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Longhorns stampede their way into 9C semifinals

Fort Benton girls bounce CJI, setting up a showdown with the Tornadoes tonight


February 14, 2019

Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's Aspen Giese, left, goes in for a layup during Wednesday night's 9C girls first-round game between the Longhorns and the Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks. With the win, Fort Benton advanced to tonight's semifinal against Turner.

In its opening-round victory over the Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks Wednesday inside the HHS gymnasium, the Fort Benton Longhorns didn't play their most efficient offensive game of the season. But in the end, the Fort Benton defense was so dominant that it didn't matter.

After forcing 21 turnovers in the first half of an impressive performance defensively, Fort Benton jumped out to a 36-5 halftime lead, as the Hawks managed just two field goals and nine field-goal attempts in the first 16 minutes of play. By the time the game reached the fourth quarter, the mercy rule was in effect and Fort Benton ended up winning big, 63-22 in the first step of its 9C tournament title defense.

"It's always good to get the first win out of the way," Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton said. "I thought that our girls came out and did a great job on defense and that kind of set the tone."

While the Longhorns pressure defense made it nearly impossible for the Hawks to score or even get a shot off in the first half, the Fort Benton offense also turned those turnovers into points and got 12 in the first half from sophomore Aspen Giese. She made a jumper in the closing seconds of the opening stanza giving Fort Benton a 19-3 lead after eight minutes of play.

In the second quarter, the defensive pressure didn't relinquish and Fort Benton got points from eight different players in the first half, including a late bucket from McKenzie Clark, who had six in the first half along with Maci Molinario to give Fort Benton a 31-point lead at the break

"We just wanted to come out and play to our level," Giese said. "It's a new gym and we just wanted to come out and play the way that we know that we can."

In the second half, Fort Benton continued to dominate and added to its lead as the Longhorns outscored the Hawks 13-10 in the stanza. In the fourth, with the outcome already decided, a bucket by Cassie Nack pushed the Fort Benton lead past 40, which triggered the mercy rule.

Giese led all scorers in the win for Fort Benton with 16 points, as well as five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Nack also finished with eight points in the win. Cloe Kalanick also pitched in with seven for the Longhorns, while Clark finished with six. Tatum Hill led the way for CJI with seven points; Emma Wickum contributed with six.

Following the 63-22 win, Fort Benton will take on Turner in the semifinals of the 9C tournament Thursday night with tip-off time set for 8:30 p.m. The Longhorns will be looking to reach the championship game for the second straight season after knocking off state champion Box Elder in last year's championship game on a buzzer-beater by Giese.

"Turner is a tough team and they play hard," Pimperton said. "We are going to have to come out and keep up the intensity on defense and try to be a little smarter on offense and take some more shots that just come to us instead of trying to force it."

Colin Thompson

CJI's Emma Wickum shoots during Wednesday night's game between the Hawks and Fort Benton Longhorns in Havre.

Fort Benton 63, Chester-Joplin-Inverness 22

CJI 3 2 10 7 - 22

FB 19 17 13 14 - 63

CJI - Averle Mattson 1, Tatum Hull 7, Abby Fraser 4, Peyton Hawks 4, Emma Wickum 6.

Fort Benton - Cassie Nack 8, McKenzie Clark 6, Ashlee Wang 1, Aspec Giese 16, Abby Clark 4, Samantha Vielleux 2, Maci Molinaro 9, Megan Clark 5, Cloe Kalanick 7, Leah Gannon 2, McKenna Hanford 3.

3-Pointers: McKenna Hanford 1, Megan Clark 1, Tataum Hull. Fouls: CJI 15, Fort Benton 11. Fouled out -- none.


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