two All-State performers, along with Brenden Edwards. All three players are 6-foot-5 or taller and that makes them extremely difficult to guard. Bell is also a dynamic outside shooter. Other contributors like James Christensen, Riley Kellam, Trajan Hannum and Hunter Neibauer also return.

With all that talent, plus the experience of reaching the Northern C semifinals two years running, Chinook has all the pieces in place for a deep postseason run. First things first though, Chinook will be hoping to win the District 9C championship for the second-straight year.

Walynn Burgess takes over at Havre High

The name Walynn Burgess should be familiar to local basketball fans, both from his days as a player for Montana State University-Northern or from his recent stint as the head coach at North Star. After guiding the Knights back to divisionals and the 9C championship game a season ago, Burgess has taken over for Curt Leeds as the head coach of the Blue Ponies.

While it was a tough loss for North Star, it was certainly a gain for Havre High, as Burgess was considered to be one of the better tacticians in the 9C. After winning just a handful of games the past two seasons, the Ponies need all the help they can get. HHS obviously wants to get back to contending in the Eastern A, however, the first step will be winning a game at the divisional tournament, something that hasn't happened the past two seasons.

Can Fort Benton challenge Chinook in the 9C?

While much of the focus in the 9C is going to be centered around Chinook, another team that will be a strong contender is Fort Benton. The Longhorns beat Hays-Lodge Pole for third place a season ago in the 9C tournament and went on to win a couple games at the Northern C Divisional. The Longhorns came up short of the state tournament, however with All-State standout Garrett Diekhans back, along with Hayden Diekhans and others, the Longhorns could be a legit contender in the district and in the Northern C Division as a whole.

Who else is a 9C contender?

The 9C is always one of the toughest basketball districts in the state and this year, that will be no different. However, after Chinook and Fort Benton, the league is wide open with teams that could fight their way into contention.

North Star lost its head coach in Burgess, along with Dylan Miller and Devon Miller. Yet, Cody Donoven, who assisted Burgess last season, will take over and he has All-Conference point guard Caden Rettig. The Knights are one team that will be in the mix, yet others such as Hays-Lodge Pole, Turner, Box Elder, Chester-Joplin-Inverness and Big Sandy could all have a shot at making some noise. Turner especially is a team to watch with the return of All-Conference standout Cody Welsh.

Can Rocky Boy or Harlem make it out of the Northern B?

Rocky Boy had a strong finish to last season, taking home third place at the Class B state tournament. Head coach Adam Demontiney lost some talented players off that team such as Kordell Small and Ben Iron Eyes. However, with some key players such as Kendall Windy Boy, Frankie Bacon and Olin Arkinson back, a return trip to state is not out of the question.

Harlem also should be much-improved under the direction of second-year head coach Cole McCabe. Brad Cichosz is one reason for the Wildcats to have hope. The 2B All-Conference selection averaged over 16 points a game as a sophomore and he will lead a Harlem team hungry to fight its way back into contention in the Northern B.


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