Who will it be?
Sure there are favorites like Box Elder, Belt, and Arlee that everyone feels would be a safe bet. Heck those three might be the three teams taking home trophies at the end of this weekend.
As basketball fans from far and wide pile into the Four Seasons Arena, I can’t help but look forward to some of the matchups that should be there for this tournament. So let’s look at the teams that will duke it out in the hopes of hoisting up the championship trophy on Saturday night.
Box Elder (23-1) – The Bears of Coach Jeremy McDonald are looking for their second State Championship in three years. Led by Brandon The Boy, whom I insist might go down as one of the best Native American basketball players in the history of Montana, the Bears are going to be something fierce here at this tournament. Box Elder defeated the defending Class C State Champion Belt Huskies, 65-53, in the Northern C Divisional Championship. I walked away from that game knowing that the Northern C was something special and that Box Elder is special. Those Bears can shoot it and really put on the defensive pressure. Box Elder doesn’t just have The Boy though; they’ve got Jerrod Four Colors who notched 20 points in a foul plagued outing against Belt, and Jake Jones-Morsette who hit a momentum shifting three at the end of the first quarter against the Huskies. In short, watch out for the Bears.
Belt (20-4) – The Belt Huskies of Coach Kyle Paulson enter the State Tournament fresh off their first defeat against a Class C opponent, 65-53, to Box Elder in the Northern C Championship Game. Belt’s led by a dynamic duo of Koltin Haugrose and Matt Metrione. Haugrose and Metrione scored 18 and 14 points, respectively, against Box Elder. Throw in a glue-guy like Jaren Maki who took three charges in the first half and knocked down the opening triple of the game and the Huskies are dangerous. Belt v. Box Elder was probably the best basketball game I’ve seen all season long and some of that credit should go to a Belt team that is looking to repeat as State Champs.
Terry (20-3) – The Terry Terriers under the direction of Scott Fredrickson enter the State Tournament after a strong performance in the Southern C Championship defeating Reed Point-Rapelje, 53-32. Terry is making their first trip to State in 30 years. The Terriers are led in scoring by Zak Gierke but the Terriers are balanced on the offensive end using Dylan McCulley, Aaron Morast, and Kale Gierke to add up the points. Expect Terry to make the most out of this trip to State that is 30 years in the making.
Reed Point-Rapelje (16-9) – Reed Point-Rapelje surprised some people at the Southern C. RPR was able to defeat a Northern Cheyenne team that made it to the Class C State Tournament last season in the first round of the Divisional. The Renegades then defeated Plenty Coups, 72-51, in what was a heck of a ballgame. RPR had lost by 47 points in the district tournament to Plenty Coups but Cade Bare scored 31 points in the upset of Plenty Coups in the semifinals. Bare and John Schladweiler both scored 11 points for the Renegades in the Southern C Championship.
Westby-Grenora (23-1) – Westby-Grenora is back at State after a third place finish at last year’s tournament. Losing dynamic scorer Cooper Olson hasn’t impacted Coach Chad Solberg’s squad which is led by Daulton Holecek who scored 13 points in the Thunder’s win over Culbertson in the Eastern C Divisional. If there is one thing you can be sure of with this team from Eastern Montana, they can shoot it. Look out for Westby-Grenora as they make their fourth consecutive appearance at State looking for their fourth consecutive trophy.
Culbertson (18-7) – Culbertson went back-and-forth with Westby-Grenora in the loss at the Eastern C Divisional, 47-46. Culbertson is led by Chris Azure who scored 17 against Westby-Grenora and 14 against Richey-Lambert in the Divisional. Adam Buxbaum can score it in bunches for the Cowboys as well, he scored 22 against Richey-Lambert and 12 against Westby-Grenora. Don’t be surprised if this team from the East makes some noise in Great Falls this weekend.
Arlee (22-1) – The Arlee Warriors nearly had them last year. In Billings, Arlee was nothing if not entertaining as they played three games that were decided by a combined 11 points. Arlee defeated Northern Cheyenne (62-57), lost to Belt (67-65), and lost to Manhattan Christian (58-54). Arlee was the team that gave the biggest scare to State Champion Belt. In fact, Belt trailed Arlee before the Huskies hit some timely three pointers in a fantastic semifinal game at the Metra. Arlee was able to roll through the West this year and has won 22 straight games after losing to Valley Christian in the first game of the year. Patrick Bigsam headlines a list of crafty scorers for the Warriors who are looking to prove they are one of a few teams to beat in Great Falls.
Manhattan Christian (18-6) – Last but not least Manhattan Christian comes to the Electric City under the direction of Head Coach Jeff Bellach. The Eagles are hoping that their strong post players Kevin Blanskma and James Ramirez can be the X-factor at State. Blanksma scored 14 points and James Ramirez added 10 in the Eagles loss, 67-54, to Arlee in the Western C Championship. Manhattan Christian was able to battle back through the loser-out bracket after an early loss to Highwood defeating Broadview-Lavina and Arlee before falling to Westby-Grenora, 60-57, in the Consolation game. Look out for Manhattan Christian at this State Tournament. Bellach and the Eagles should be ready to perform against the team they ended their season against last year, Westby-Grenora, in the nightcap on Thursday.