Turner reaches 9C girls title game

Fort Benton crushes HLP to reach championship game


February 21, 2020

Colin Thompson

The Turner girls celebrate their 9C semifinal win Friday night.

The semifinals for the 2020 District 9C tournament took place Friday evening in the Havre High Gymnasium, with four teams looking for a spot in the championship game.

Even though it wasn't the first semifinal game of the evening, the match between No. 2 North Star and No. 3 Turner was a barnburner. Both teams had gone down to the wire twice before in the regular season, with the Knights pulling away. Now, they were both fighting for a divisional spot, too.

But this time around, the Tornadoes took the win 57-53 and punched their ticket to the Northern C Divisionals.

Turner head coach Julie Welsh was very excited that her team is back to the divisional tournament.

"I'm so excited," Welsh said. "They made history for our school. We really focused on coming together as a team tonight and just having that mental toughness was what it was gonna take to take on North Star because we knew they were tough."

Meanwhile, North Star head coach Jennifer Wendland is looking for her team to bounce back and stay strong.

"It was a hard-fought battle," Wendland said. "I'm proud of our girls. They gave it their all. Next up is Box Elder. They're a scrappy team and we have to come out and be ready for them. We got to focus because they're high energy."

The first quarter saw the Tornadoes open strong, with Sarah Billmayer and Shyan Krass taking Turner on a 6-0 run, but Jade Wendland and Kenidee Wolery responded with a 7-0 run, followed by another baskets by Wolery to give the Knights a 13-9 lead after one.

The second stanza once again saw the Tornadoes work hard. Shyan Krass went on a 5-0 solo run to bring Turner within two. Then, Wolery added some more points to North Star's score, while Shyan Krass kept pushing to keep the Tornadoes close, which she did in the final minute to put Turner right behind the Knights 20-19 at halftime. Wolery put up 11 points North Star in the first half, while Shyan Krass dropped 12 for the Tornadoes.

Then came the third period, where Malorey and Reed went on a quick run to give Turner a 27-22 lead, but the Knights battled right back behind Wendland to but the lead. Billmayer and Krass kept dropping point for the Tornadoes, though, which gave them a 33-29 lead at the end of the third. In the end, North Star and Turner duked it out, but it was free throws from Billmayer and Krass that won them the game and a spot in the 9C championship.

Billmayer led Turner with 23 points, followed by Krass with 21, while North Star was led by Kenidee Wolery with 19.

And Billmayer is happy to be in the big game.

It's so great," Billmayer said. "It's been a dream of mine forever and we finally made it."

Next up, Turner plays Fort Benton and Welsh is looking forward to it.

"We know Fort Benton is tough," Welsh said. "But, we played with them with two of our starters out in Turner and ended up losing in a tight game. If we play like we did Friday night, we have a really good of getting the victory tonight."

Before the North Star-Turner nail-biter, top-seeded Fort Benton secured a win and a championship spot after beating No. 4 Hays Lodge-Pole.

The Longhorns stampeded the T-Birds 71-31 Friday evening in the Havre High Gymnasium to punch their ticket to the 2020 District 9C girls championship game, as well as a spot in the Northern C Divisional next week.

Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton was proud of the work her team put it against HLP.

"Hays is a great team," Pimperton said. "Corey has done a great job with those girls. It was a great team effort; we did what we needed to do and everyone contributed. They played hard the entire time.

At the same time, T-Birds head coach Corey Morgan saw a lot in his team today on the court.

"Fort Benton shot real well," Morgan said. "We weren't switching or edging and we struggled defensively."

Fort Benton started off the game hot, with MeKenzie Clark leading a 10-0, while Megan Clark and Maci Molinario joined in the fun. HLP responded with two field goals by Tahtianna Whitecow and Mulleeah Stiffarm, but Aspen Giese nailed a 3-pointer to extend the Longhorns lead, which was 20-6 after one.

Giese continued to rack up more treys in the second stanza, while Clark put up three points the old fashion way to follow. Nashone Shambo and Stiffarm answered with some baskets to keep the Thunderbirds in it, but Fort Benton kept its great lead at halftime 45-19, with Giese putting up 15 and Clark dropping 13 within the first half.

After the break, Clark and Giese kept fort Benton on course by going on a 10-0 run, followed with an 8-0 run to close off the third quarter of play, leading 64-24. The final eight minutes proceeded to be running clock, where both HLP and the Longhorns went back and forth for some additional baskets in the game.

Giese put up 22 points for Fort Benton and Nashone Shambo dropped eight for the T-Birds.

Giese was glad to see the team come together for a win and a spot in the big game, as well.

"We knew we had to really focus on our defense," Giese said. "We played so hard and shot the well. It was a great team effort."

Pimperton is looking forward to the championship game against Turner tonight.

"Turner is disciplined and well-coached," Pimperton said. "They're going to give us a good game tonight."

Morgan is now ready to face Chester-Joplin-Inverness today.

"We're going to come back and recover mentally," Morgan said. "The girls hopes were up pretty high, but we have to recover from it and come back today."

Fort Benton (20-0) will face Turner in the championship. North Star played Box Elder in a loser out game today, as did HLP and CJI.

Colin Thompson

The Fort Benton Longhorns rolled past Hays-Lodge in Friday night's 9C girls semifinal.


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