GREAT FALLS — Sydney Browning put it best.
“We weren’t supposed to win this game,” said the junior.
But win the Winnett-Grass Range girls did, topping heavy favorite Box Elder 56-47 to win the school’s first Northern C divisional title in 10 years.
The Rams jumped out to a 7-0 start to the game, and held a 26-20 lead at halftime. Box Elder rallied in the second half, battling back and forth in a game that saw nine lead changes in the third and fourth quarters.
Browning and junior post Brynn Jolma each scored 14 points to lead WGR. The Rams were active on the boards, out rebounding the Lady Bears 30-12 for the game. For head coach Vic Westphal, this felt like a long time coming.
“People don’t know what it’s like to start the season with these young ladies, when they can give so much to you and respond like they did tonight,” he said. “It’s emotional for those kids, it’s emotional for me. They’re special kids and I’ve been with them a long time. Those seniors, we’ve gone a lot of miles throughout the years. It’s fun.. to me it’s just a neat feeling, it’s hard to describe unless you’ve really been there. We did it, and it was fun.”
The Rams win negated a Northern C challenge game, which means the two-time defending Class C champion Belt Huskies, who finished third after semifinal loss to Box Elder, won’t be at state for the first time since 2007.
Winnett-Grass Range fell to Belt in the District 8C final last Saturday. It was a loss that the team said made them stronger.
“The Northern C is very tough,” Jolma said. “Where we come from, teams like Tri-City and Belt, they prep us for this opportunity. If it wasn’t for them and that competition, we wouldn’t be here either.”
Box Elder was led in scoring by Cecilia Vielle with 14 points. Senior star Lilly Gopher was limited to nine points by the tough Rams defense.
Winnett-Grass Range will head to the state tournament in Butte as the No. 1 seed out of the North and face the West’s No. 2 seed, either Ennis or Alberton-Superior. Box Elder will face Western Divison champion Twin Bridges.
Entering divisionals, the talk surrounded Belt, Box Elder and Fort Benton. Now? Winnett-Grass Range rules the North. And they’re ready for what comes next.
“We have to work on keeping strong all four quarters,” said Jolma. “Staying aggressive on offense and being smart on defense.”