State championship predictions: Class C

2011-12-14T21:00:00Z 2011-12-15T16:22:23Z State championship predictions: Class CSlim Kimmel The Billings Gazette
December 14, 2011 9:00 pm  • 

Last week officially kicked off the time of year when I make predictions in an attempt to generate conversation on the GazPrepSports blog and/or The boys preseason all-state selections were a popular topic on Twitter last week, and the girls’ choices only hit the Internet last night.

Starting today, I’ll roll out my state championship predictions for each class (one class – boys and girls – each day), beginning with the Class C tournaments. And since I’ve had so much success making these prognostications over the last couple of seasons, I’ve decided to up the ante: Not only am I going to predict the state championship matchups, I’m going to make predictions for all eight state tournament teams for every class.

Here goes nothing:

C Girls Basketball

The Class C girls gave fans a great season last year. Three teams – Fairview, Harlowton-Ryegate, and Belt – entered the state tournament undefeated, and there were big-time players all across the state.

From preliminary discussions, it sounds like it might be a bit of a rebuilding year for many Class C girls teams this year, but there are still great players and teams hitting the hardwood this season. The Western C should be especially strong with Ennis, Twin Bridges, Drummond, and Harrison-Willow Creek at the top. Charlo, Seeley-Swan, and Manhattan Christian look to have good squads in 2011-12 as well.

Two of the top five teams in the initial Associated Press power poll will probably come from the North. Even though Belt already has a loss on its resume (a 52-49 setback against Twin Bridges), the Huskies should be one of the top teams in the polls the rest of the season. At some point during the season, Winnett-Grass Range could climb to the top of the polls as the No. 1 team in the state. The Rams are the clear-cut favorites to win District 7C and could duplicate last season’s undefeated record heading into the divisional tournament. Chinook, Geraldine, Simms, and Chester-Joplin-Inverness are other teams to watch up north.

The defending state champions reside in the Eastern C, but the division is completely up for grabs this season. Saco-Whitewater hoisted the State C hardware last season and does have all-state guard Angie Crowder back this year. The Panthers will likely be in the mix at the top of District 3C, along with Scobey-Opheim and Hinsdale. In the 2C, Fairview might be “rebuilding” (Warrior seniors Jordan Gifford and Tiffany Kittleson both nearly made my preseason all-state list) after back-to-back trips to the state tournament, but the Warriors still look like a divisional team. They’ll be battling with Culbertson for the top spot in the conference.

The Southern Division might be the most wide open division in the class. With Joliet moving up to Class B, and Harlowton-Ryegate and Roberts graduating strong classes, District 6C doesn’t have an obvious favorite. Coaches picked the Engineers to win the conference again in the preseason poll, followed by Absarokee, Park City, and Broadview-Lavina. In District 4C, Wibaux topped the coaches poll with three starters back from last year’s team. Along with the Longhorns, Ekalaka and Terry figure to be near the top of the conference standings.

State tournament teams:

East - Culbertson, Fairview

North - Belt, Winnett-Grass Range

South - Wibaux, Absarokee

West - Ennis, Twin Bridges

State championship prediction:

Belt over Twin Bridges

C Boys Basketball

When talking about Class C boys basketball in Montana, the conversation usually starts with the Northern C. That division has played in four of the last five state championship games, winning three. The one the North didn’t play in? Last year’s state final between Scobey-Opheim and Arlee, a 55-47 Spartans victory. And the North could be down again this year. Consider this: If a team from the Northern C fails to reach the state championship game this season, it will only be the second time the division has failed to reach the state championship game in consecutive seasons since the 1984 and 1985 games.

The North’s best bets to make postseason noise probably come from District 7C, where Stanford-Geyser and Denton will boast formidable teams. By season’s end, Roy-Winifred will probably be a district challenger, as the Outlaws are always in the mix. As for the rest of the division, look for typical powerhouses like Dutton-Brady and Big Sandy to make postseason runs.

In the East, Scobey-Opheim defends its state title against a deep division. The Spartans are the preseason favorite to win District 3C, but will have to hold off experienced teams at Saco-Whitewater and Nashua. Once at the divisional tournament, the Spartans, Panthers, and Porcupines match up with a loaded District 2C. Fairview and Savage will ride their football nuclei during the basketball season, too, and should battle for the district title. Brockton and Culbertson are the other two teams to watch from the 2C.

The Southern C could match the East for depth and competitiveness. Neither conference in the division – the 4C or 6C – appears to have a consensus favorite. In the 4C, as many as six teams could have legitimate shots at the conference title. St. Labre was voted No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll after reaching the divisional championship game last year. Along with the Braves, Wibaux, Northern Cheyenne, Terry, Melstone, and Ekalaka could make things interesting at the top of the standings. Park City, Absarokee, and Plenty Coups headline District 6C, which sent two teams to the state tournament last year (Joliet and Absarokee).

When the Associated Press power poll debuts, the West could have the most teams featured in the top 10. District 11-12C alone could account for four teams in the top ten, with Ennis, Twin Bridges, Manhattan Christian, and Shields Valley all sounding like legitimate title contenders. According to the Missoulian, Drummond and Arlee are the preseason favorites in the 13C and 14C, respectively, and the Trojans could be one of the top teams in the state again this year (they qualified for the state tournament last year before bowing out in two games to Joliet and Power).

State tournament teams:

East - Fairview, Scobey-Opheim

South - Wibaux, Melstone

North - Denton, Stanford-Geyser

West - Ennis, Twin Bridges

State championship prediction:

Twin Bridges over Ennis

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Slim Kimmel

Online sports editor for The Billings Gazette.

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