The Box Elder Bears started the 2012-13 season with several goals in mind. One of them was simply to win their semifinal game at the District 9C tournament – with the other obviously claiming a coveted 9C championship.
After Thursday afternoon’s win over the Chinook Sugarbeeters, it’s one down, one to go. Box Elder turned away the Sugarbeeters 57-43 in the 9C semifinals Thursday at the Havre High gymnasium. The win vaulted the Bears (16-3) into Saturday night’s championship game where they’ll face the Big Sandy Pioneers for the third time this season.
“We started the year with several goals, and one of them was to win our conference in the regular season,” Box Elder head coach Jeremy McDonald said. “We did that sharing it with Big Sandy. Another goal was to win our semifinal game here, and we were able to do that. Of course, the other goal is to win a 9C championship and we have a chance to do that on Saturday night. So I’m very proud of this team. They are a great group, they play the game the right way and they have great chemistry.”
“This feels really good,” Box Elder’s Lonnie Plain Bull Jr. added. “I can’t wait for Saturday night. I’m excited to play Big Sandy. They are a good team. It’s going to be a great game.”
Thursday’s game was great for the Bears too.
Box Elder lost leading scorer Randall Gardipee to a leg injury early in the first quarter, but the Bears still managed to snag a 9-7 lead on Plain Bull’s first of three 3-pointers on the day. Plain Bull drilled another bomb early in the second, but Chinook appeared ready to make it a fight. Layne Seymour scored six points late in the second stanza, while Dylan Surber hit a three as time expired to pull the Beeters to within 22-19 at the break.
But Box Elder is a team of runs, and Chinook head coach Mike Seymour noted his team must shut those runs down in order for the Beeters to have a chance. Chinook did that in the first half, but the Beeters couldn’t stop one big one in the third quarter.
Freshman Brandon The Boy knocked down two trey’s, while Plain Bull and Clayton Morsette hit back-to-back three’s, pushing the Bears on a devastating 15-0 run. In all, Box Elder out-scored Chinook 20-4 in the third period to lead by 19 points with eight minutes to play. And though the Beeters fought right to the end, the run was just too much for them to overcome.
“This team has what I like to call spurtability,” McDonald said. “They are very capable of going on big runs, and it just so happens we went on a really big one in the third quarter.
“It was a huge quarter for us,” he continued. “We made a couple of adjustments at halftime, we came out really fired up and we got hot. When we’re shooting the three like that, and we move the ball like that, we are a very capable team offensively, and we showed that in the second half.”
The Bears made seven three’s against Chinook and shot a sizzling 54 percent in the final 16 minutes. They also out-rebounded the Beeters even without the services of Gardipee, while Plain Bull went off for 28 points on a stellar 10-of-16 shooting. The Boy added nine points and Morsette scored eight. Box Elder’s bench was also crucial, and McDonald said he was proud of his entire lineup for stepping up.
“We played smart defense today, and that got us going,” Plain Bull said. “We just played really good. I’m really proud of my team. We played together. We would have liked to have Randall out there with us, but it was a good win. It feels good.
Chinook (11-9) got a huge game from Seymour, as he scored 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting and an outstanding 10-for-13 performance from the foul line. But as a whole, the Beeters went cold offensively. In Wednesday’s win over Turner, the Beeters made eight three’s. Just 24 hours later, Chinook went a frosty 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. Surber and Grant Tilleman finished the game as Chinook’s second-highest scorers, each adding five points. Tilleman did pull down a game-high 12 rebounds. The loss drops the Beeters into today’s loser-out game against North Star at 2:30.
As for the Bears, they get the day off, then they’ll get set to battle the Pioneers for the 9C title and a berth in next week’s Northern C. Big Sandy was the only 9C team to top Box Elder in the regular season, and the Bears and Pioneers split their two conference meetings.
“It doesn’t matter who we play in the championship game, we have to be prepared, and we know we’ll have to play really well,” McDonald said. “But we’re excited. I believe it’s been 22 years since a Box Elder boys team has won the 9C tournament, and we’d like to change that on Saturday night.”
Saturday night’s championship game between Box Elder and Big sandy will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at the Havre High gymnasium. The winner will earn the 9C’s automatic berth to the Northern C Divisional Tournament.
Box Elder 57, Chinook 43 (SF)
Chinook 7 12 4 20 — 43
Box Elder 9 13 20 15 — 57
Chinook — Lane Seymour 22, Dylan Surber 5, Zach Molyneaux 6, Jake Diemert 2, Ty Simenson 3, Grant Tilleman 5. Totals: 15 12-18.
Box Elder — Brandon The Boy 9, Clayton Morsette 8, Jacob Jones 2, Thomas Parisian 4, Lonnie Plain Bull 28, Lee Webster 2, Kylee Fiddler 2, Slayte Duran 2. Totals: 19 12-16.
Halftime: Box Elder 22-19. 3-pointers: Chinook 1-11 (Surber), Box Elder 7-13 (The Boy 3, Morsette 1, Plain Bull 3). Rebounds: Box Elder 29 (Parisian 7), Chinook 27 (Tilleman 12). Fouls: Chinook 16, Box Elder 17. Fouled out: None.