Montana prep basketball divisional tournaments begin Wednesday

Highwood coach Aaron Skogen signals a play during last week's 8C District Tournament in Great Falls. TRIBUNE PHOTO/RION SANDERS

Highwood coach Aaron Skogen signals a play during last week’s 8C District Tournament in Great Falls. TRIBUNE PHOTO/RION SANDERS

We have a full story in Wednesday’s Tribune, but it’s worth noting that the Northern C Divisional tournament starts Wednesday at Four Seasons Arena.

The girls tourney starts with four first-round games Wednesday and continues Thursday, when the boys’ tournament starts.

In girls’ action, Class C defending state champion Belt and No. 2 Winnett/Grass Range highlight a loaded field. Belt finally broke through last year to win the state title under Jeff Graham. The Huskies’ only loss this year came to two-time Class B defending champion Fairfield in the season opener.

“It took that big burden off,” Graham said of winning the 2012 state title. “We’ve been so close and we kind of felt like we had a gorilla on our back. This year is the loosest we’ve ever felt and we’re more relaxed.”

Meanwhile in boys’ action, Highwood and Great Falls Central each went from unranked to divisional qualifiers with nice runs through the 8C tournament at Great Falls High.

The Mountaineers are the defending divisional champion and state runner-up and the key to their success is due to the fact winning is their only goal.

“A big part of that is our unselfishness,” Highwood coach Aaron Skogen said. “A lot of times we’re too unselfish and that was a problem against Central. We were passing up open shots against their zone. Sometimes that doesn’t work in our favor.”

The GFC boys are making their first divisional appearance since 2004 and are getting hot at the right time. They won four straight before falling by a point to Highwood in the district title contest.

“What’s the greatest is that these guys really understand each other work together and that’s really happened the last three weeks,” GFC coach Chris Kelly said. “It started with that Valier game (a 63-52 GFC win) and now guys are doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Kelly’s squad started the season 1-3, but has continued to mature and develop as the season evolved.

“It takes awhile to convince kids they can win,” Kelly said. “Once you get past that phase that you can win any night, that’s a huge step.”

The top two teams advance to the state tournament.

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