GREAT FALLS — Although they finished the regular season in third place in their conference, the North Star girls are making the most of a postseason run at the Northern C divisional basketball tournament.
The Knights won the District 9C tournament last week, edging past Turner in the semifinal before upending conference-favorite Fort Benton in a thrilling 61-58 overtime win.
"I think a lot of people underestimate us and don't really want to see us here," junior Jade Wendland said. Wendland hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 15 seconds left against Fort Benton.
"But I think just we all come together and we just hype each other up," she continued. "It all starts in the locker room and the bus rides and everybody just has each other's backs."
Fort Benton’s only previous loss on the season was a non-conference game to Class A Havre. It’s safe to say that win gave North Star confidence heading into the divisional tournament.
"I tell my girls we can't focus on that game and remember that feeling," head coach Jennifer Wendland said. "We've got to move on to the next game, but it definitely was a confidence booster."
In turn, the Knights dominated their divisional-opening game against Geraldine-Highwood, and are now just one step away from the Northern C title game. Making the title game wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a spot at the State C tournament, but the Knights would be close. The only thing standing in their way is a Thursday semifinal showdown with Northern C regular powerhouse Belt.
"They’re a feisty little team," coach Wendland said of the Huskies. "They change up their defenses quite a bit. Knowing Jeff Graham, he's going to have something up the sleeve for us. We have to stop (Lindsey) Paulson. She's great. And they have a lot of great athletes, but she seems to be the one that's their key factor."
As North Star, the girls basketball program has never made it to a State C tournament. The Blue Sky and K-G (Kremlin-Gildford) school districts consolidated to form North Star ahead of the 2005-06 school year. The closest state tournament connection to the Knights would be back in 1994, when K-G won the title.