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Longhorns break through for first 9C boys title

Big Sandy takes third, heads to divisionals


February 21, 2020

Colin Thompson

The Fort Benton Longhorns beat Chinook for the 9C boys championship Friday night in Havre.

Top-seeded Fort Benton had fallen in last year's 9C championship to Chinook, but now, the Longhorns were ready to get some revenge on the Sugarbeeters, while No. 2 Chinook was fighting for a three-peat as district champs.

After an intense matchup, Fort Benton claimed the 9C crown with a 49-38 win over the Beeters, who took second in the tournament. Either way, both will be heading to divisionals next week.

Longhorns head coach Tyler Pasha was ecstatic to see his team come through and win the 9C championship.

"Holy cow, that was a nail-biter," Pasha said. "Yeah, we won by 11, but it was way closer than that. Chinook is an amazing team. They're physical, they get up on you on defense and they execute so well on offense, so that was a great game to end the district tournament."

Meanwhile, Chinook head coach Mike Seymour is proud of his guys for fighting hard and making it possible to be back in the Northern C Divisionals next week.

"I thought both teams played incredibly hard," Seymour said. "Ut was a hard-fought game. If we make a couple shots here and there and definitely make free throws, it's a completely different ball game. Congratulations to Fort Benton and hopefully we get an opportunity to see them on Saturday night next weekend."

The game started off hot on both sides of the court. Garrett Diekhans and Jace Thompson started with some field goals for the Longhorns, while Reese Elliot and

Hunter Neibauer dropped some points of their own to keep it close. In the end, a field goal by Hayden Diekhans gave Fort Benton the lead 11-8 after the first quarter.

In the second, Ethan Bell came alive and helped Chinook go on a 5-0 run to bring the score to a tie, which led to some back-and-forth between the teams. Logan Giles dropped some baskets, Toby Niederegger added some of his own, but Garrett Diekhans and Thompson helped Fort Benton stay ahead 22-18 at halftime.

After the intermission, the Diekhans brothers went on a 8-0 run to give a good push to the Longhorns' lead, while Bell and Elliot kept putting up points to bring them within nine points of fort Benton. But, the Longhorns held Chinook the final minute to still have the lead 39-30 at the end of the third quarter.

In the final eight minutes, Bell and Elliot would push the Beeters closer, but the Diekhans duo and Giles worked hard for some key shots to put a distance between them and Chinook. In the end, Fort Benton still held strong and is not only still undefeated, but the No. 1 seed going into divisionals, as well.

In the case of Giles, he is ready for the next step on the journey.

"It's the first step," Giles said. "We got plans ahead of us and we're on the road to success. Now, we just got to go take care of business next week."

But before the championship battle came the consolation championship.

In the case of the No. 3 seed Big Sandy, they were looking for redemption after a tough loss, while No. 6 Chester-Joplin-Inverness aimed to get revenge on the Pioneers for the first round loss. At the same time, both were battling for a trip to the Northern C Divisionals next week.

And Big Sandy beat the Hawks 45-30 in a fierce bout to punch their ticket to divisionals.

Big Sandy head coach Thomas Dilworth was overjoyed that his team pulled through a tough tournament and gets to play at the next level.

"First of all, I'm blessed," Dilworth said. "I'm just blessed. I just can't say how proud I am of these guys. CJI is just so well-coached and I can't say enough about that program. It was a great game and competition. I love the 9C."

Horel was proud of his teams' efforts on the court against the Pioneers.

"It was a good ball game," Horel said. "The kids had a great tournament. We lose three seniors next year. We'll be gathering some eighth graders that are gonna be freshmen. We'll have enough experience and we'll be okay."

The opening quarter started off tight in the rematch, with Kade Strutz, Clint Darlington and Ryan Roth all putting up baskets for the Pioneers, while Kealy Haaland and Andrew Woods pushed to keep CJI close. But, Big Sandy led the Hawks 11-10.

The second stanza started in CJI's favor first, though, with Kyle Harmon and Andrew Woods going on a 6-0 run to jump into the lead, while Kade Strutz and Roth fought back to maintain the close game. But, it was a Brock Proulx jumper at the end of the half that gave Big Sandy a 20-18 lead at the break.

After halftime, the Pioneers continued to rack up baskets, with Darlington standing out, dropping eight points for Big Sandy. That performance helped the Pioneers lead the Hawks 31-21 after the third quarter.

Colin Thompson

Fort Benton and Big Sandy battle in Friday night's 9C championship game.

From there, Strutz added onto an already big night for Big Sandy, while Harmon put up some more shots for the night. In the end, Strutz and Brock Proulx were a bug part of the night to help the Pioneers earn a spot in the Northern C Divisionals next week.

Brock Proulx was awarded one of the sportsmanship awards Friday night, too. He was glad to see so much hard work pay off.

"I'm feeling good," Proulx said. "It's something we've worked towards for a long time. It's been a long time since Big Sandy has been to divisionals, 2013 I believe. I'm really, really excited for my boys."

Fort Benton (No. 1), Chinook (No. 2) and Big Sandy (No. 3) will represent the Northern 9C in the Northern C Divisionals next week at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.

For full coverage, see Monday's Havre Daily News.


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