Defending champion Sugarbeeters crush Big Sandy to advance to another 9C title game


February 21, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Chinook's Oskar Pula, left, drives during Thursday night's District 9C boys semifinal against Big Sandy in the Havre High gymnasium. The Sugarbeeters blew out the Pioneers, giving themselves a chance at a 9C three-peat tonight.

All season long, the Chinook Sugarbeeters have had plans to three-peat as District 9C champions, and the Big Sandy Pioneers were standing in their way.

However, Chinook rounded up the Pioneers, 74-34 in the 9C boys semifinals Thursday night, to move forward into tonight's championship game, where the Beeters get a 2019 rematch with Fort Benton.

Before that, though, Chinook dominated Big Sandy from start to finish. And Beeters' head coach Mike Seymour was proud to see his team fight to make it to the big game once again.

“I’m super proud of my kids tonight,” Seymour said. “They played hard and smart. We knew that Big Sandy was going to come in with a triangle or two, some type of a great defense and we made some adjustments here and there along the way. Again, I’m just super proud of my kids.”

On the other side, Big Sandy head coach Thomas Dilworth was looking for a lot more from his team.

“We got our butts kicked all over the court,” Dilworth said. “Chinook did what we wanted to do and out-rebounded us. We did not rebound worth anything tonight, and they made big shots. We contained Bell like we wanted to a little bit, but then Reese Elliot is just an animal. They’re a good team.”

The first quarter of the game started off close.

Big Sandy and Chinook went back-and-forth, with the Beeters breaking out on a quick 6-0 run, but the Pioneers pushed back in the late part of the quarter, when seniors Ryan Roth and Kade Strutz sunk some key shots early. At the end, Chinook had a 19-13 lead going into the second stanza.

Strutz continued to put up baskets, while Ethan Bell and Reese Elliot answered in kind. Roth would sink a 3-pointer to bring it within three points but the Beeters went on a big 15-0 run, with Oskar Pula closing out the half, and Chinook having a commanding 39-20 lead.

Chinook followed up the second quarter push with another great performance in the third period.

Hunter Neibauer and Bell consistently put up tough shots, while the Pioneers tried to stay in the game with points from Jeremiah Genereux and Roth, but the Beeters went on two separate runs in the quarter to keep ahead 58-28.

As the fourth stanza transpired, Roth dropped more baskets for Big Sandy, but Elliot and Bell did not let up and continued to score. In the end, two field goals from Braxton Inman in the final minutes ended a stellar night for Chinook.

Bell led the Beeters (15-4) with 22 points, followed by Elliot with 18 points and 19 rebounds. The Pioneers were led by Roth’s 15-point game, while Strutz added 10 for Big Sandy.

With the championship game right around the corner, Bell is ready to get another shot at a 9C title.

“It feels great,” Bell said. “It’s a dream come true. To get three, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but Havre High tonight. We just got to come out, play with a tremendous amount of intensity and just play.”

Seymour is looking forward to the big game versus the No. 1 Fort Benton Longhorns tonight, as well.

“Fort Benton is a good squad,” Seymour said. “They’re deep, play well together, obviously 20-0, but we’re going to have to come out tonight and have a better effort than we had Thursday night to knock them off.”

Meanwhile, Dilworth said he was hoping his Pioneers would rebound and win two times to get to the Northern C.

“We got two games tomorrow,” Dilworth said. “First, we’re going to beat Box Elder and then I imagine probably North Star. Box Elder is a tough team. They’re straight deep and go on runs. We got to hope they don’t get on fire from the 3-point line. If we control the tempo and rebound better than we did Thursday night we can beat them.”

Chinook (16-4) faces off against the Longhorns (20-0) in the 9C championship tonight at 8:30. The boys consolation game is set for 7.

Chinook 74, Big Sandy 34, SF

Chinook 19 20 19 16 – 74

Big Sandy 13 7 8 6 – 34

Chinook – Ethan Bell 22, Hunter Neibauer 9, Toby Niederegger 12, Reese Elliot 18, Ethan MacLeod 3, Oskar Pula 6, Braxton Inman 4.

Big Sandy – Ryan Roth 15, Kody Strutz 4, Clint Darlington 2, Cooper Taylor 1, Jeremiah Genereux 2, Kade Strutz 10.

3-pointers: Ethan Bell 3, Hunter Neibauer 1, Toby Niederegger 2, Reese Elliot 2, Ryan Roth 3. Fouls: Chinook 13, Big Sandy 11. Fouled out: none.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Big Sandy's Kade Strutz drives the baseline during Thursday night's 9C semifinal game in Havre. After falling to Chinook, the Pioneers need two wins today to stay alive.


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