The Big Sandy Pioneers were already involved in one of the best District 9C boys basketball games seen around these parts in a long time – as they lost to the Box Elder Bears in triple overtime Saturday night.
Then, with a berth in the Northern C Divisional hanging in the balance, the Pioneers found themselves locked in another emotional thriller. This time around though, the Pioneers were on the happy end of things as they escaped the District 9C challenge game with a 64-62 win over the Chinook Sugarbeeters Monday night at the Havre High gymnasium.
Chinook made a valiant effort, especially considering the Beeters were playing in their fifth game of the tournament. But when Zach Molyneaux’s game-winning 3-point attempt with only a few ticks left just missed, and the Beeters didn’t get another clean look at the basket, their great run at the 9C tournament, and their season came to a painful end.
Big Sandy 14-7) on the other hand, will play on. After two emotionally exhausting games, the Pioneers are headed to Great Falls and a first-round date with 10C champion Dutton-Brady on Thursday morning.
“The triple overtime game wore on us as a team,” Pioneer senior Trevor Lackner said. “And we knew this was going to be a tough game. But we came back today ready to play, and we played well.”
“After two tough games in a row, the important thing is, we’re going to divisionals,” Big Sandy head coach Roy Lackner, who’s never not made it to the Northern C in his illustrious coaching career said. “And we really came here and earned this one. For this group of seniors, it’s the fourth straight time of making it down there, so I’m really happy for them. We’re not a deep team. And with the amount of kids we put on the floor, it’s pretty amazing that we’ve come this far. So we’re just really excited to have the chance to keep on playing.”
Monday night’s game was exciting too.
Molyneaux and Ty Simonson set the tone for the Beeters by draining three’s in the first quarter, while the Pioneers rattled off a 7-0 run to take a 14-21 lead after one period of play.
The pace quickened even further in the second period as Scott Schmitt hit two trey’s to put the Beeters in front 24-22, only to see Trevor Lackner hit two triples as part of a 12-4 Big Sandy spurt. Grant Tilleman closed with Chinook’s final six points of the half, while Zac Leader knocked in a shot in the final :24 to send the Pioneers into the lockerroom with a slim, 36-32 lead.
“I thought we came out and played pretty well,” Trevor Lackner said. “I think we rebounded the ball well and we played hard on defense. Those were big keys against Chinook.”
“Chinook played very hard and very physical tonight,” Roy Lackner added. “They always do against us. They are a team that plays very hard for all 32 minutes. We’re not a big team and we’ve had to learn to play physical this season. And tonight, I thought we played very physical. We knew we would have to.”
As exciting as the first half was, the second 16 minutes didn’t disappoint either.
For most of the quarter, the Pioneers held a 4-6 point lead, until Simonson, a key role player for the Beeters, nailed back-to-back long-range bombs to bring his team to within one. Again, the Pioneers answered with a score by Jessey Bailey and two Lackner free throws, giving Big Sandy a 55-50 lead heading into the fourth stanza.
The Pioneers quickly went up by nine to start the fourth period, but Chinook’s Lane Seymour took over in the paint, and he sparked an 8-0 Chinook run. Seymour’s final bucket put the Beeters in front 62-61 with 1:39 to go, but Chinook wouldn’t score the rest of the way, while Big Sandy went ahead for good on a beautiful back door layup by Lackner. The Beeters had chances down the stretch, but just couldn’t quite capitalize, and the Pioneers were able to hang in another 9C classic.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Chinook head coach Mike Seymour said. “This is the time of year a coach dreads because you know there are only four teams in the whole state who will win their last game.
“But we played very hard tonight,” he continued. “And we played hard this entire tournament. I’m extremely proud of all these guys and especially our seniors, who have been great leaders all year long.”
The Beeters, who finished the year with a 13-10 record, got 15 points from Schmitt, another double-double from Grant Tilleman, who scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Lane Seymour chipped in with 10. Simonson came up huge as well, going 3-for-3 from the 3-point-line for nine points. Chinook made a total of seven three’s and shot a solid 45 percent from the floor in a game which saw 12 lead changes and five ties.
The Pioneers got a big double-double from their leader, Trevor Lackner. He poured in a game-high 19 points and grabbed 11 boards, while also going 7-of-9 from the foul line. Bailey and Kaden Beck each scored 12 points and Jerry Hanson chipped in with 11, as Big Sandy has now given itself a chance to return to the Class C state tournament for the second straight year.
“We’re excited about going to divisionals,” Coach Lackner said. “We’re happy we were able to find a way to win tonight. It was a good basketball team. This district is tough. Chinook is tough. So we’re very happy we’re still playing.”
Big Sandy will join Box Elder in Thursday’s opening round of the Northern C Divisional at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. The Pioneers play Dutton-Brady at 11 a.m. Thursday and the Bears face Simms at 5:30 p.m.
Big Sandy 64, Chinook 62 (2nd)
Chinook 12 20 18 12 – 62
Big Sandy 14 22 19 9 – 64
Chinook – Lane Seymour 10, Dylan Surber 5, Scott Schmitt 15, Zach Molyneaux 9, Jake Diemert 2, Ty Simonson 1, Grant Tilleman 12. Totals: 24-53 7-18 62.
Big Sandy – Jerry Hanson 11, Trevor Lackner 19, Kaden Beck 12, Zac Leader 10, Jessey Bailey 12. Totals: 23-56 15-20 64.
Halftime: Big Sandy 36-32. 3-pointers: Chinook 7-12 (Surber 1, Schmitt 2, Molyneaux 1, Simonson 3), Big Sandy 3-10 (Lackner 2, Bailey 1). Rebounds: Chinook 31 (Tilleman 11), Big Sandy 33 (Lackner 11). Fouls: Chinook 20, Big Sandy 15. Fouled out: None.