CHINOOK — Last year's season for the Chinook Sugarbeeter girls ended a little sooner than coach Mike Jones would have hoped. This year they've returned as one of the top teams in the state and they're hungry for more. After bowing out at divisionals last year, Jones knew his Sugarbeeters would be back soon.
With just a few games before the District 9C tournament, they are one of the few undefeated teams in Montana at 16-0. His message to the girls after losing out last year: "Just keep working."
"After that last game I just told them to keep getting after it. And it left the girls wanting more," Jones said. "We spent a lot of time this offseason getting better and they really got after if this summer so that we'd have a chance to make a run this year."
The team is focusing on playing together and giving 100% in everything and it's paid off thus far, as they have yet to give up a game, proving that they're one of the top teams in Class C.
"They get after it defensively and they're selfless. If I'm being nitpicky, we could always cause more turnovers, more chaos, but there's no selfish player on this team," Jones said. "We find open players. It doesn't matter who fills our points. We're looking for assists, we're looking for rebounds, loose balls, charges. And our girls really bought into that this year. I think they're doing great."
The team brings a board to practice each day. Each player writes a few goals they have for the day, and many of them say different things, such as being encouraging and talking more on defense. But an unwritten goal they all have in common is to get back to Divisionals and make a run at state.
"Right now everyone is working their butts off and they're trying to get that goal, try to get to the next level or possibly the state level," senior Bree Swanson said. "I think each and every one of these girls deserves it. Every bit of it. We've been in here since the beginning of summer. We're working together and we play really well together. Coach says the sky's the limit. So with hard work and dedication, you can go anywhere."
The Sugarbeeters know what they have and what they're capable of as they're looking to finish the season strong.
"We're definitely working in practice and pushing ourselves, putting in 100% in everything," junior Hallie Neibauer said. "That's our big main goal right now is getting past districts, hopefully winning that."
The Sugarbeeters will meet up with the rest of the 9C beginning Feb. 13 in Havre for the district tournament.