Starting Thursday, in places like Shelby, Glasgow and Conrad, three local girls basketball teams will begin fighting for the postseason lives. Simply put, it’s tournament time in Montana.
The Chester/J-I Hawks, the Rocky Boy Morning Stars and the Harlem Wildcats all enter district play this weekend, with the same goal in mind, and that’s to keep their season going.
The Hawks enter the District 10C tournament in Conrad as the No. 1 seed and regular season champion. C/J-I finished a perfect 12-0 in the district and 16-2 overall, thanks in large part to the play of Denerey Haaland, their leading scorers, as well as Brittnee Theel, Kate Graff and Caitlin Vinson. C/J-I is also the defending 10C champions and should be a lock to move on to next week’s Northern C Divisional in Great Falls.
The Hawks have a bye into the 10C semifinals, where they’ll play either Dutton-Brady (9-9) or Power (4-14) on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Valier (11-7) plays Heart Butte (2-16) today in the first round, while Simms (11-7) also meets Sunburst (2-16). The 10C consolation and championship games are set for Saturday in Conrad, with the top two finishers advancing to Great Falls next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Thursday marks the beginning of a big weekend for the Rocky Boy Morning Stars as they begin play in the 1B in Shelby. Rocky Boy finished in fourth place in arguably the toughest district in Class B, and will look to advance to the divisional tournament for only the second time since moving up to Class B.
The Morning Stars (10-8) open 1B play at 12 p.m. Thursday against Cut Bank (10-8). The Morning Stars split with the Wolves during the regular season, so it should be a close-fought game. Rocky Boy has four players who average double figures, led by senior Brandi Buffalo. Leigha Onco, Chanell Standing Rock and Caitlin Gamble are also leading scorers, and the Morning Stars have depth as well.
Getting out of the 1B won’t be easy however, Fairfield (18-0) is a lock to once again win the league title, while Choteau, Conrad and Cut Bank join the Morning Stars as teams that all finishes above .500 this season. Thursday’s other first-round game pits Shelby (2-16) against the Cowgirls (10-8). The winner of that game will play Choteau (14-4) in one Friday semifinal, while the winner of the Rocky Boy-Cut Bank game gets the honor of playing Fairfield Friday at 3:30 p.m. The top four teams from the 1B advance to next week’s Northern B in Glasgow.
Speaking of Glasgow, that’s also the site of this week’s 2B girls tournament, where the Harlem Wildcats are a big underdog. Harlem captured just one win during the regular season and will look to pull an upset this weekend, led by Jaylynn Allen, Coco Moore and Jaycee Werk. The Wildcats (1-17) open tournament play Thursday against Wolf Point (7-11) at 8 p.m. The other 2B game Thursday pits Plentywood (12-6) against Poplar (3-15).
Malta (17-1) is the top seed and overwhelming favorite this week in Glasgow, while the host Scotties (8-10) are the No. 2 seed. The top four teams from the 2B join the top four from the 1B at the Northern B Divisional.