BOYS BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: Glendive bracing for throng of Southern C fans

2012-02-21T22:30:00Z 2012-02-22T22:55:09Z BOYS BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: Glendive bracing for throng of Southern C fansBy MIKE ZIMMER mzimmer@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette
February 21, 2012 10:30 pm  • 

What happens when you take a tournament that could possibly fill Rimrock Auto Arena and put it into a 2,000-seat arena?

The folks at Glendive's Dawson Community College are about to find out. 

DCC will host the Southern C divisional boys basketball tournament this weekend at its 2,000-seat Toepke Center. That's not enough to hold all the fans from the eight competing schools -- and one potential matchup in particular. 

District 4C champion St. Labre (20-1) and District 6C runner-up Plenty Coups (19-2) finished the regular season ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Class C poll. Should both win their first-round games on Thursday, the Braves and Warriors -- who boast two of the largest fan bases in the Class C ranks -- would square off in the late semifinal Friday night. 

"It's a concern, that's for sure," said DCC athletic director Joyce Ayre, who is the tournament director. "Class C basketball is so strong in the state and has such great fan support ... and this tournament has some great fans.

"We'll be in communication with our fire chief to make sure we stay within our capacity. It'll be a challenge, but we're looking forward to it. It should be a fun weekend."

Park City and Northern Cheyenne will meet in the tournament opener at 1 p.m. Thursday. They'll be followed by Harlowton-Ryegate vs. Melstone at 2:30, St. Labre vs. Broadview-Lavina at 6:30 and Plenty Coups vs. Wibaux at 8.

The top two finishers advance to the State C tournament next weekend at Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings.

Ayre said per MHSA rules, the line of fans will be allowed to begin entering the gym one hour before the first game of each session. The gym will be cleared at the end of the afternoon session each day.

Ayre added that setting up a big-screen TV in DCC's auxiliary gym for the overflow fans is a possibility.

"I'm hoping we'll be able to get that set up," she said. "At least then the people that drove that far and can't get in the gym will be able to see the game." 

As for lodging, the oil boom in eastern Montana has filled up many of the motels in Glendive and the surrounding area.

"There are some (motel) rooms in town available, but not a lot," said Ayre. "The teams are taken care of, but most of the fans will probably have to drive back and forth each day.

"These fans are pretty hard-core, so I don't think that will bother them too much."

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Since Ben Southworth took the baton three weeks ago, the Park City Panthers have not missed a stride.

The 2008 Park City grad took the reins of the boys team in early February when illness forced head coach Beau Bradley to step aside for the remainder of the season.

The Panthers (16-5) won four of their final five games under Bradley, and their hot play has continued since the switch. The team has gone 7-1 under Southworth, and last weekend knocked off Plenty Coups 63-52 in the District 6C championship for their first district title since 2006.

"The kids have handled it really well," said Southworth, who joined the Park City staff last year as the junior high coach and moved up to varsity assistant this season. "We've got six seniors and they give us great leadership.

"The kids play really well together and they stick together when things aren't going great. When Beau had to step down, we talked to the kids about trusting each other and working together to keep getting better, and that's what they've done."

Southworth's days are busy these days. He's a senior science major at MSU Billings, and he credits his professors with allowing him to pull the double-duty.

"They've been really flexible ... it really hasn't been a problem at all," said Southworth, adding that he might stay in school beyond this year to pursue an education major. "These last couple of weeks my main focus has been basketball. Once our season is over, I know I'll have to shift my focus back to my classes."

Park City is back in the divisional tournament for the first time since 2008 -- Southworth's senior year and Bradley's first season as head coach. 

The Panthers are now three wins away from reaching the State C tournament for the first time since 2006, but Southworth said the team's sole focus right now is its first-round divisional opponent, Northern Cheyenne.

"We've gotten to this point by taking it one game at time," he said. "When you get into tournament time, no opponent can be overlooked.

"Assistant coach (Brandon) Gauthier and I will put our heads together and come up with a game plan for Northern Cheyenne, and I know the kids will do their best to execute it. The kids are having fun and they're playing loose and aggressive, which is what you have to do have success at tournament time." 

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One win by Billings Senior this weekend would nail down a 1-2-3 finish by the Billings schools in the Class AA boys standings.

West (17-1 overall, 9-1 in the Eastern AA) has already clinched first place and an automatic berth in the State AA tournament, while Skyview (15-3, 7-3) has locked up second place.

Senior (10-8, 6-4) is currently in third -- two games ahead of Bozeman and Great Falls CMR -- and needs just one win in this weekend's home games against the Great Falls schools to clinch third. The Broncs host CMR on Friday night and Great Falls High on Saturday afternoon.

West and Skyview also finish the regular season with two home games this weekend. The Golden Bears host Great Falls on Friday and CMR on Saturday, while the Falcons host Bozeman on Friday and Butte on Saturday.

Pairings for next week's State AA playoff games will be announced on Monday.

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