Fort Benton boys ebook return journey to title recreation, Belt wins in OT
BIG CASES – The nice thing about the postseason is the dissolution of the hypotheses. Coaches, players, and fans can compare résumés, stats, and movies until they’re blue to see how potential matchups will play out. But it’s all guesswork until the ball tipped.
The Friday of the Northern C Tournament saw some long-awaited encounters between district champions who hadn’t played against each other this season and the action on the pitch didn’t disappoint.
In the first boys semi-final game of the evening, the Fort Benton Longhorns got off to a sluggish start to defeat previously undefeated Simms and qualify for the Northern C championship game on Saturday night.
BOYS: Fort Benton 52, Simms 43
Fort Benton got off to a sluggish start and pulled back in the second half of a 52:43 win over Simms in the Northern C semi-finals.
The previously undefeated Tigers took the lead 14-7 in the first quarter and caught defending North C champion Longhorns off guard.
“They are a great team with whom they fit together well across the board. We had to make sure we had the same intensity as them, ”said Fort Benton head coach Tyler Pasha. “We got off to a bit of a slow start, but we made sure we finished the way we should.”
Pasha called the first half a “dog fight,” in an exciting back-and-forth affair. Simms guardian Caden Smerker hit the halftime buzzer to give the Tigers a 25-24 lead after two quarters.
Fort Benton came out with much more intensity in the third quarter, building a lead and beating Simms 16-5 to get a 10-point lead over the fourth quarter.
With the Longhorns leading by four in the third game, senior Hayden Diekhans stole the ball near half the court and put it in the basket for a two-handed dunk that marked the turning point in the ball game.
“I think the boys just wanted it,” said Pasha. “When Hayden came out and had that two-handed dunk it really changed the swing, especially in the crowd – they got it over with.”
Diekhans had 12 points and seven rebounds in victory. Jace Thompson led all scorers with 13 points including a summer beater to end the third quarter. Devin Bird also added 12 points while Cody Evans led the Longhorns’ defensive efforts with 13 rebounds and three blocks.
Smerker led Simms with 10 points, Carter McDowell and Dallin Nelson added eight each.
Fort Benton is moving to the championship game in North-C for the second year in a row, where they await the 8C Champion of the District Belt. Simms will move on to the consolation bracket to face Heart Butte in a loser-out action at 8 a.m.
“We have to stay disciplined. Our defense brought us the game tonight. We didn’t shoot very well, but we took care of the basketball and our defense definitely won it, ”said Pascha. “So we have to stay disciplined for everyone we face between Belt and Chinook.”
BOYS: Belt 63, Chinook 62 OT
When Belt’s Aidan McDaniel walked off after beating Chinook 63-62 in the Northern C semifinals, he playfully put two fingers in the crook of his elbows as his teammates screamed.
“Ice in his veins!”
McDaniel scored the biggest hits in the Huskies biggest win of the season.
With just 3.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Chinook’s 56:53 lead, McDaniel rolled off a screen and drilled a three off the wing to tie the game. Chinook’s Ethan Bell missed a potential game winner on Summer and the game went into overtime.
That was a great moment. It was do or die, ”said McDaniel. “I had to do it. We were three. And we designed this piece and trainer (Kyle Paulson) kind of wondered who was going to shoot it. And I said I’ll shoot it. So I knew I had to do it. “
Once again, Chinook had a point lead in the last few seconds of the extra frame, but 10 seconds before the end, McDaniel was fouled in a layup attempt and calmly hit two free throws to give Belt the lead.
By this point, Chinook’s top three scorers had fouled out of the game but Damon Hannum still had a good view of the win but his shot hit iron and the belt bench bounced to its feet in celebration.
The smiles on their faces said it all. Belt is on his way to the North C Championship after one of the wilder games in this storied division’s history.
Belt made up for a mistake in the fourth quarter that allowed Chinook to get back into the game. Less than five minutes ahead of nine points, Belt missed several free throws and Chinook took the opportunity to take the lead before the fireworks at the last minute.
McDaniel led the Huskies with 20 points in victory, with Bridger Vogl adding 18 before dropping out in extra time. Kaimen Evans scored nine points and took eleven rebounds with three blocks of defense.
Bell led all scorers with 22 points for Chinook with four assists and three steals. Oskar Pula scored 17 before the foul.
Belt will face Dictrict 9C champion Fort Benton in the Northern C Championship at 8:30 pm on Saturday night, while Chinook will try to stay alive in the consolation class against Roy-Winifred at 10:30 am
Fort Benton is good. Hayden (Diekhans) is as good as any Northern C player I’ve seen in a couple of years and it’s going to be a fun matchup, ”said Paulson. “You are athletic. Our children know their children, we have a little rivalry among themselves. I think it’s going to be a great game with a great atmosphere. It will be a lot of fun. “
Roy-Winifred 50, Chester-Joplin-Inverness 38, loser
Heart Butte 56, Dutton-Brady 49, loser
Fort Benton 52, Simms 43, semi-finals
Belt 63, Chinook 62 OT, semi-finals
Box elder 46, belt 44, loser
Roy-Winifred 53, Geraldine-Highwood 21, loser