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Having a Blast: Longhorns roll into semis


February 20, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's Jace Thompson, right, goes up for a shot during the Longhorn's first-round win over Turner in the District 9C boys tournament Wednesday in the Havre High gymnasium.

The Fort Benton Longhorns knew they were heavy favorites in their 2020 District 9C opener against Turner. And yet, head coach Tyler Pasha wanted to make sure his unbeaten Longhorns played like it.

In the opening round of the 9C boys tournament Wednesday afternoon at the HHS gymnasium, the Longhorns did just that, with a 79-22 thrashing of winless Turner.

The win pushed Fort Benton not only to 19-0 on the season, but also into tonight's semifinal where they'll take on North Star at 7.

"We needed to execute, we stressed coming out, and being sharp," Pasha said. "I thought we had some nerves early, but ultimately, we were able to get out and run the floor, and it was good. I thought we executed really well, and that's what we needed to do because this was a new season. It doesn't matter now what we did in the regular season."

What Fort Benton did for much of the regular season was steam roll the 9C competition, and the Horns did it to the Tornadoes Wednesday. Behind brothers Garrett and Hayden Diekhans, the Longhorns went on a 16-0 run in the first quarter, eventually leading 28-7 after eight minutes.

Shane Kimmel and Austin Welsh stemmed the tide briefly in the second stanza, but Turner could do little else to slow down the Longhorns, who got a 3-pointer from Jace Thompson, which sparked another 14-0 run, and put the Longhorns up 49-12 at halftime, and sent Turner (0-19) into a loser-out game this morning against Box Elder. Kimmel paced the Tornadoes with 16 points, but it just wasn't enough.

"Turner is a good basketball team," Pasha said. "They just don't have the depth we do, and that makes a big difference."

The Longhorns do have depth. They had 12 different players score Wednesday, with Garrett Diekhans pouring in 17, Hayden scoring 15, including a dunk to end the first half, Devin Bird scoring 12 and Thompson chipping in with 10.

And it's that depth that has helped Fort Benton become a juggernaut. The team has gone from a third-place finish two years ago, to a championship game appearance in 2019, to the heavy favorite to capture a 9C title this week.

"Every year we've gotten better," Pasha said. "Not just our record, but our skill set and our depth. The kids work very hard, and they've always improved. This season has been a blast so far, and I just hope we can keep it going."

Indeed. But Pasha is also by no means taking anything for granted, including the semifinal matchup with the Knights, which tips off tonight at 7 in the HHS gymnasium, with a coveted spot in the Northern C also at stake.

"We're going to have to execute," Pasha said. "We know anything can happen at this point. It's the 9C, and you're going to get everybody's best shot, so we have to be ready to execute. Fortunately, we have great senior leadership, so we'll be ready."

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Turner's Shane Kimmel shoots during Wednesday's 9C boys game in Havre.

Fort Benton 79, Turner 22

Fort Benton 28 21 13 17 - 79

Turner 7 5 8 2 - 22

Fort Benton - Devin Bird 12, Jace Thompson 10, Stepen Gannon 2, Jacob Giles 3, Nick Marias 6, Hayden Diekhans 15, Max Lane 4, Logan Giles 2, William Ullery 2, Jackson Schermele 4, Garrett Diekhans 17, Andrew Ballyntine 2. Totals: 34/61 8/12.

Turner - Shay Humphreys 2, Austin Welsh 2, Shane Kimmel 16, Charlie Calvert 2. Totals: 9/38 4/12.

3-pointers: Fort Benton (Thompson 1, Giles 1, H. Diekhans 1). Fouls: Fort Benton 12, Turner 10. Fouled out: None.


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