According to the 2010 US Census this town only has 597 residents but this community has done something special on the basketball court.
Starting in 2008 the Belt Lady Huskies, under the tutelage of Jeff Graham have been to the State Tournament seven straight times. They have played on Saturday night at the State Tournament seven straight times. They have brought home trophies from State five of the seven times. Belt’s Lady Huskies are the definition of dominant in Class C basketball. I’ve thought many times that there has to be something in the water.
While watching the District 8C Championship game against Roy-Winifred, I couldn’t help but pull for the Lady Huskies for two reasons.
The first one is job security. As a broadcaster for KMON I’ve been kept busy for one weekend in March for the last two years broadcasting the Belt games at the Class C State Tournament. I plan on Belt being in the State Tournament like I plan on gaining weight over Christmas break (it just happens). And when it happens I’m more than happy to be there providing the play-by-play along the way.
The second one is Coach Graham. All the success starts with their leader, mentor, and coach, Jeff Graham. Jeff is probably one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. He’s charismatic, he’s engaging, and he’s always friendly, unless you’re the one committing a turnover. What he has done at Belt Valley High School is more than impressive. It’s consistency in an inconsistent game. However, he doesn’t take any of the credit. He’s always ready to shift that onto the hard work and dedication of his teams.
Well the Belt Huskies won their sixth consecutive District Championship Saturday night in Lewistown and will head into the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena this week to defend their Divisional Crown for the fifth consecutive time.
Watching Belt win the District Championship reminded me of some of the fantastic Belt games I’ve been able to witness firsthand.
The one that comes to mind first off was the 2009 District 8C Girls Championship game held at Paris Gibson Middle School. That was a game for the ages. Coming into the matchup against the Highwood Lady Mountaineers Belt had lost only two games all season, but both were against Highwood.
Highwood’s Lady Mountaineers were led by Class C legend Rachel Semansky. Semansky went on to play for the MSU Bobcats but it was her accomplishments in High School that really stood out. Semansky helped the Highwood Lady Mountaineers win a State Championship the year prior (2008). In her senior season at Highwood, the six-foot Semansky averaged 22.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 63 percent from the field.
Compare that to the Belt Lady Huskies who had just one player who averaged over 10 points per game. The Lady Huskies were a team built on speed, defense and forcing turnovers.
It isn’t often that the two best teams in the state play in the same conference. However that does happen in the 8C every so often.
That night was a packed house in the Paris Gymnasium. Like it always seemed to be on for the night games at the District Tournament. I remember sitting ten rows up in the overflowing arena. Everyone from around the area was there, cheek to cheek, as far as the eye could see. Whenever a spectacular play was made, which was often, the whole congregation would rise in unison.
The deafening cacophony of thousands of screaming fans were in for quite the night. The Lady Huskies of Belt had tied the game up down at the far end of the floor. The whole crowd sensed we were in for overtime which would stretch out the evening even further. Then part of the legend that is Rachel Semansky was forged.
As the shot Highwood took careened off the iron the ball hung in the air. Time stood still for a moment as the ball dropped into Semansky’s hands. As quick as she caught, she shot it. The buzzer rang as the mass of basketball fans that had risen to their feet collectively inhaled.
About a month later, while at the doctor’s office I was engaged in that awkward small talk you always have in the exam room with walls that are way too white and lights that are way too bright. We finally found something that we had in common to talk about. And disagree about.
“She didn’t get the shot off in time.” the doctor swore. Later I found out he lived in Belt.
Well the Lady Huskies lost on a buzzer-beater. My heart went out to them. They would go on to play at State that year, and like a scripted sports film they played the Mountaineers once again and lost.
But what a night that was in February when it took the full 32 minutes to decide the outcome of the 8C District Tournament.
That is why it was so much sweeter for the Lady Huskies and Coach Jeff Graham when they were able to win their first of three consecutive State Tournaments in 2012. All the hard work paid off for the Lady Huskies and Coach Graham when they were able to defeat Twin Bridges and Gatorade Player of the Year Peyton Ferris in the Four Seasons Arena.
That is why Belt’s story is so special. They were once the David in the Saga of David vs. Goliath, and now they are a team of Goliaths, that averages 5-foot 6-inches tall.
It will be more than enjoyable to watch Belt play in the Northern C Divisional and beyond as they look to become the first team to ever 4-peat in Class C Girls basketball.
I was there in the Four Seasons, I was there in the Belgrade Special Events Center, and I was there in Hamilton High School when the Lady Huskies became State Champions, and you can bet that I will be there when the Lady Huskies attempt to win their fourth consecutive State Championship.
Now if we could just bottle that Belt water then we’d be in business.