Northern C boys: Box Elder holds off Belt

Posted at 10:22 AM, Feb 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 16:42:49-05

GREAT FALLS — Box Elder gained a double-digit lead by the early second quarter and withstood a Belt rally in the fourth quarter to claim the Northern C divisional championship with a 54-45 win over the Huskies at Four Seasons Arena on Saturday.

Tracen Jilot scored 31 points with four 3-pointers and 11-for-11 shooting on free throws to send Box Elder to the Class C state tournament in Great Falls March 6-9 as the division’s top seed. Box Elder’s biggest lead in the game was 14 points.

It's Box Elder's first Northern C title since 2016.

“Hats off to coach (Kyle) Paulson and the Belt Huskies. They’re one of the premier programs in the state of Montana," said coach Jeremy MacDonald. "One of the toughest competitors in the Northern C. That was a great battle, it was a great basketball game. It’s a blessing and an honor to be a part of Box Elder basketball, and I think both of these programs make each other better.”

Belt now must play a challenge game against Winnett-Grass Range on Monday at 4 p.m. at Four Seasons Arena. The winner joins Box Elder as the division’s two representatives for state.

Ethan Triplett and Reese Paulson scored 14 points each to lead Belt, which was playing in its third consecutive divisional championship game and trying to win its second straight title. Triplett also had 10 rebounds.

The Huskies fell behind 17-8 by the end of the first quarter, and, though they cut the lead to two with about five minutes to play, couldn’t overtake the Bears in the end.

Tuarie Stiffarm-Rosette added nine points for Box Elder.

In the earlier third-place game, brothers Jace and Brandy Bantz scored 17 points each to help Winnett-Grass Range edge Chester-Joplin-Inverness 54-52.

Both players made 5 of 13 shots from the floor — Brady sank three 3-pointers while Jace was 7 of 9 from the free-throw line — and Jace nabbed 11 rebounds.

There were 11 lead changes in the game, and the score was tied six times. C-J-I had the final possession but couldn’t get the tying or winning basket.

Karson Pulst led C-J-I with 20 points with the help of six 3-pointers, and Ryland St. John added 12 points.

Saturday loser-out scores

Winnett-Grass Range 82, Heart Butte 37

Chester-Joplin-Inverness 58, Roy-Winifred 48