GREAT FALLS — The North Star Knights and Chester/J-I Hawks know each other well. The two schools are separated by just 15 miles, and they see each other on the floor twice a year.
So it only figured the rubber match of the 2012-13 season, which was played out in the first round of the Northern C girls divisional tournament Wednesday afternoon, went right down to the wire.
North Star junior Bettie Carlon made a layup as time expired to send the Northern C opener between the two rivals into overtime, where the Knights took over, shutting out the Hawks in the extra four minutes for a 49-40 win Wednesday afternoon at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.
Carlon’s layup came on the heels of a big comeback by C/J-I, and literally saved the Knights after they had missed two free throws to go ahead with just five seconds left in regulation.
“I wasn’t thinking about the pressure,” Carlon said of her game-tying layup. “I just tried to concentrate on making it as I went up.
“Sometimes you have to have some luck and some bounces go your way to win games,” North Star head coach Griff Bye added. “We had a couple of different options on that last play, and she (Carlon) was one of them. Luckily, the ball bounced our way and she went down and scored.
“We knew this was going to be a pretty close game,” he continued. “They beat us pretty good early in the year, but we came back and beat them at home the last time we played them. So we figured it was going to be close.”
And it was for much of the game.
The Hawks stormed out of the gate, leading 8-2 after a turnover-filled and nervous first eight minutes. But North Star responded in the second quarter by ripping off a 12-0 run behind the inside play of reserve Kiera Miller, as well as a 3-pointer from Tylynn Rettig. And when Lisa Carlon banked in a layup at the buzzer, the Knights completed a big second quarter and led 18-14 at halftime.
“We talked about that it was good we got to play them (Hawks) first,” Bettie Carlon said. “We know them well and we knew what to expect coming in. I think once we settled down, we started to play a lot better.”
The Knights held their lead through the third quarter, but the Hawks weren’t ready to be put away. Kate Graff nailed a triple, while Brittnee Theel scored six points as part of a 7-0 run as C/J-I reclaimed the lead 39-38 with :40 left. From there, Theel would make one more free throw, to put the Hawks up two with :04 left, setting up Bettie Carlon’s heroics at the end of regulation. In overtime, North Star out-scored C/J-I 9-0 as the Hawks were without leading scorer Denerey Haaland, who fouled out.
“We just tried to stay aggressive in overtime,” Bye said. “Haaland fouling out was big, and I think they (Hawks) got a little tired. We play a few more kids than they do.
“This was an exciting game,” he added. “We’re excited to come down here and get a win.”
Lisa Carlon paced the Knights with 14 points, while Bettie Carlon added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Neither team shot the ball particularly well, while North Star committed 19 turnovers, but forced the Hawks into a detrimental 29 miscues.
With the win, the Knights (16-5) advance to tonight’s semifinal where they’ll face defending Class C state champion Belt (20-1) at 7.
The Hawks, who got 11 points by Theel and 10 from Graff, suffered just their third loss of the season, with two of them coming at the hands of the rival Knights. C/J-I faced off against Roy-Winifred this morning in loser-out action.
Beeters topple Diamondbacks
The Chinook girls basketball team has played in three straight Northern C tournaments. But many of the current Sugarbeeters had never seen much divisional action before Wednesday night. Now however, the Beeters have the Northern C experience they need after getting past District 10C runner-up Dutton-Brady, 38-32 in the first-day finale at the Four Seasons Arena.
“Our inexperience showed tonight,” Chinook head coach Charlie Robinson said. “We only have a couple girls who really played a lot at this tournament the last two years. And tonight, we threw the ball away, we missed easy shots and we didn’t play as well as we would have liked defensively. We had lapses there.
“But, we’re in the semifinals, and an ugly win is better than a beautiful loss I always say.”
The Beeters did do just enough to move past the Diamondbacks. An Emily Dennis 3-pointer helped Chinook stake an early 10-6 lead. The Beeters then closed out the first half on an 8-0 run behind a bucket from Tayla Johnson and four free throws from Katelyn Neibauer as the Beeters led 20-14 at intermission.
“We started slow,” Dennis said. “But at halftime we just decided we have to go back out and play our game. We can’t let them (Diamondbacks) decide the tempo. We just had to play our game, and we finished strong.
The Beeters did finish strong, but only after the Diamondbacks briefly took the lead after eight straight points by Sierra Johnson in the third quarter. Neibauer stopped the Johnson run with a three of her own, but Chinook went to the fourth period tied with the Diamondbacks at 26-26.
And though the game was tight throughout, the Beeters took control late. They ripped off an 8-0 run which gave them a six-point lead with two minutes left. From there, Chinook’s defense controlled the finish and the Beeters (18-3) advanced to tonight’s semifinal where they’ll play 7C champion and undefeated Winnett-Grass Range (21-0) at 8:30.
“We did some good things in the fourth quarter,” Robinson said. “We made some big shots, we made some free throws and we tightened up on defense. I liked the way we finished the game and that will help us against Winnett-Grass Range because we got this one under our belts and we know what to expect now. We’ll have our work cut out for us. They (Rams) are a very good team. But I expect us to come out and be much more sharp tomorrow night.”
Neibauer finished with 12 points to lead Chinook, while Dennis added 11. Talya Johnson chipped in with seven points, and Makhayla Farmer grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Dutton-Brady (12-10) got 13 points from Shannon Hable. The D-Backs play Geraldine this morning in a loser-out game.
Meanwhile, the Beeters are one game away from the Northern C title bout. They lost to the Rams in last year’s consolation game, and while Chinook knows it has a tough task in front of it, Dennis said her team is excited to keep moving forward.
“We’ve made it to this tournament every year I’ve been here,” she said. “And I think our program has gotten better and better. And we’re excited to be in the semifinals. We will be ready to go tomorrow night.”
In Wednesday’s other first-round games, Belt dispatched Roy-Winifred and the Rams beat Geraldine.
The Northern C girls tournament continues with loser-out action this morning. North Star and Belt meet in the first semifinal at 7 tonight and Chinook and Winnett-Grass Range will follow.
North Star 49, Chester/J-I 40 OT
North Star 2 16 8 14 9 — 49
Chester/J-I 8 8 6 20 0 — 40
North Star — Mackenzie Hansen 2, Lisa Carlon 14, Graysen Spicher, Tylynn Rettig 6, Bettie Carlon 13, Kassidy Hansen 5, Sheridan O’Neil 1, Kiera Miller 5. Totals: 17-60 14-26 49.
C/J-I — Haley Harmon 8, Denerey Haaland 8, Brittnee Theel 11, Kate Graff 10, Caitlin Vinson 3. Totals: 10-31 17-25 40.
Halftime: North Star 18-14. 3-pointers: North Star 1-9 (Rettig 1), C/J-I 3-10 (Harmon 1, Graff 2). Rebounds: North Star 38 (B. Carlon 11), C/J-I 36 (Graff 10, Haaland 10). Fouls: North Star 22, C/J-I 17. Fouled out: Haaland.
Chinook 38, Dutton-Brady 32
Chinook 10 11 5 12 — 38
Dutton-Brady 6 8 12 6 — 32
Chinook — Brooke Nicholson 2, Emily Dennis 11, Talya Johnson 7, Makhayla Farner 3, Katelyn Neibauer 12, Alana Smith 3. Totals: 10-35 8-19 38.
Dutton-Brady — Shannon Habel 13, Kaity Miller 1, Sierra Johnson 10, Taylor Reeve 3, Davey Thom 3, Hailee VandenBos 2. Totals: 10-35 8-19 32.
Halftime: Chinook 21-14. 3-pointers: Chinook 4-10 (Dennis 2, Neibauer 2), Dutton-Brady 4-13 (Johnson 2, Reeve 1, Thom 1). Rebounds: Chinook 27 (Farmer 12), Dutton-Brady 20 (VandenBos 5). Fouls: Chinook 13, Dutton-Brady 15. Fouled out: None.