“Realignment Reaschimement” The MHSA’s Outdated Approach

I’m guessing we’ve all heard the news. Congratulations on such great seasons Box Elder, DGS and Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap, now go kick rocks in Eight-Man is essentially what the MHSA is saying. Well that isn’t right.

The Montana High School Association’s Board of Directors met on Monday of this week to take preliminary action on reclassifying certain Six-Man football teams to the Eight-Man. That is the equivalent to letting a puppy play next to railroad tracks. It just doesn’t make sense. If you go by the book the enrollment numbers for some of these schools might make the case for moving teams up to a new class of play, but common sense tells you otherwise.

Take it from a guy who’s got some experience going through a transition from one classification to another. It’s not fun.

When I was a senior in high school my football team got moved from Class C Six-Man to Eight-Man. That was essentially taking something that had been successful for the previous two years and leading it the slaughter which is Eight-Man football in the Northern C just because our school was growing. The football team wasn’t growing but the band sure was (I played the tambourine). Just because the enrollment increases doesn’t mean the participation of athletes does the same.

Take for example Class C Six-Man runner up Box Elder. The Bears had their best season ever which ended just this past weekend losing to DGS in the State Championship. Now the MHSA wants to move a football team which just experienced success for the first time up to a class of football where they might not win a game. The Bears had only 14 boys out for football this season with seven of them being seniors.

The MHSA shouldn’t be using enrollment numbers to decide which classification of football you should be playing they should use the number able-bodied participants. I refrain from the use of the word participants because when a football team starts to experience success, some kids come out just to be a part of the team with no real intention of playing, which isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact it should be celebrated that these kids want to be a part of something.

I’m reminded of when my high school football team made the jump from Six-Man to Eight-Man football. What a way to go out, huh?

When you move from Six-Man to Eight-Man football you are adding two kids to the field of play that wouldn’t normally play unless you were up by 35 or down by 35. That isn’t exactly a recipe for success. And for my senior year, it wasn’t. Instead of winning games and hoping to win a state title, we were worried about surviving. It was like The Hunger Games out there.

Ok that last part was a joke, but it made every week of the season a struggle. By the grace of God we finished 4-4.

I guess I decided to write this article because I feel bad for the kids who will be seniors next season at some of these schools moving up. Mediocrity isn’t enjoyable and that’s what moving teams up to new classifications when they aren’t prepared creates.

Here’s the part of the article where I propose what I think should happen, I think the MHSA should leave well enough alone, for the time being.

I think that schools that have an enrollment above 65 students should begin the process of examining what numbers they are going to have coming down the pipeline in the next three to four years. Do a headcount and figure out whether or not you will have enough kids participating in football to be competitive in Eight-Man or Six-Man. Then those schools which will be moving up a classification should give the younger student-athletes a chance at success through JV games. While the varsity would be playing Six-Man football the junior high and JV (if numbers permit) should begin the process of playing an Eight-Man schedule. It is two completely different kinds of football.

Playing football at the wrong level isn’t fun. It takes a game that should be enjoyed and turns it into a punishment every Friday night or Saturday afternoon.

Football is cutthroat as it is, so why the rush by the MHSA to throw some schools into the fire?

Now lets just hope they don’t light me on fire for saying this.

Sean Ryan can be reached for comments or story ideas by email at sryan@mtech.edu. Follow him on Twitter @Mr_SeanRyan


What a Day for North Central Montana

I know I usually focus on roundball in my articles but this Saturday was something special. Whether you were watching the Griz beat the Cats, the Diggers roll the Blue Hawks, or a State Championship game being played it was a great day of football.

I was busy working the sidelines of the Montana Tech Orediggers first playoff win in a decade but I wish I could have been in more than one place at a time.

If I had that ability I think my first destination would have been Stanford, Montana. To tell the truth, I’ll always be somewhat partial to Six-Man football. As some of you football traditionalists roll your eyes let me explain. Six-Man football is one part track meet, one part basketball, two parts football, and one part insanity. This goofy game rides the line between complete chaos and a scripted ballet. Six-Man football is reminiscent of something you might have played when you were six or seven horsing around with all the other kids behind the bleachers during a high school football game.

In high school, I played three years of Six-Man football before my team moved up into the Eight-Man ranks and I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t wish we could’ve stayed in Six-Man. And it’s not because guys like Chinook’s Ben Stroh and Jorrell Jones ran me over in Eight-Man, because I’ll tell you that plenty of people ran over me in Six-Man, just ask Cole Jelinek or Rhett Young. I missed Six-Man football because you were never out of the game. Sure you might be down by a couple of scores with just a few minutes to play, but in Six-Man football that’s just two long runs and the other team missing a couple of tackles.

From all accounts it sounds like Box Elder and DGS made their State Championship matchup more than entertaining. The Co-op school came out with the victory, 60-34, and finished a perfect 13-0 season. In any type of football it’s difficult to go undefeated but with quality opponents in the Northern C and in the game of Six-Man it’s something to be really celebrated. Credit the leaders on the DGS team who brought three communities together and established a winning tradition in such a short time. Heck they’re pretty nifty at basketball too. Congratulations to Coach Scott Sparks as well, what a deserving guy. I wish him all the best as he takes the helm of the Fergus High Basketball program. Who wouldn’t want to go coach their alma mater? He’s one heck of a coach but an even better guy. I know Class C is going to miss him.

But let’s not have another incredibly important story fall by the wayside. I’m talking about the Box Elder Bears having their best season in well… ever.

It isn’t very often you would associate a Native American football team with success but the Bears proved that way of thinking dead wrong. Led by Brandon The Boy, Shane Ketchum, Bodis Duran, Jerrod Four Colors, and Elias Duran, the Bears made something special happen. They proved that they weren’t just skilled on the hardwood but also on the gridiron. A second place finish in the state is something to be proud of and something you will remember for the rest of your lives. There are plenty of people that would give anything to have had the opportunity to play in a State Championship, myself included.

Chalk the first one up for North Central Montana.

Today wasn’t just a great day for the North Central Montana in Six-Man, but in Eight-Man as well.

If you aren’t from Big Sky Country you might not know what the heck a Sugarbeeter is. Don’t try to Wikipedia it, that doesn’t work either. After today however, it doesn’t matter what the real definition is. Sugarbeeter means champion.

The Sugarbeeters completed an unblemished season (12-0) by defeating the Arlee Warriors 44-20 for the State Class C Eight-Man crown. It isn’t hard to believe that a Northern C team won the State Championship, heck it seems like it’s been a pretty common sight for some time to have a number of teams from the area in the hunt for a title. The Northern C has been stacked for quite some time.

For Chinook, the time was theirs. Chinook had one goal in mind going into this season: get back to State Championship game. The Beeters did just that after a tough 46-14 defeat to Wibaux last season. They ran through the gauntlet of the Northern C with teams like CJI, Simms, and Belt being more than formidable and came out on top. In the end, I can’t help but think that the Northern C prepped the Sugarbeeters for the playoffs as half the games this season had to have felt like playoff games in the regular season.

Chalk the second one up for North Central Montana.

As I paced the sidelines at Bob Green Field in Butte, America with two pairs of long underwear on I couldn’t help thinking of two things: One, I sure hope I don’t have to go the bathroom. And two, what the heck is going on in Fairfield?

Granted it was halftime in the Class B State Championship when I was checking scores on Twitter but I was surprised the Eagles were down 14-0 at the intermission. I figured the undefeated Eagles were going to win the Chipper but I must digress, I’m not a huge Class B guy. Maybe I was wrong to assume Fairfield was going to win the State Championship against Huntley Project.

Well I was wrong about being wrong.

Fairfield scored 27 unanswered points and gained 277 yards of offense after the break. The Eagles picked the right time to hit their stride and bring the Class B hardware back to Fairfield for the first time since 2011.

Chalk the third one up for North Central Montana.

What a fantastic day for football fans in North Central Montana (except Bobcat fans). When three teams from the same area of the state can all claim hardware on the same day it’s a pretty good feeling.

But what does this mean for the North you might ask? I think it means the North is the cream of the crop. It means we’ve got the bragging rights for the calendar year. Take it from a guy living in a house with roommates who played in the Western and Eastern C, bragging rights are pretty important.

So thank you DGS, Box Elder, Chinook, and Fairfield for giving this guy the trump card. I know it’s going to come in handy.

Now ice up, rest up, and lace them up because its roundball time, and that means I can retire the long underwear.

Guess Who’s Back?

Guess whose back? Back again.  Sean is back. Tell a friend, and be sure to share my articles on social media like you all did last year.

It’s hard to believe that it has been eight months since I last wrote an article on high school basketball. Just to recap last year I tried writing this blog (I despise that word) on a whim and it blew up! In just a matter of two months over 12,500 people read my articles.

Thank you all so much. It was really awesome to see such a great response to something I worked really hard on. Thank you.

Well back to the real reason I decided to start writing again…

BASKETBALL IS BACK and I’m not talking about that phony-bologna NBA stuff. I’m talking about real basketball. The smell of popcorn wafting down the hallway, the band playing “The Final Countdown” by Europe, and warmup pants that allow you to rip them off in a really dramatic fashion signals that high school basketball is back. And I know I’m not the only one who is excited by this.

When I was browsing the internet earlier this week I saw that high school basketball practice starts today I was definitely surprised and excited. How did it switch from football and volleyball season to basketball season so quickly? That’s exactly what I think a bunch of high school athletes will be thinking as they lace up their sneakers for the first practice of this season.

Last year, the season finished in a flurry with the Belt Huskies winning over Fairview 61-39 in Metra. Now, Class C teams of both boys and girls are going to practice for the first time aiming to end their season in Great Falls at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena in the middle of March.

There is nothing quite like the first practice of the year. A practice that you go into thinking you are in shape and come out of realizing that football or volleyball shape is a completely different animal.

That’s when the trash cans come in handy.

Teams this year will focus on offense and they will focus on defense, but the primary focus will be on winning a State Championship.

As things get rolling this season I plan on writing pretty often so stay tuned. I write because I love the game and all that goes with it.

But Sean is back, tell a friend.

Seriously tell your friends.

The Belt Huskies Become Heroes

Before the tip of the Class C State Championship game I saw a group of young boys playing in the wings of the Metra. They weren’t playing tag, they weren’t playing hide-and-go-seek, and they weren’t fighting so Mom and Dad were happy. Those little boys were playing a pretend game of basketball and imagining scoring baskets on the court not 250 feet away from them.

10… 9… 8… They counted down the imaginary clock as the boys passed the pretend basketball between themselves.

7… 6… 5… The time was running down and they needed a basket. I can distinctly remember those same moments passing through my mind in the driveway growing up.

4… 3… 2… 1… One of the little boys caught the imaginary basketball and put up the shot at the “buzzer”.

I turned my back on that nail-biter of a pretend basketball game because I knew the result even before the boys were celebrating.

Of course the shot went in and of course the boys won the game.

But that wasn’t any game that those boys were playing, they were in a State Championship, just like the one getting set to tip between Belt and Fairview just a few moments later.

The real State Championship didn’t need a last second shot like the imaginary one did but it had all the heroics nonetheless.

There was a hobbled Matt Metrione playing through the pain to help Belt win the battle of the boards against a much larger Fairview Warrior team. One sprained ankle couldn’t slowdown that super sophomore and keep him from making an impact in the biggest game of his life.

Or was the hero Paxton Maki who battled all season in the post for a team who had to match up with much larger opponents? Maki made 10 of his 12 free throws on the way to a hard fought 16 points against Fairview. Not to mention Maki took two charges against the Warriors.

Then there was Koltin Haugrose whose offensive output in the first half kept the Huskies afloat. Perhaps the earliest indication that Haugrose came to play was when he followed Parker McCafferty’s contested fast break layup and stuck it in for Belt’s first field goal of the game. Haugrose was the leading scorer for the Huskies in the State Championship with 17 points and 7 boards.

McCafferty also had some heroics on tap for Saturday night. The 5’11 dynamic guard helped the Huskies battle back from being 11 points down midway through the second quarter by picking pockets and converting in transition. The run the Huskies made to keep themselves in the contest was thanks to Mr. McCafferty who finished the game with 14 points and a team high 9 rebounds.

Then there were the heroics of the Belt bench. Players like Jaren Maki who helped spell the foul riddled Koltin Haugrose, Harry Green who bombed a three-ball in the third quarter and made all 4 of his free throws on the way to 7 points, Dusty Potter who came in and took a charge, or freshman Keagan Stroop who got a chance to shoot free throws in a State Championship game and made both.

Every one of the State Champion Belt Huskies is a hero to their community after bringing the State Title back to Belt after 20 years. Heck these kids weren’t even born when the Belt boys last won it all.

Community pride goes a long way. It’s a large factor in the strides that the Belt Huskies were able to make under the direction of Kyle Paulson.

Belt knew their teams would be very good this year. Just how good we found out Saturday night.

After two nights of stress and near blow ups the Huskies cruised to a 61-39 victory in the last and most meaningful game of the season.

It was something special to see a community that has been solely focused on following their Lady Huskies to Class C State Tournaments get to celebrate their Boys on a Saturday night in March.

This State Championship for the Belt Huskies was something special to witness, almost as special as the “State Championship” I saw being played by those little boys in the wings of the Metra.

The heroics of this season’s Belt Huskies won’t be forgotten. Especially not with little boys pretending to be Paxton Maki, Parker McCafferty, Koltin Haugrose, Tristan Cummings, and Matt Metrione when they recreate the Belt Huskies most recent State Championship.

So if you are walking by a playground and hear the distant sound of young boys counting down 10… 9… 8…

They are just recreating the Belt Huskies 2015 Class C State Championship and in a way practicing to win a State Championship of their own someday.

Those Mountaineers Really Did Something Special

I think the toughest thing to watch is a young man hugging his mother and father after a tough loss in their last high school basketball game. It brings back the flood of emotions that everyone goes through when you are done playing the game that you love.

I choked up when I saw that today after the Highwood Mountaineers lost to Westby-Grenora 55-50 in overtime in loser-out action. As the Mountaineers filed out of the locker room hugs and tears abounded not just between family members but between the whole community of Highwood. That is what makes me love Class C basketball.

Yes, the Mountaineers lost a tough one today but what they did this season was something special.

First of which they beat the Box Elder Bears twice this season including a large win to open up the Northern C Divisional.

Second, they survived the tough 8C Districts and the Northern C Division. That is something that most teams can only dream of.

Third, they knocked off the media’s No. 2 team coming into the State Tournament when they defeated Manhattan Christian 54-47.

However the most impressive fact about the run the Mountaineers made this season is that they did it with only about five players. Sure Louis Aron came off the bench for spurts and did a great job but it was the core five of Davison, LaFontaine, Malek, Malek, and Ferda that did a majority of the work for Coach Aaron Skogen.

To win a game at the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament is something special and the Mountaineers need to remember that.

This group of seniors was a bunch of rag tag freshman that helped the Mountaineers to a second place finish at State in 2012. To make it to State twice in your playing career is something that a lot of Class C coaches never see happen, not to mention players.

So even though Highwood lost out on this Saturday morning, the Mountaineers should keep their heads up high. They made it very clear that they deserved to be here at the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament and represented the Northern C well.

It’s tough to see playing careers come to an end especially for a group of young men who worked so hard to get one more chance at a State Tournament trophy, but it was really difficult to see these young men end their careers.

For those five seniors for Highwood they did something special. They brought their community to State twice, Divisional all four years, and a made all of Highwood proud.

So go ahead and shed a tear and give your family and teammates a hug. Just don’t forget to stop and look back at all that you accomplished while wearing the word “Mountaineer” across your chest.

You won’t be disappointed.

Belt vs. Fairview for the State Championship

The Belt Huskies have a chance at something special. A chance at going a perfect 26-0 this season if they can win just one more game here at the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament.

The only game left is the State Championship contest against Fairview, which tips off at 8 PM tonight. You can listen to that game on 560 KMON in the greater Great Falls area or online by clicking this link KMONAM.com.

Many of the Husky fans weren’t sure this would happen this season. Yea Belt is good, but they’ve had their fair share of close calls, especially these last two nights.

The Huskies played with fire again last night as they gave up a 12 point advantage against a pesky Arlee squad and gave the Warriors a chance at winning it with a half-court shot at the buzzer.

But Belt survived, 67-65, in the nightcap of yesterday’s action.

Last night was more than wild. I’ve never been so stressed out in my life as I was broadcasting the two Husky games these last two nights in Billings. Can you please just put the hammer down?

So to take a look at the match up tonight Belt is going to have to work for this one.

Fairview’s big three threats are the two Hardy boys, Ben and Pat, and a Cayko (pronounced psycho) which sounds like the name of a good book.

The Fairview Warriors are a tough squad that is ready win their second State Title in four years. Led by my tournament MVP Monte Cayko, the Warriors are going to be tough to stop on offense. With Cayko roaming the perimeter and slashing into the lane Fairview’s offense is primarily run through Cayko who scored 24 points last night against Highwood, and 20 points in the opening win against Broadview/Lavina. The dude can play ball.

But I have faith in Belt’s defense. The Huskies who defeated Westby/Grenora and Arlee to get to the big stage should be ready. With terrific starting lineup of strong on-ball defenders like Haugrose, Metrione, Maki, McCafferty, and Cummings they should be up to the task of slowing down the Warriors.

On offense Belt should be ready to go. I expect Haugrose to finally breakthrough for a big game here at the State C Boys’ Tournament. Matt Metrione and Paxton Maki will control the glass and paint like they have done all year and Parker McCafferty should be the lighter in the Belt pile of dry firewood. We haven’t really seen Belt shoot the ball like I know that they can.

If Belt can come out and put their game plan into action early they should be able to build the lead that I hope can make the evening a little less stressful for Husky Fans.

Tonight a bunch of young men who weren’t even born when Belt won their last State C Boys’ Championship in 1995 will go out and try and bring their community another title and a perfect 26-0 record.

Do they realize the precipice that they are on? Probably not, and that isn’t a bad thing. The Huskies will go out there tonight and have fun, because playing in the State Championship Game is something that most of them could only dream about…

Until now.

Huskies Get Quite the Scare vs. Westby/Grenora

Sooner or later it happens. A man will have to face facts and realize that he is losing his hair. In the case of Belt Husky mentor Kyle Paulson that day might come sooner than he hoped if his team gives up 17 point leads like they did tonight winning 57-51.

The Huskies looked like they might walk away with a big win in the nightcap against Westby/Grenora here at the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament at halftime. Belt went into the locker room with a 13 points advantage, 35-22, and half the fans that were in the gym headed out to a late dinner at Olive Garden I’m guessing.

They all assumed that this one was over. Well, you know what they say about assuming…

It was Westby/Grenora in the second half who came out ready to play. The Thunder outscored Belt 15-7 in the third quarter to cut it to a five point game at 42-37 entering the final frame.

That’s when things got a little stressful for the Husky faithful. Belt went cold on offense and the Thunder got hot. Like give me the ball, I’m going to put this up from 25 feet away and make it hot.

It was Daulton Holecek, the 5’10 sophomore, who was casting it up from NBA range and making it. Holecek would score 15 points for the team from Westby and Grenora but it was Cooper Olson who nearly willed his team into the semifinals. Olson scored a game high 23 points including 12 in the second half to give Westby a three point advantage at one point with less than two minutes left in the fourth.

Then Matt Metrione reminded Belt fans that the team wasn’t dead yet. Metrione battled on the inside all ballgame but it was his two scores in the final few minutes that got the Huskies the win. Metrione caught one pass at the 15 foot line and pretended to hand it off to McCafferty who was making a Laker cut.

He didn’t hand the ball off though. He turned over his left shoulder, took a dribble, and beat everyone to the rim to lay it home. One of the next possessions down Matt got another two points off of pure hustle, the ball was on the floor and he was just quicker than everyone else, scooped it and scored it.

Those Belt Huskies gave their fans quite the scare tonight.

It’s a scare that Husky fans haven’t had to deal with much this season as Belt is undefeated on the season and has won a lot of games by being the better team in the second half. Tonight though, they weren’t.

But a wins a win in the State C Boys’ Tournament and maybe this scare is just what the Huskies needed to get them ready to seek a State Championship here in Billings.

I like the Huskies chances against a pesky Arlee Warrior squad that beat Northern Cheyenne tonight 62-57. Let me tell you, I was tired just watching that game between Arlee and Northern Cheyenne.

It should be quite the contest between two teams that like to get out and go with the basketball tomorrow night.

Just tomorrow night when the Huskies tip it off against the Warriors can Belt please not cause so much stress to their fans? It isn’t good for the hearts, not to mention the receding hairlines (mine included).

Those Highwood Hoosiers

They aren’t from a town called Hickory and they don’t have Gene Hackman roaming the sidelines, but that is where the differences stop between the Highwood Mountaineers and those Hickory Hoosiers.

The Highwood Mountaineers pulled off an upset of gargantuan size once again as they knocked of the No. 2 team in the state, the Manhattan Christian Eagles, in today’s second game of the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament 54-47. This is the second time that the Highwood Mountaineers have come into a tournament and pulled of an amazing upset. In the Northern C Divisional Highwood got the best of defending Class C State Champion Box Elder on a Wednesday night in the Four Seasons Arena.

So when are we going to stop calling these upsets?

Not a soul will believe me, but I somewhat suspected something special out of Highwood here at the State Tournament and actually called Highwood winning over Manhattan Christian.

Here was my reasoning:

For starters, Highwood isn’t very deep but depth isn’t an issue at the first game of the State Tournament. If the Mountaineers could stay out of foul trouble I thought their starting five would keep them within striking distance at least.

Second, Highwood has Aaron Skogen on the sideline. What more could you ask for? Sure he wasn’t in the movies The Quick and the Dead or The Replacements but I won’t hold that against him. Skogen always has his Highwood Mountaineers prepared for battle and if you give them two weeks to prep for anybody I’ll give them the edge.

Reasons three and four go like this: Jordan LaFontaine and Luke Davison. LaFontaine and Davison lead the State Title bound Highwood Mountaineer team in scoring. They are the real deal. They play hard, they play fast, and they can shoot the ball. Davison and LaFontaine led the Mountaineers with a 20 and 19 points respectively. LaFontaine also collected a game-high 10 boards against a larger Manhattan Christian frontline.

These Mountaineers came to play. A lot of this Hoosier-like run that Highwood has embarked on is because of their experience at the State Tournament. In his second year at the helm of the Highwood Mountaineers Aaron Skogen led his squad to a second place finish at the State Tournament when this group of seniors for Highwood High were just freshman.

They wanted to come back to the Metra.

Coincidentally the Mountaineers lost to the same team they will match up against Friday night in the semi-finals that they did in the 2012 Class C State Championship, Fairview.

I like the chances of for the Mountaineers a little better this time around. With five starting seniors in Jacob Malek, Darren Malek, Logan Ferda, Luke Davison, and Jordan LaFontaine, Highwood has the best starting five of anybody in Class C in my opinion.

From a high school with just 29 students, about a quarter of which are on this basketball team, the Highwood Mountaineers are ready to keep this train a rolling.

And why not?

You just won a game that only family, a few close friends, and one broadcaster sitting on the second level thought you might win.

The floor is yours boys. Enjoy it.

If you need help remembering I can tell you the basket is still 10 feet high and the free throw line is just 15 feet away from the basket, or just ask Coach Skogen. I’m sure he will grab a measuring tape and show you.

“I’ve Been Everywhere Man” (in Just 3 Years)

As I hit the road from Butte, America toward Billings I couldn’t help but think about the upcoming State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament. With my car packed up to the brim with radio equipment, notebooks, and dress shirts I headed down the highway. I was on the road again.

Almost on cue, I turned up the radio and heard the Willie Nelson classic ballad, On the Road Again. I of course turned it up (sorry to all the people on the highway who saw me singing along at the top of my lungs on the way over). I really was getting into it, a little too into it.

As the melody of songs like Roger Miller’s King of the Road, and the Man in Black, Johnny Cash’s I’ve Been Everywhere came across my radio I got to thinking.

I got to thinking about all the miles I travel to broadcast basketball for Northcentral Montana and KMON.

I’ve been everywhere man. I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been in Lewistown, Great Falls, Missoula, and now Billings (don’t try to sing that with the rhythm it doesn’t work). While going to school in Butte during the week.

It’s pretty amazing when I get to think about how lucky I am. First off, I get to watch and broadcast the best basketball events in Montana. When people want to argue about what classification is better I’m willing to go to blows with them to defend Class C.

Sure the basketball might not be the best, and yea there might only be six kids in the band, and yea their mascot has seen better days (like 40 years ago) but there is something special about Class C. It’s that fire, it’s the cracker-box gyms like Highwood and Roy, it’s the fact that you can’t walk into a Class C gymnasium and not know somebody who knows somebody that you know.

I’ve been broadcasting games for KMON for three years now. It’s hard to believe that in just three years of broadcasting I’ve broadcasted two District, three Divisional, and after tomorrow six State Basketball Tournaments. I’m beyond lucky.

It all started after a couple of weeks calling games for Montana Tech’s basketball programs. I had a ton of fun doing that. It almost consumed me like when you hit middle march and can’t wait to hit the golf course. It was broadcasting mania.

Then I went out to Geraldine, Montana and saw my good friend Jim Sargent. Sarge and I got to talking and he said, “I hear you have been doing some games for Montana Tech. Do you want to come up and call some games for us at Districts?”

My jaw dropped. The radio, what I would listen to passionately in late February early March when I was supposed to be doing homework in study hall?

“Heck Yes!” I replied before he could finish asking the question.

I drove up to Great Falls during the middle of February and hopped on the air. At the end of the weekend, Sarge asked if I wanted to come back up for Divisonals.

So of course I came back up for Divisionals. After calling games and falling in love with broadcasting Class C basketball on the radio. Sarge asked if I wanted to go to Belgrade to cover the State C Girls’ Tournament.

So I went to Belgrade.

And within three weeks of broadcasting my first game on the radio for KMON I got to broadcast the State Championship game between Belt and Winnett-Grass Range.

And just like that, roughly three years to the date I’m going to be walking into the Metra to broadcast the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament.

Its crazy how time flies when you are having fun, and that is what I’m having, fun.

So tomorrow afternoon at 12:30 PM I’ll be having the time of my life for the fourth time this year broadcasting some Class C basketball.

I hope you continue to tune in because I’ve been everywhere man. I’ve been everywhere.

My State C Boys’ Tournament Preview- Why I Can’t Wait For Billings

Fresh off a State C Girls’ Basketball Tournament that exhibited emotion, energy, excitement and an environment like no other at the Adams Center in Missoula; I can’t help but look forward to next weekend.

That’s right folks. It is officially State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament time.

Click here for the Tournament Bracket

Fill up the tank, book your hotel rooms, pack your bags, get the neighbor kid to collect your mail, and head down to Billings.

After the conclusion of the Southern C Boys’ Divisional Tournament this weekend the bracket is set and boy is it a doozy.

There isn’t a team in this tournament that you can move into the loser-out contests right away. I happen to think this might be one of the best State C Boys’ Tournaments ever.

Alright now that I’ve billed it up enough, here are the matchups and my previews for them.

Game No. 1        Fairview vs. Broadview/Lavina 12:30 PM

The State Tournament kicks off with what should be a wild one. The Warriors of Fairview are the No. 1 seed coming out of the Eastern C Divisional. Fairview defeated two time State C Boys’ second place finisher Westby/Grenora 60-50 two weekends ago in what had to be a wild contest.

The Fairview Warriors are led by versatile guard Monte Cayko (pronounced Psycho) and Pat and Ben Hardy. Pat Hardy and Cayko scored 15 apiece in the Eastern C Divisional and Ben Hardy added 12 for the Warriors. The only loss for the Fairview Warriors in District 2C action was against Westby/Grenora in the District Championship game.

Broadview/Lavina on the other hand will be tough to handle for Fairview as the No. 2 seed out of the Southern C. Broadview Lavina was led in scoring in the Divisional Championship by Scott Bymaster who had 20, Taylor Bienvenue who dropped 16, and 6’10 Seth Christiaens who scored 10, but rolled an ankle early on in the semifinal game the night before. Christiaens had 69 dunks in the regular season for the Pirates. Seriously, this kid dunks the ball more than a vintage game of NBA Jam. (Don’t worry the younger readers will get this reference, it was a must have at sleepovers)

This should be a great matchup to start the State Tournament.

Game No. 2        Manhattan Christian vs. Highwood 2:00 PM

The No. 1 seed out of the West, Manhattan Christian, is going to be a tough test for the Highwood Mountaineers the No. 2 seed out of the always tough Northern C.

Having watched Manhattan Christian play in the Western C Divisional, I have to say one thing, they are tough. Under the direction of former Montana Tech Oredigger All-Star Jeff Bellach the Eagles will be a force in the State Tournament. Bellach has got some studs on his team that enters the Metra with a perfect 24-0 record after defeating previously unbeaten Arlee.

As for the Highwood Mountaineers, the No. 2 seed out of the Northern C, they’ve got a heck of a Head Coach as well in Aaron Skogen. He is the best coach in the Montana in my opinion. He has taken Highwood to the Divisional Tournament every year he’s been at the helm, which in the District 8C isn’t an easy task.

The Mountaineers are led by five seniors. Depth is their Achilles heel because they can’t go much deeper than those starting five. They do have a sophomore that comes off the bench well for short spurts in Louis Aron, but it’s really the five of Logan Ferda, Luke Davison, Jordan Lafontaine, Darren Malek, and Jak Malek that has gotten this team to this final. Luke Davison was about as phenomenal as you can be in the Northern C Divisional averaging 24.3 points per game over those three contests where the Mountaineers defeated defending champ Box Elder, DGS, and fought the good fight with a talented Belt squad (No. 1 in the polls).

Game No. 3        Northern Cheyenne vs. Arlee 6:30 PM

For the third game of the State C Boys’ Tournament you had better get there early. It’s going to be good old fashioned run and gun basketball. Northern Cheyenne defeated Broadview/Lavina 74-66. Northern Cheyenne had three players scored in double-digits in the Southern C Championship game in Freddie Blackwolf (23), Josh Smith (22), and Sonny Crazymule (10).

The Arlee Warriors who were a perfect 23-0 coming into the Western C Championship game are going to be a tough squad to stop. Heck they only lost to Manhattan Christian by six points, MCH’s closest game of the year. Arlee led after the first quarter against the Eagles. Arlee was led in scoring in that contest by Tyler Tanner (19), Patrick Big Sam (16), and Justis Haynes (14).

That should be a wild one that I can’t wait to watch at the State C Boys’ Basketball Tournament.

Game No. 4        Belt vs. Westby/Grenora 8:00 PM

The nightcap of the Belt Huskies vs. Westby/Grenora should be a fantastic nightcap of a great day of basketball. The Huskies are good. Led by sharpshooter Koltin Haugrose and streaky point guard Parker McCafferty it should be a great matchup with Westy/Grenora who has taken home a second place trophy at State the last two seasons. The Huskies under the direction of Kyle Paulson should be ready to step out and make a statement at State. Belt is fast, tough, mean, and most important they are hungry.

A big reason for that is Cooper Olson. The kid is the real deal. He’s an Eastern Montana/Western North Dakota kid who you know grew up in the gym. His jumpers and leapin’ leaners are so smooth I’m convinced they don’t even touch the nylon. He and Daulton Holecek were a big reason the Thunder advanced to the State C Boys’ Championship last year defeating DGS and Superior.

Either way this whole weekend shakes out it is sure to be a great one. I can’t look at this bracket and see a game that I won’t be glued to the action for. There is no undercard for this first day of State C Boys’ Tournament action, and I’m sure the boys will prove that over the weekend. We’ve got 12 games left to go here in Class C Basketball and if you’ve got any sense in the world, you had best be making it to Billings to watch this tournament.

And don’t forget to tip that neighbor kid who collects your mail when you get back home.