North Star stuns Fort Benton in OT to win first-ever 9C girls title


Last updated 2/22/2021 at 8:16am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

North Star's Jade Wendland, right, passes around the Fort Benton defense during Saturday's District 9C girls championship game at the Havre High gymnasium. The Knights shocked top seed Fort Benton in overtime to win the program's first 9C championship.

Heading into the championship game of the District 9C Girls Basketball Tournament, North Star easily looked like the underdog. They faced No. 1 seed Fort Benton, who was the three-time defending champion and had gone undefeated in conference play during the regular season.

So, if the Knights wanted to win their first 9C Tournament title, they would have to earn it. And earn it they did as North Star needed overtime to knock off Fort Benton, 61-58, to win the 9C championship Saturday at the Havre High gymnasium.

Fort Benton's Emerson Giese tied the game at 53-53 in regulation after she stole the ball and made a layup with 30 seconds remaining. The Longhorns carried that momentum into the extra period as they took a 58-56 lead with two minutes left. The Knights responded as Laynie Sattoriva made a layup to tie the game. North Star got the ball right back with under 20 seconds left and Jade Wendland hit the game-deciding 3-pointer to give the Knights the lead.

"Coach is saying that's my shot, the last-second shot," Wendland said. "I'm a clutch player whenever we need points."

The Longhorns failed to get off a last-second shot and the Knights held on for the upset win. North Star had control through most of the game as they led 25-11 early in the first quarter. However, the Longhorns demonstrated why they were the top seed as they battled back and even took the lead at several points.

However, the Knights did not buckle under the pressure.

"They just held their composure. They knew we didn't have any pressure on us; we're the underdogs," said North Star head coach Jennifer Wendland. "They just knew that they just come out and play one possession at a time and just do the things we talk about in practice and focus on what we can control. That's how we managed to win this game."

The District 9C tournament championship was the first for both the North Star boys or girls basketball programs. And it was even more satisfying for the Knights as they won it against a group of players they had struggled against in recent years

"We have not beat this team in four, five, six years, even in junior high. It feels really cool to end a perfect season when it counted," said North Star senior Kenidee Wolery. "I'm super excited and this is where the work starts now because they're going to have it out for us and they're a really good team, too."

Wolery shot 2-for-3 from beyond the arc and 8-for-11 from the free-throw line to lead the Knights with 20 points. Jade Wendland scored 15 points off of 4-for-8 shooting from the 3-point line, including the game winner. Shayla Borlaug also chipped in 13 points as she went 5-for-9 from the floor.

The Longhorns were led by Giese on the offensive end as she scored 24 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field. Other contributors for the Longhorns included Aspen Giese with 12 points and Ashlee Wang with 11 points.

Both North Star and Fort Benton will next play in the Northern C Divisional Girls Basketball Tournament in Great Falls. Coming off the tournament title, North Star will have little time to prepare, but coach Wendland believes her team will be ready.

"I just know that we're going to come in there and we're going to prepare for them," Wendland said. "We're just going to come in and keep playing the same ball we know how to play."

Meanwhile, Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton believes that the loss will motivate her team heading into divisionals.

"I think we're going to be hungry. I think we can learn a lot from this game and come back ready to play," Pimperton said.

North Star (14-3) will play Geraldine-Highwood from the 8C Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. and Fort Benton (17-2) will play Valier from the 10C Wednesday at 6 p.m. Both games will be held at the Great Falls Four Seasons Arena.


North Star 61, Fort Benton 58, 1st

Fort Benton 11 16 13 13 5 - 58

North Star 25 8 9 11 - 61

Fort Benton - Hailee Wang 2, Ashlee Wang 11, Aspen Giese 12, Abby Clark 5, Samantha Vielleux 0, Maci Molinario 4, Cloe Kalanick 0, Emerson Giese 24.

North Star - Laynie Sattoriva 10, Jade Wendland 15, Kenidee Wolery 20, Laramie Peterson 0, Jessica Troup 0, Shayla Borlaug 13, Kaytlyn Domire 3, Rainee Watson 0.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Fort Benton's Abby Clark shoots over a pair of North Star defenders during Saturday's 9C girls championship game at the HHS gymnasium. The Longhorns lost, but are once again going to this week's Northern C, which starts Tuesday in Great Falls.


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