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Box Elder girls basketball wins state opener


Last updated 3/11/2022 at 8:48am

406 Sports

Box Elder's Meiyah Sutherland makes a play with the ball against Melstone Thursday at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. After a slow start, the Box Elder Bears went on to defeat Melstone 42-33. The Bears now advance to the semifinals tonight where they will face Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale for a spot in Saturday's state title game.

Early Thursday afternoon, it looked like the Class C State Tournament would begin on a sour note for the Box Elder girls basketball team. The Bears failed to score a single point in the first quarter and wound up trailing Melstone, 11-0, early in the second quarter. But the Bears were able to claw their way back to defeat Melstone, 42-33, to start the tournament at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.

"The kids stayed calm and they believed in each other and in the system," Box Elder head coach Joel Rosette said. "I just give them a lot of respect for the way they handled that first quarter."

The Bears played scrappy defense throughout the afternoon. Their pressure forced the Broncs into many mistakes that the Bears turned into scores on the other end. While their offense had their struggles, Breanna Bacon led the way for the Bears as she scored 22 points.

"She proved the type of player she's capable of being," Rosette said about Bacon's performance. "She came out here and made big plays and they never answered for her."

The Box Elder Bears had their struggles early in the contest, allowing the Broncs to take advantage. Draya Wacker knocked down a 3-pointer a few minutes into the game and then scored again a few moments later. The Broncs struggled to find offense as well but a bucket from Kayla Kombol gave Melstone a 7-0 lead to end the opening frame.

"Maybe it was state tournament nerves," Rosette said about the slow start to the game. "I credit Melstone for their defense but I thought we had some looks."

The Broncs stretched the lead to 11-0 early in the second quarter but the Bears finally got on the scoreboard with a bucket from Breanna Bacon. After Melstone scored to stretch the lead to 13-2, the Bears finally found their offense as they went on a 10-0 run.

After Bacon knocked down a free throw for Box Elder, Mariah Arkinson got things rolling with a three and a bucket less than minutes apart. Tayleigh Sunchild then got her layup to go down to cut the deficit even further. A pair of free throws from Angela Gopher helped cut the Bears' deficit to 13-12 heading into halftime. Rosette believes the Bears finally found their offense because they began to follow the game plan.

"We started running our set. Just a motion dribble drive and we started seeing people attack the basket," Rosette said. "There were gaps out there and the girls were able to expose those."

The Broncs grabbed momentum to start the third quarter. Koye Rindal knocked down a three for the Broncs to start the second half. A minute and a half later, Wacker knocked down another three for Melstone. A three from Kombol then gave Melstone a 23-16 lead halfway through the third quarter.

Late in the third, the Bears recaptured momentum to take control of the game. Bacon kept her strong afternoon going with back-to-back buckets to cut the deficit to 23-20. Kyla Momberg then knocked down a three for her first score of the game and to tie the game with a minute remaining in the third.

Bacon made a layup with a few seconds left in the third to give Box Elder the lead. But on Kombol's half-court attempt at the buzzer, the Bears fouled her and sent her to the free-throw line. Even with her three attempts, Kombol only made one free throw to give Box Elder a 25-24 lead heading to the final frame.

Bacon opened the fourth quarter with a layup and one free throw to stretch the lead. After a Melstone bucket, Makaela Kelly made back-to-back buckets for the Bears to stretch the lead to 32-26 with five minutes remaining. The Broncs tried to claw their way back and a three from Rindal cut the deficit to 36-33 with about two minutes left in the contest. But the Bears knocked down their free throws in stretch to win the game.

While Bacon had a great game for the Bears, the rest of the team had their troubles putting the ball through the basket. The next leading scorer for Box Elder was Arkinson with five points. Wacker led Melstone with 15 points while Kombol scored 10 points in the losing effort.

The Bears are now just one game away from playing in the Class C State championship game. But they will have to first face Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale tonight in the semifinals. The Mavericks finished second in last year's state tournament, so they will be looking for redemption this weekend. Along with their fast pace, the Mavericks will make the Bears have to earn their spot in the state title game Saturday night.

"We expect it to be an up and down game," Rosette said. "They got a lot of experience from last year's state championship game so we're expecting a battle."

The Box Elder Bears will play Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale in the semifinals tonight at 6 p.m. at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.

Box Elder 42, Melstone 33

BE - 0 12 13 17 - 42

MEL - 7 6 10 10 - 33

BE - Breanna Bacon 22, Mariah Arkinson 5, Angela Gopher 4, Makaela Kelly 4, Kyla Momberg 3, Tayleigh Sunchild 2, Annalise Johnson 2.

MEL - Draya Walker 15, Kayla Kombol 10, Koye Rindal 6, Lea Petit 2.


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