Belt looks to continue its domination of 8C basketball

Zackary Thomas is a returning starter for the Tri-City team.

Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

Even though Belt Coach Kyle Paulson lost a number of his basketball players to graduation, most of the boys’ coaches in District 8C look for Belt to have enough fire power to win another district championship.
Look for the district to be much stronger from top to bottom. Several teams lost very little to graduation. Also there was a bevy of freshmen players who made an impact in the district last year. As sophomores, those players will have even more impact.
Not a single coach is new to the district this year. All seven coaches return for another season at the helm of their respective teams. The key for many of the coaches might be keeping their teams injury free.

Coach Paulson has 19 years of coaching experience and has a 299-181 win-loss record. At Belt, he returns senior players Brayden Haugrose, Keagan Stoop, Troy Heitzman, Antonio Heaton and Troy Hennes.
“We lost some significant firepower to graduation and filling in those holes is going to take a full team effort,” said Paulson about this year’s team. “We do, however, have some good experience and leadership returning, along with great team chemistry.”
Heitzman, a 6-2 forward, Stroop, a 5-10 forward and Hennes, a 6-3 forward, showed great leadership ability on the football field this fall. Look for them to continue with leading the Huskies on the basketball court.
In the Northern C Division, Paulson looks for Chinook, Sunburst and Heart Butte to be tough contenders for a divisional crown. At the state level, Paulson sees Arlee, Manhattan Christian and Melstone possibly competing for a state championship.
The Huskies open the season in Shelby when they face Class B Cut Bank on Friday. Saturday, the Huskies face another Class B opponent, Florence.
Paulson’s assistant coaches are Tony Cooper and Megan Graham.

Several coaches in the 8C look for Centerville to be a tough opponent this year. A young Miner team upset Denton-Geyser-Stanford in a semi-final game at last year’s district tournament. The Centerville team then fell to Belt in the district championship contest.
Although Coach Todd Klasner lost Briggs Judd, an all-state player, who is now playing at the University of Providence, and Kade Landon, an all-conference player, to graduation, Klasner returns Carson McGinness, an all-conference player as a freshman. McGinness, along with nine other letterwinners, look to make the Miners one of the top teams in the district again this year. Besides McGinness, Klasner welcomes back 5-9 senior guard Brandon Travis, 5-8 junior guard Cooper Davis, 6-3 sophomore post Jadon Davis, 5-11 sophomore guard and 6-3 junior forward Lance Leo. If that is not enough, Klasner also has some key new additions to this year’s squad. Blayne Kohut, a 5-9 junior guard, and Roper Gobert, a 6-4 junior forward, are both transfers to the Miner program. Add 6-4 junior post Philip Okonkwo, an exchange student from Germany, and 5-9 freshman guard Aidan McDaniel, and one can see why the Miners might even be able to unseat the Huskies at the top of District 8C.
Klasner sees Heart Butte, Box Elder, Great Falls Central, Sunburst, Belt and Hays Lodgepole to be tough in the northern division. He adds Arlee and Melstone to the list for to contend for a state title.
Adam Schilling, a 2007 Centerville graduate, is the assistant coach for Klasner.

Denton-Geyser-Stanford was the only team to defeat Belt in conference play last season, but the Bearcats also suffered a tough loss when they fell to Centerville in a semi-final game at last year’s district tournament.
Veteran Coach Wyatt Woodhall, who is in his third year of being the head coach for the Bearcats, lost several key players to graduation.
“We are a pretty experienced team with quite a few upperclassmen, “ said Woodhall. “We are not as big as we have been in past years, but we will be as good a shooting team as I have had for quite some time. We will definitely need to focus on our rebounding if we want to win a lot of games. I think we have plenty of guys that can put the basketball in the hole.
Two starters who return for Woodhall are senior all-state player Rhet Woodhall and senior Clay Hill. Other key returnees who will see a lot of playing time this year are seniors Riley Donaldson and Kordell Carpenter, juniors Jake Solomon and Kyle Lee, and sophomores Parker Donaldson and Dylan Taylor.
The Bearcats see their first action of the 2017-2018 season at the Fergus Holiday Showcase Tournament in Lewistown. DGS plays Reed Point-Rapelje at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and Broadus on Friday at noon.
Assisting Woodhall this season is Matt Neumann.

The Rivals of Geraldine-Highwood lost only two seniors to graduation off last year’s team. With highly successful Highwood girls’ basketball coach Dave Bahnmiller in his third year as the boys’ coach, the team is headed in the right direction.
Bahnmiller returns 10 letterwinners. The only senior on the squad this year is Erik Nielsen. Other key returnees for Bahnmiller are Mavrick McKinley, Brady Duvall and Zeke Davison.
“We hope to build on the progress we made last year,” said Bahnmiller.
“Every game is going to be competitive in the district,” Bahnmiller added. “We have great non-conference games against Box Elder and at the Glasgow and Lewistown pre-season showcases.
“Our district is as even as I’ve seen it from top to bottom in a number of years,” said Bahmiller. “There are still the perennial programs in Belt and DGS that have to be favored, but I feel that everyone has a decent chance, depending on how much effort is put forth.”
Bahmiller sees Chinook, Belt and Box Elder as the strength in the Northern Division and looks for Arlee to repeat as the Class C state champions.
Bahnmiller’s assistant coach is Rex Sonsteng. 
The Rivals play Harlowton at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday at the Fergus Holiday Showcase Tournament.

Last season Tri-City (Moore, Hobson, Judith Gap) had a very young team with the majority of the players being sophomores or juniors. This year’s team is much more experienced, according to Coach Kacey Wichman. This year the team still has only three seniors, but has a lot of juniors and sophomores who will get a lot of playing time.
“Because we were so young last year, we started fairly slow,” said Wichman. “The younger kids stepped it up during the latter part of the season, so we were playing much better by the end of the season.”
Wichman is going to need to find a go-to scorer as last year Hayden Heilig, the leading scorer in most games, has graduated.
Seniors on this year’s squad are Tucker Walter, Brandon Bergum and Austin Grove. Jack Hickey is one of a number of juniors who will see a lot of playing time this year. Jacob McAllister is another strong junior for Wichman.
Wichman is also excited to have Jordan Nees on the court for the Titans this year.
“He didn’t play last year due to a football injury, but he will definitely help us this year,” said Wichman about the junior, who had a very strong fall season on the gridiron. “He is very quick, which will help us defensively. Jordan is also a good shooter.”
Zach Thomas, who started last year as a freshman, is another strong player for Wichman. If Thomas shows the great leadership on the basketball court that he did on the football field, he should have a strong season for the Titans.
Other juniors on the Titan squad are Colter Deupree and Shane Wichman. Mathew Eike and Garrett Haynie are sophomores on the squad.
The Titans already have two games under their belts. Friday, the team traveled to Gardiner and lost to a very tough Bruins team. Saturday in Moore, Tri-City defeated Foothills Christian, 59-54. Leading scorers for the Titans were McAllister with 12 points and Grove with 10.
“We really need to work on our defense,” said Wichman after the weekend games. “Also we are still working on team chemistry as we are not quite in synch yet.”
This weekend the Titans are playing in Lewistown at the Fergus Holiday Classic Tournament. On Thursday, the Titans face Shields Valley at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Tri-City plays Reed Point-Rapelje at 7:30 p.m.
Jay McAllister returns as Wichman’s assistant coach, and Hayden Wichman is a volunteer assistant.

Despite having only two seniors on this year’s Outlaw squad, Coach Nick Econom is excited about the upcoming season. The two seniors are Cody Bergum and Matt Spang. Bergum has been a starter for the Outlaws since he was a freshman.
Three other key returnees for Econom are junior Ryan Russell, sophomore Tyler Fordyce and freshman Justin Stulc.
“We had a lot of close games last season,” said Econom. “Going down to the wire with Geraldine-Highwood was always intense and a great experience. Beating Tri-City on our home court, I know was a great accomplishment for the boys.
“I have a large roster this year, with a lot of new guys, which is awesome,” added Econom. “We can’t complain about numbers. The new guys are working hard and are willing to learn every day. Returning six upperclassmen, all with starting experience, is going to be crucial for our success. The boys are looking forward to game time.”
In the Northern C Division, Econom sees Belt, Sunburst, Hays-Lodegepole and Valier as having quality teams. At the state level, Bridger, Sunburst, Hays-Lodgepole and Arlee look strong to Econom.
The Outlaws begin their season this weekend at the Fergus Holiday Showcase Tournament. Roy-Winifred plays Shields Valley at 9 a.m. on Friday and then battles Harlowton at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Econom’s assistant coach is Garrett Carr.

Winnett-Grass Range
Winnett-Grass Range Coach Levi Johnson lost only one senior to graduation off last year’s squad. This year Johnson still has only one senior on his squad, Cameron Wollman. Add to that juniors Zane Stahl, Caden McCarthy and Caleb Hess and sophomores Jacob Jessen and Charlie Keith, the result could be a recipe for great success.
“We finished the season strong with the core of the team and two freshmen stepping up playing big for us,” said Johnson about last season.
His goals for this season are to work hard hard, have fun and improve week to week.
The Rams open their season at the Broadview-Lavina Tip-Off Tournament. Friday the Rams play Carter County (Ekalaka) at 4:30 p.m. in Lavina. Saturday at 6 p.m., the boys face Bridger, a team that was in last year’s Class C State Basketball Tournament. 



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