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Fort Benton girls begin 9C title defense by throttling Big Sandy


February 21, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's McKenzie Clark, right, goes over the Big Sandy defense for a layup during Thursday's District 9C girls first-round game in the Havre High gymnasium. The Longhorns cruised into tonight's semifinals.

The outcome was never in doubt. But, Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton wanted to make sure her top-seeded Longhorns stayed focused in the opening round of the 2020 District 9C girls tournament.

And the undefeated Longhorns did that and then some Thursday morning in a 61-9 throttling of the Big Sandy Pioneers. The win pushed the defending 9C champions to 19-0 on the season, and into tonight's semifinals against upstart Hays-Lodge Pole.

And, while the Longhorns knew they'd be too much for the overmatched Pioneers, Pimperton said her team hasn't had any trouble focusing on the task at hand.

"You really do have to take it one game at a time," Pimperton said. "That's how we've approached this whole season. Today, I wanted to see us focus on defense. You can control that. You can't always control if the shots are falling, but you can control how hard you play on defense, and our girls came out and played very hard. So I was happy."

Fort Benton's defensive effort showed.

The Horns held the Pioneers to just one Amanda Cline basket in the first stanza, while McKenzie Clark and McKenna Hanford closed the quarter with back-to-back buckets.

The Longhorns then picked up the offensive pace even more in the second period, with Hanford and Aspen Giese closing the first half out with back-to-back 3-pointers, as Fort Benton led 36-5.

Mia Dilworth would score for Big Sandy early in the third, but, the Longhorns were just too tough, and too deep. They outscored Big Sandy 25-2 the rest of the way en route to another 9C tourney victory.

Offensively, Clark scored 13 points, Giese had 12 and Hanford finished with 11 for the Longhorns, who also shot 44 percent from the field and made seven trey's. The Horns also scored 24 unanswered points during one stretch. Defensively, the Longhorns forced 34 Big Sandy turnovers and out-rebounded the PIoneers 22-21. Cline paced Big Sandy (2-17), who had to play Box Elder in a loser-out game this morning, with five points.

Meanwhile, the Longhorns are one win away from another 9C chipper. It's been a season of dominance by Fort Benton, and that was on full display Thursday morning. But, Pimperton said, her team doesn't look too far ahead, and they don't lose focus - which is the sign of a veteran team, and Fort Benton certainly is that.

"We just set little goals, we have things we want to achieve every game," Pimperton said. "We're just going to take it one game at a time, and do what we do.

"Whoever we play going forward, we know they'll be good," she added. "This tournament is tough. It gets tougher the farther you go, and we understand that."

Fort Benton meets HLP for a spot in Saturday's championship game today at 4 in the HHS gymnasium.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Big Sandy's Amanda Cline, right, dribbles up the floor during the first game of the 2020 District 9C girls tournament Thursday morning in Havre. The Pioneers lost to the undefeated Longhorns, and played Box Elder in a loser-out game this morning. Fort Benton plays the first of two semifinals later today.

Fort Benton 61, Big Sandy 9

Fort Benton 16 20 15 10 - 61

Big Sandy 2 3 2 2 - 9

Fort Benton - Cassie Nack 4, Mckenzie Clark 13, Ashlee Wang 5, Aspen Giese 12, Maci Molinario 5, Megan Clark 4, Cloe Kalanick 5, Emerson Giese 2, McKenna Hanford 11.

Big Sandy - Mia Dilworth 2, Kylee Sternberg 2, Amanda Cline 5.

3-pointers: (Wang 1, Aspen Giese 2, Molinario 1, Kalanick 1, Hanford 2). Fouls: Fort Benton 12, Big Sandy 7; Fouled out: None.


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