CHINOOK — Not many Class C teams in Montana have a lineup as imposing as the Chinook boys. Heck, not many teams in any class can match up with the Sugarbeeters.
“We’ve always been tall,” laughed junior post Brendan Edwards.
Ask any coach in the Montana who the Class C contenders are and Chinook is never far from their lips.
The Sugarbeeters feature five players listed at 6-feet-3-inches or taller on the roster, with four of them measuring over 6-foot-5. Many of them can throw down very impressive dunks and made sure to demonstrate their athleticism during practice. The raw height and talent has led Chinook (10-1, 8-0) to an undefeated start in District 9C.
“It’s pretty fun having those big guys,” said starting point guard Trajan Hannum. “There’s always someone who can go get boards. Someone who can get a bucket for you when needed. It’s really fun to play with those big guys. They always make you work on the offensive end and defensive end.”
Here’s the scary part for the rest of the state. There is only one senior on the roster. Coach Mike Seymour starts five juniors, Hannum (5’9”), Edwards (6’6”), Riley Kellam (6’3”), Cord Schneider (6’5”) and Isaac Bell (6’5”). And they seem to get better every week.
“We play pretty well together,” said Edwards. “We’ve been playing together since we were in second grade. Lots of 3-on-3 tournaments around the state, playing against AA teams and other classes. It’s been good experience all around.”
Last year, the Beeters finished third in the 9C behind Hays-LodgePole and Box Elder. They made their fourth trip to the Northern C divisional in the last five years, winning two games before falling short of the consolation round. While Chinook hasn’t made the state tournament in over 15 years, last years’ experience was invaluable for the young team.
“We all were sophomores last year,” said junior reserve James Christensen. “We did lose some seniors, but they didn’t play too much last year because coach wanted to get some younger kids in and get us some experience.”
And developing talent for the future has paid off for Chinook. After an early season loss to Sunburst on a last second shot, the Beeters have reeled off nine straight wins, dominating the paint and extending the floor with athletes at every position. But if you ask the team, they’re only scratching the surface.
“We can be a lot better if we bring out a lot of our true potential skills,” Christensen said. “The loss to Sunburst, that was kind of a wakeup call and we bounced back from that. Any team has an off night and any team can win on any given night. It was a good eye opener for us because it showed us we really need to bust our humps this year.”
The Beeters pass the eye test for a great basketball team, but they hope to be more than just a collection of big, tall, athletic players. Their focus is on teamwork – and keeping their goals in sight.
“Our goals are to remain undefeated at home,” Edwards said. “We want a district championship, a divisional championship and hopefully we can play in the state tournament.”