Vic

The Northern C Divisional Tournament tips off this Wednesday at 8AM in the Four Seasons Arena. An 8AM start is an early beginning to a long few days of exciting basketball but it won’t feel like an early start for Winnett-Grass Range Head Coach Vic Westphal.

Mornings for the rancher begin around 4:30 AM when the white haired Westphal rises and braves the cold of the morning air to check on his cattle. With the hired hands checking the calves throughout the night Vic takes over before the sun has even crept its way over the Snowy Mountains.

The early mornings on the ranch make for long days for Westphal but that makes the long days in the gym at tournament time seem normal.

For Vic, who’s Lady Rams take on North Star in the opening game of the Northern C Divisional Tournament the fight to survive the District 8C Tournament in Lewistown was like another day on the ranch, except Vic did a lot more pacing in the Fergus High Fieldhouse. On the sideline, Westphal dressed in his customary black jeans, brown shoes, and a button up off-white shirt, wore the hardwood thin walking back-and-forth in front of his WGR bench.

Westphal saw his team shoot just below thirty percent from the floor in their Saturday morning loser-out game against Denton-Geyser-Stanford and hang on for a 10-point win.

The always honest Westphal joked, “That might be the ugliest game we’ve played all year. If I didn’t have to stay in the coaching box I might’ve been half tempted to make a run for the door”.

Well he didn’t make a run for the door, in fact he stayed in the Fergus High Fieldhouse all day long. Sitting up in the wings of the gymnasium he watched games, visited with people, and enjoyed the company of his grandkids.

Then he coached the WGR girls into the Northern C Divisional with a hard-fought win over a talented Centerville squad in the consolation game on Saturday afternoon. Smiles abounded on the faces of his players and Westphal himself was trying not to let his excitement show too much in the hospitality room postgame as he sat to grab a bite to eat.

Elated with the way his girls played in their second tournament win over the Miners in three days he was congratulated by Belt Head Coach Jeff Graham. Graham, with son Jace in toe, pulled up a seat next to Westphal and set young Jace’s plastic dinosaur toys down on the table.

“Wow, would you look at those dinosaurs? Those are great!” said Westphal to the youngest Graham. “I wish I had dinosaurs like that.”

As Graham visited with folks around the hospitality room Westphal and Jace talked about Vic’s “baby cows” and the smile on both their faces was contagious around the room. Westphal, known for his stern and often fiery sideline demeanor had made a new friend. That’s just the kind of guy he is.

In the days before the Northern C redistricted Westphal’s Winnett-Grass Range teams were a staple at the Divisional Tournament representing the late great 7C. Westphal’s teams quite often matched up with Graham’s Lady Huskies on the biggest of stages in the Four Seasons Arena. In fact, Graham’s Huskies and Westphal’s Rams even faced off against each other for the Class C State Championship in Belgrade in 2013 where the Huskies won their second straight title, 40-34.

When asked about Westphal, Graham’s admiration for the rancher/coach is crystal clear.

“Vic is what Class C basketball is all about, raising kids to be better people. He loves our small communities just as much as Griff Bye or anyone can.” remarked Graham. “He treats my kids like his own, taking care of my son while I’m watching our Belt boys play. He coaches because he loves it.”

Year after year it was the Huskies and the Rams representing the Northern C at State. So something that the two coaches are doing must be working. While Graham’s style of coaching presents as much of a show as the basketball game, Westphal’s approach is slightly different to the observer.

On the sideline, the broad shouldered Westphal will stand with his arms crossed and take in the action stoically observing each play. Then in an instant the ball will be turned over or one of his players will commit a bad foul and you can bet the farm that his players will be hearing about it all during the next timeout.

“If you didn’t know Vic he would seem like this big gruff guy. That’s what I though before I ever played for him.” said 2014 Winnett grad Pari Iverson. “He seemed so scary and but on the inside, he’s a real jokester and a true teddy bear.”

More grizzly than teddy bear on the sideline Westphal has built a winning culture in tough central Montana that saw the Rams place at the State C Tournament three straight years.

“If you watched our games he was definitely tough on us, but that was why we were successful. He was the best coach I could have ever asked for.” added Iverson.

Westphal’s Lady Rams team impressed a crowd of people in the Fergus High Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon during their win over Centerville to punch their ticket to the Northern C.

So I say look out for the 8C District at the Four Seasons Arena. The loaded 8C will leave some teams home that could have won ballgames at the Divisional, but that’s the nature of the beast. Belt, Roy/Winifred, and Winnett-Grass Range will be forces throughout the tournament because they had to survive the competition of the 8C.

When Wednesday’s action starts early with Winnett-Grass Range versus North Star at 8 AM. Some fans will undoubtedly be wiping the sleep out of their eyes and needing their second cup of coffee before they can really get into the action.

But Westphal won’t. He’ll be up with the sun and ready to coach his girls as best he can. Expecting the best, pacing up and down the four seasons floor with his arms crossed, and getting fired up for every call he doesn’t like.

And when the game is over you might be able to find him in the hospitality room sitting with his friend Jace Graham talking dinosaurs. It beats the heck out of checking calves at five in the morning.

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Something Familiar

There’s something different in the air this February morning.

It isn’t exactly a smell, however the wafting aromas of freshly popped popcorn does overtake my senses. It isn’t exactly a sight, but the vision of a young kid supposedly under his parent’s supervision demolishing a maple bar doesn’t get old. It isn’t exactly the feeling of a cold hardwood floor that needs to be swept early in the morning just like it isn’t exactly the sound of a bouncing ball echoing off the empty walls but there is something here.

There is something emanating from center court, from the rafters, the stands, and from the team huddles.

It’s tournament basketball time in Montana, and my favorite time of the year.

The anticipatory excitement I felt driving up to Great Falls Tuesday evening was hard to contain. I thought back to some of my greatest memories of tournaments past.

There were the days, back not so long ago, but long enough that the youngest of us don’t remember what a treat it was to sit sopping in sweat in Paris Gibson’s Gymnasium. The Saturday afternoon that my best friend and I watched six games in-a-row from half court on those hard-wooden bleachers without moving because we didn’t want to miss out on watching the best basketball from the best seats. Talk about bleacher butt.

The memory of watching two fan bases separated by fenceposts react so differently to Rachel Semansky’s rebound put-back before the buzzer in the 8C Girls Championship. Squeezed together in a cracker box middle school gymnasium and the mercury rising well beyond 80 degrees the atmosphere of those waning moments was invigorating to say the least.

Then there was the new home of the 8C Tournament at Great Falls High. Sure, the floor was better than the Paris gym and sure the bleachers didn’t make you walk funny for the next week and a half but something was different.

The venue changed. The times were changing. But the game was the same.

In District Tournament basketball, time doesn’t matter because the people stay the same. Sure the 1995 Belt State Championship sweater might be a little more snug around the midsection but the man wearing it still feels a little something tugging on his heartstrings as he listens to the start of his school song during warmups. His response to the conversation he was having about the weather dissipates out of tradition and he stands slowly to clap along with the beat.

If you’ve ever played Class C basketball you know the people are what make it great.

From the little old lady with more player picture buttons on her jacket than anyone you’ve ever seen before, who is sweet as can be until the referee calls a travel on her grandson, to the loudest fan in every section who ends up with legroom because no one dares to sit in front of him.

This is something to be said about basketball in Montana. Something that is so ritualistic about tournament time that makes it familiar enough you can almost taste the salty popcorn or the maple bar the little kid has smeared all over his face. You can see the crowd before you even walk in the door because tournament time is always the same.

It’s always the best time of the year.

What a Wild First Day at State C Boys’

It doesn’t often take 44 minutes to decide a ballgame. It also doesn’t often happen that two of the first three games at the state tournament involve a running clock at the end of the first half.

But this is where we are.

As mentioned before, two games of the first day of the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament were anything but close.

The Arlee Warriors proved they were the real deal in the opening minutes of a 85-46 victory over Culbertson. The win was Arlee’s 23rd in a row and it was out of hand early. Tyler Tanner led the Warriors scoring 16 points, while Philip Malatare added 13, and Brayden Brazill tallied 11. The Warriors jumped out to an early 23-9 lead at the end of one frame and it didn’t get any closer after that. The Warriors look the part of a number one seed here at the State C Tournament and many of the fans in the Four Seasons have already placed the Warriors in the Championship against Box Elder.

The Belt Huskies might have something to say about. The defending Class C State Champions are making struggled shooting the ball at the Four Seasons Arena but were able to outlast an impressive Terry squad, 43-34. Belt’s Koltin Haugrose led the way with 14 markers on just 5-for-15 shooting while Matt Metrione added 12 points. The Huskies finished the contest shooting just 14-for-41 (34.1%) from the floor. It wasn’t an impressive performance by the Belt crew that shot over fifty-percent from the field in the Divisional Championship game against Box Elder. But a win is a win at the State Tournament and it sets up a game against Arlee that is going to demand a much stronger performance than the mid-day shooting slump the Huskies experienced Thursday.

The third contest of the day between resembled the first as it was kind of one-sided. Okay, that might have been the understatement of the year. The Box Elder Bears trounced Reed Point-Rapelje, 83-26, in the first game of the evening session. Brandon The Boy led the way for Box Elder, in a game that was shortened due to the running clock, scoring a game-high 21 points. The Boy shot 9-for-12 from the floor including three from downtown and Pernell Morsette chipped in 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting. The Bears proved comfortable in the Four Seasons Arena as they shot 37-for-64 for the ballgame and 7-for-13 from outside 19’9. Box Elder proved they were the team to beat in this oh so lopsided victory.

The fourth contest of the day was a treat for those that stuck around for it. I’m talking a triple-overtime barn-burner. Heck, more than one barn burned down during that game that took 44 minutes of court time to decide a winner. In the end it was Westby-Grenora that won a contest that would probably end up a 5-5 series split if these two teams were to play 10 times. The Mon-Dak Thunder’s Kevin Rust scored 25 points and Daulton Holecek added 13 markers while going an impressive 9-for-9 at the charity stripe. Manhattan Christian gave it their all in the loss however, as Kyle Frye hit two buzzer-beating three pointers to put more time on the clock for the Eagles. The first Frye triple came off a spectacular inbound play drawn up by Head Coach Jeff Bellach during a timeout with 6.0 second left on the clock. Big man Kevin Blanksma added 19 points for the Eagles who fought to the bitter end of this one. I expect the Eagles to make some noise in the consolation side of the bracket in the days to come.

Tomorrow afternoon loser-out action gets started with Culbertson taking on Terry at 12:30 PM and Reed Point-Rapelje taking on Manhattan Christian at 2 PM.

Then the evening session promises to be a doozy as defending State Champ Belt takes on the impressive Arlee Warriors in the semis for the second consecutive year. Last year’s contest came down to the wire in the game the Huskies won, 67-65, but Arlee led late in the game. The nightcap of Box Elder and Westby-Grenora should be a good one as well as Box Elder looks to rekindle some of the magic that happened two years ago in the State Championship game when the Bears defeated the Thunder, 74-54, in Butte. The two games in the evening session tips off at 6:30 PM and 8 PM.

Well what a day of basketball at the State C Boys’ Tournament. We had blowouts, we had blown leads, and we had some blow-your-mind type plays in four games of basketball.

And Friday promises to be a wild one as well.

Be sure to follow me, Sean Ryan, on Twitter and say hi this weekend at the Class C Tournament.  

 

The Four Seasons Arena Needs an Act of God

There are a lot of great venues for sporting events in Montana. Whether it’s an autumn Friday night in Highwood or a Championship Saturday night in Billings at the Metra, Montana has great sports venues.

Then there’s the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls, the site of the Northern C Divisional and the two Class C State Tournaments.

Underwhelming isn’t it.

Geographically Great Falls sits in a prime position for postseason event hosting opportunities. It’s in the middle of the state for gosh sake.

But for what Great Falls has going for it geographically it lacks in facilities. The Four Seasons Arena is suited for trade shows and craft fairs, not basketball. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people put in a great deal of work to make the tournaments in Great Falls successful but this success is just a glimpse of what it could be if Great Falls had an event center.

I’m not proposing that Great Falls build a 12,000 seat event center like the Metra, but I am proposing we do something. Or at least think about it.

The Four Seasons Arena may boast that it seats 5,500 fans for basketball tournaments but how many of those fans can’t see the court. I’m talking about the four foot-by-four foot concrete columns that block out a great deal of the playing floor.

Great Falls has had some buzz to build an event center here in the past. In the past few years different groups have proposed a new event center in the Electric City. With the hopes of drawing more tournaments to the town and making Great Falls more competitive to tourists.

Look at the buzz that was created when it was announced that the Metra would hosting Def Leppard. Quite a few people would give their left arm to see Def Leppard in person. If you didn’t get that joke stop reading now.

Getting back on track, people come to Billings to see these shows; they stay in hotels, and eat out at restaurants. In other words they spend money, money that greatly impacts the economy of Billings.

I guess Great Falls just needs an act of God to help put things into motion. Being stuck in analysis paralysis has doomed a number of projects in Great Falls and an events center isn’t at the top of the priority list right now.

That’s where the Big Man Upstairs comes in.

The Metra was able to remodel after a tornado took the roof off the place in 2010. So why can’t we just have that happen in the Electric City.

Now to address the specifics so people don’t think I’m just nuts, I’ve thought it all out. Late at night after a trailer show has finished setting up in the Four Seasons Arena a tornado could just touch down right on top of the arena.

Why trailers you might ask? Well it is a little known fact that twisters are attracted to trailers. They might as well be bullseyes for the extreme weather phenomena.

If this all just happened and I were to wake up and read in the newspaper that the Four Seasons was out of commission I don’t think I’d be too upset.

In fact, I’d be thrilled and I might just start going to church a little more often.

Be sure to follow me,Sean Ryan, on Twitter and say hi this weekend at the Class C Tournament.  

 

Sean Ryan’s State Class C Boys’ Tournament Preview

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.

2016BasketballBoysC

North

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.

South

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.

East

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.

West

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.

Daniel’s Lady Miners Are Opening Eyes

If the District 8C Championship game was an eye opener for basketball fans in Northcentral Montana then Thursday at the Northern C Divisional tournament shouldn’t have caught anybody by surprise. With tired eyes the fans who were in the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena witnessed something exciting and the people in the Coulee have been anxiously anticipating.

In the first game of Thursday’s action the Centerville Lady Miners defeated Dutton-Brady, 51-31. Led by Cecilia Vielle (13 pts) and Peyton Vining (12 pts) Centerville was able to control the game from the get-go and get something going in the Divisional Tournament.

It wasn’t but more than a year ago that Centerville Lady Miners Head Coach Chris Daniel and I had a conversation at the District 8C Tournament in Lewistown.

He said his team was almost there. He said they had the tools.

And now I believe him.

Centerville was able to gain momentum out of the District Tournament after a buzzer-beating win over Geraldine-Highwood and battle tough with Belt in the 8C Championship game only losing by nine, 61-52.

Now Centerville finds themselves in the Divisional Semis taking on a strong Box Elder Lady Bears squad at 5:30 PM tonight.

If you can tune out the bands and all the cheering you can hear some murmurs and conversations between folks who are thinking that Centerville could get the best of Box Elder tonight.

I’m one of those people.

Centerville has the size advantage with strong posts in Vielle and Lindsey Drew. They’ve also got some quality shooters in Vining and Kendyl Chartier who will be able to stretch the floor against the Box Elder Bears.

Another advantage the Lady Miners have coming into this contest is they’ve seen this press before. Heck, they’ve seen EVERY press before thanks to playing in the District 8C.

And if you can break the press, you’ve got a chance.

I can’t help but be excited for Coach Daniel who predicted his team would be tough this season. I’m not sure he predicted a buzzer-beater by Chartier in the District Tournament, but I wouldn’t doubt it.

Now the Lady Miners have the chance to drop some jaws too if they can capture a little bit of tournament magic against Box Elder tonight.

Sean Ryan’s Northern C Preview

Bright and early Wednesday morning basketball fans won’t have to wait any longer.

At 7:40 AM the buzzer will echo off the concrete walls of the Four Seasons Arena undoubtedly causing an usher to joke, “If I wasn’t awake yet, I’m sure awake now.”

The 20:00 on the clock will start to count down and the teams of Heart Butte and Tri-Cities will take the court to start their warmups in a chilly exhibition hall. It will be eerily quiet as the balls bounce against the temporary court with orange inlays.

Then the bands will start, and everything will change. When the pep bands start to play the open venue will become an arena and two teams kick off what should be a great tournament.

We’ve just got to wait for the melody of Joy to the World to set the atmosphere.

This week’s Northern C Divisional should be a great tournament and with eight games on tap for the Wednesday I know I’m not the only one looking forward to it.

So I’m going to preview the games for the opening day:

Here is the bracket: Divisional Basketball Tournament Bracket 2016

Game 1 8:00 AM

#3 10-C Heart Butte v. #3 8-C Tri-Cities

Heart Butte and Tri-Cities kick things off early on Wednesday morning. As two #3 seeds both teams are coming off of victories in their respective District tournaments.

Tri-Cities defeated Winnett-Grass Range 48-32 and were led in scoring by CJ Stevenson who tallied 17 points. Jace Aune and Chance McAllister added 14 and 10 markers apiece for the Titans.

For Heart Butte things were a little tighter in the consolation game that saw the Warriors defeat Simms 51-48. The Warriors were led by Chasen Kipp who scored 17 points while Malique Aimsback added 13 markers.

Game 2 9:30 AM

#1 10-C Sunburst v. #3 9-C Hays-LP

The second game of Wednesday should be an exciting one. The “Burst” comes in with an undefeated 21-0 record. Locked in a tight battle with Power for the 10-C crown Sunburst was led by Logan Simmes, Treyton Pickering, and Jackson Nagy who scored 14, 13, and 12 points for the Refiners.

Hays-Lodgepole is a wildcard coming into this tournament having defeated a strong Chinook squad 85-69. Hays Lodgepole was led in scoring by Frank Runsabove who dropped 27 markers and Jace Shambo who added 16 points.

Game 3 11:00 AM

#1 8-C Belt v. #2 9-C CJI

An 11:00 AM game doesn’t usually pack the place but this one sure will. The defending Class C State Champions are 18-3 heading into the Northern C and will benefit from playing such a tough non-conference schedule. Belt is led by Koltin Haugrose who is one of the most athletic combo guards in the state and Matt Metrione a strong force inside for the Huskies. Haugrose and Metrione who combined to score 27 of Belt’s 53 points in their 10-C Championship game win over DGS.

CJI can shoot. That became very evident against Box Elder last Saturday night when the Hi-Line Hawks had three starts hit 12 three pointers in the loss to the Bears. Troy Harmon (15 pts), Justin May (17 pts), Brandon Richter (15 pts), and Cory Richter (14 pts) each scored in double-figures for CJI in 9-C chipper.

Game 4 12:30 PM

#2 8-C DGS v. #2 10-C Power

The two #2 seeds should be each looking to get their tournament off on the right foot. It’s unique and interesting going into a first round game with the same seed as your opponent. Look for DGS to rely heavily on sharpshooter Kendall Carpenter and Conner Bokma on the inside against the Pirates.

While Power Pirate fans might be looking forward to watching their team play in the Divisional I’m more so looking forward to seeing what Griff Bye wears to the Four Seasons Arena. You just never know with that guy. Back on basketball, Power played right with undefeated Sunburst in the 10-C Championship game and they should come into Great Falls with a great deal of confidence. The Pirates were led in scoring last Saturday night by Lucas Kalanick and Chase Rossmiller who chipped in 12 and 10 points apiece.

Game 5 4:00 PM

#1 9-C Box Elder v. Heart Butte or Tri-City

The Box Elder Bears have something to prove. They are out to prove last year was a fluke after getting bounced in the first round by those scrappy Highwood Mountaineers. I imagine Coach MacDonald’s squad will be ready to play with point guard Brandon The Boy leading the offense. The Boy scored 31 points, Pernell Morsette added 17, and Jake Jones-Morsette tallied 14 for the Bears. Watch out for the long-and-lanky Jerrod Four Colors who can score in bunches as well.

Game 6 5:30 PM

#3 10-C Valier v. #3 8-C Roy-Winifred

The first girls’ basketball game of the Northern C Tournament is a battle between two #3 seeds. Valier was able to battle past Cascade 30-28 thanks to a balanced attack that saw Mariah Stoltz score 9 points.

Roy-Winifred is coming off a victory in the consolation game against Geraldine-Highwood. Lorainne Stulc led all scorers with 17 points and Brietta Boyce added 13 for the Lady Outlaws.

Game 7 7:00 PM

#1 10-C GFCC v. #3 9-C CJI

The Great Falls Central Catholic Lady Mustangs have a chance to do something Wednesday night that many people didn’t think would ever happen. The program has risen from obscurity to prominence going to the second straight Northern C Tournament. The Mustangs are led by the athletic Bryn Anderson, who scored 19 points in the 10-C Championship game, Katie Wilson who added 9 markers and Kenadee Depner who scored 7.

CJI defeated North Star, 49-43, in the consolation game of the 9-C Districts. The Hi-Line Hawks are led by Korrin Harmon who tallied a game high 23 points against the Lady Knights; Harmon hit seven three pointers in the CJI victory.

Game 8 8:30 PM

#1 8-C Belt v. #2 9-C Chinook

An 8:30 PM start isn’t ideal and I’m just going to say it now, it’s probably not going to start on time. That’s just the way these things work. It’ll be a late night at the Four Seasons Arena but this one should be worth staying up for. The Lady Huskies are out for redemption after taking 3rd at last year’s State Tournament in Missoula. The Belt Lady Huskies got the best of rival Centerville, 61-52, in the 8-C Chipper and are led by a loaded squad with too many names to mention. Coach Jeff Graham should be entertaining on the sideline as he guides his team against a very tough Chinook squad.

Chinook’s biggest moment of the season came on Friday of last week when Brooke Nicholson made a free throw in the final moments of the game to win it for the Sugarbeeters. Led by Nicholson who scored 14 points on semifinal and Championship night for Chinook; the Lady Sugarbeeters play the game the right way. They are disciplined and aren’t afraid to slow it down in the half-court against the pesky Lady Huskies.

Phew.

Here’s looking forward to a great first day of the Northern C Divisional Tournament on Wednesday and seeing all you fine folks at the Four Seasons Arena.

Oh and let’s not forget, hearing some pep band music while we’re at it.

The Last of the 7-C

You ever notice how some players just have it?

Game, I mean.

Thanks to a 29 point performance on Saturday night that essentially muscled the Montana Tech Lady Orediggers into the Frontier Conference Playoffs; Montana Western knows Martha Dembek has got game.

Some of us have known that fact for quite some time now.

From the small town of Winnett, Montana, Martha Dembek was a star for Coach Vic Westphal’s squads and Saturday night’s performance brought back some memories of the former Lady Ram guiding her team, year in and year out, to the biggest games of the Northern C Divisional tournament at the Four Seasons Arena.

Seeing the Martha Dembek play great basketball at the Northern C Divisional every February was something you could always count on like getting the Toby Keith song How Do You Like Me Now stuck in your head.

Now it’s stuck in your head isn’t it? You’re welcome.

Martha Dembek and the Lady Rams always represented the 7-C so well but due to dwindling numbers and the need for redistricting the 7-C is no more. Like a ghost of basketball past, the conference’s rich history deserves to be remembered.

Players like Martha Dembek make remembering the 7-C an easier task.

In the last five games the 5-9 guard is averaging 21.9 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 48 percent three point land. But what is it that has gotten Dembek going as of late?

Could it just be that time of year that drives the junior sharpshooter? I mean it is tournament time.

When asked about what she remembers most about the Northern C Divisional and this time of year Martha said, “I loved tournament time and the feeling of playing in that crazy rivalry atmosphere. I miss that. There was nothing like it.”

Amen to that.

Another thing I think we’ll be missing from this year’s Northern C is Winnett/Grass Range. This year marks the first year in what seems like forever that the Lady Rams and Coach Westphal won’t be at Northcentral Montana’s biggest dance.

Seeing Vic at the Northern C was the equivalent of seeing the Shawshank Redemption on AMC. It was familiar and you couldn’t help but be drawn to rooting for the Lady Rams like Andy Dufresne was drawn to long term tunneling.

Basketball minds knew it would be more of a challenge to make it to Divisional coming from the District 8-C, even with three teams coming out instead of two.

But nonetheless it will be different without the familiar black and gold of that Central Montana co-op filling the Four Seasons Arena.

There will be some Winnett faithful in Great Falls on Friday night but they will be at the McLaughlin Center cheering on the former 7-C standout Dembek as she and the Lady Diggers attempt to get their third win in a row.

Isn’t it crazy how things change?

The 7-C is gone, Winnett/Grass Range didn’t make the Northern C Divisional, and Martha Dembek is playing somewhere else on a Friday night in February than the Four Seasons Arena.

But some of us haven’t forgotten the days when the 7-C was as strong as any other conference in Northcentral Montana or when Martha Dembek was hitting threes while wearing the black and gold.

No matter the jersey she wears though she’s still got game.

And the 7-C helped show it to the world.

 

Hanging Up The Green Jacket

“Every rose has its thorn, just like every night has its dawn, just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song; every rose has its thorn.”

I don’t very often quote Bret Michaels; actually I don’t think I ever have before unless I am telling the story of when I got to meet him at the Four Seasons Arena a few years back.

It’s definitely not something I brag about often.

I’ll try and refrain from quoting the “Rock of Love” reality TV star in the future but sometimes you’ve got to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get the point across.

Tonight is my last night broadcasting Montana Tech Lady Oredigger and Oredigger basketball. It has been an enjoyable four seasons on the mic for the Diggers.

I’ve seen blowouts, overtimes, and barn burners; foul outs, buzzer-beaters, and three point barrages.

And I’ve loved every moment of it.

As I look back I have to thank a few people for getting me into broadcasting most notably my partner-in-crime Peter Young who has taught me so much. I wouldn’t have wanted to call the games with anybody else. It has been four seasons of great times and a variety of laughs with most of them coming at my expense.

The friendships that I’ve made with players, coaches, and cameramen are some things I’ll treasure forever.

But like the rocker and reality TV star said, “every rose has its thorn.” There comes an end to every beginning and a final chapter to every book. And what a great book it’s been.

The question is, “What the heck do I do with my green jacket?”

It’s not like a green jacket is something you wear all the time, or out to dinner, or on dates. Just kidding, I don’t go to those.

I might just have to hang onto it for the memories. Like when the Diggers knocked off No. 10 Rocky Mountain College a few years back, or when Bryan Bock scored his 1,000th career point in the final seconds of his final game of his career.

However like the 80’s hair bands Poison, Def Leppard, and Twisted Sister it doesn’t last forever. I’ve loved my time broadcasting Digger basketball but it’s time for me to wipe off the makeup, take off the wig, and remove the feather boa from my neck.

Thanks Oredigger and Lady Oredigger basketball for all the memories, and if you’re ever in the market for a green sport coat (size 42L) you know who to call.

Sean Ryan’s Not-So-Well-Informed District Basketball Picks

Its early morning on a cool February Wednesday in Montana: the sun is melting the pile of snow in front of my house, the damn neighbor dog is barking right outside my window at some ungodly hour, and Tim Tharp is tweeting Class C Basketball scores- its tournament basketball time- and all is right with the world.

It seems like Districts snuck up on me this year.

In Northcentral Montana we’ve got 8C, 9C, and 10C action all getting going around the region.

The 8C kicks off on Thursday in Great Falls while the 9C and 10C have both started as of late Wednesday evening.

There is a lot of basketball going on over the next few weekends and it is going to be great. So go watch, and take your family to watch.

One of my favorite things to do is to go and watch basketball with my dad. It is something I’ve loved to do since I was young. When the 8C Districts were housed in the Paris Gibson Gym I can remember getting up early on Saturday mornings, skipping the cartoons and heading for the bleachers.

What a deal it was. Breakfast was a maple bar from the hospitality room -one of the perks of being a coach’s kid- and a Gatorade.

We’d sit in those bleachers all day. My dad would talk to people, like he does, and I would watch the games. I would become entranced in the games. I’d pick teams I wanted to win before every game based on how cool their mascots were; the Geraldine Tigers got rooted for a lot.

It’s was a great way to spend weekends and it still is a great way to spend weekends now that I’ve grown up. Tigers are still pretty cool mascots no matter how old you are.

That’s why it’s too bad I have to miss Districts this year. But despite the fact I won’t be around it, it doesn’t mean I can’t make some picks.

So here they are without further ado:

Sean Ryan’s Not-So-Well-Informed District Basketball Picks

8C- Great Falls

Boys

Champs- Belt  

2nd– DGS

3rd– Tri-City

Girls

Champs- Belt

2nd– Centerville

3rd– Roy-Winifred

Breakdown: With a nod toward the excellent successes that these teams have had I pick the Belt girls and boys to win their District titles. Coming off of a third place finish at State last season the Belt girls look really tough this year and with sharpshooters like Pimperton and Martin it would be crazy to pick against the Lady Huskies. As for the Belt boys, they lost some talented players of last year’s Championship squad but they’ve still got Koltin Haugrose who is one of the best guards in the state and one heck of a coach in Kyle Paulsen.

9C- Havre

Boys

Champs- Box Elder

2nd– CJI

3rd– Hays-Lodgepole

Girls

Champs- Box Elder

2nd– Hays-Lodgepole

3rd– Chinook

Breakdown: Man if Havre weren’t so far away from everywhere I might be inclined to grab a seat for championship night in this district. The Bears are going to be extremely tough but so are the Hawks and this one could be a toss-up. For the third place game I’ve got to go with the Thunderbirds. My second cousin is coaching Hays-Lodgepole and I’ve got to be biased just so we can have a little family reunion at the Four Seasons next weekend. On the girls side I think Box Elder will win this district easily. They could be a tough challenger against Belt at the Northern C tourney. For the third place game, I think Chinook will be making a trip to Great Falls having seen them play in person earlier this year. Led by Brooke Nicholson the Lady Sugarbeeters would be a strong third place team going into next week.

10C- Conrad

Boys

Champs- Sunburst

2nd– Power

3rd– Simms

Girls

Champs- Great Falls Central

2nd– Dutton-Brady

3rd– Valier

Breakdown: I think Tim Tharp would approve of my decision to vote undefeated Sunburst as the Champ of the 10C. Examining the numbers the Refiners look really strong and have a quality young coach in Nate Aschim. But who know, Griff Bye and his excellent wardrobe might have something to say about that. On the girls’ side, boy do I have so stories to tell. Five years ago if you would’ve told me to you picked my alma mater to win a District tournament I would’ve called you a mental health professional. I sat through more than a handful of mercy-rule games during my four years of high school but things have changed. I think the Central girls win this District pretty easily but will have to face some tougher talent at next week’s Northern C Divisional.

Well there you have it. My hunches and picks for District Tournaments in Northcentral Montana. Feel free to tell me where you think I went wrong in these picks when I see you at the Four Seasons Arena.

So get your sons and daughters up early, get them a maple bar or a bear claw, and just watch some basketball. You won’t regret it.