BUTTE – For the first time since 1998, the Box Elder girls basketball team was crowned the State C girls basketball champions. In a rematch of the Northern C divisional championship, Box Elder knocked off Winnett-Grass Range Saturday night in Butte 52-34.
“It’s huge for our community, the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation, Box Elder schools,” Box Elder head coach Joel Rosette said. “The girls get a ton of support. They’ve worked hard for this. … A lot of hard work went into this team, and I couldn’t be more proud of them to finish this way.”
“This was a tougher game than the score showed at the end,” Rosette said. “This was a tough tournament. I felt like we played all the tough teams — the one from the West, one from the East, one from the North — and we were victorious in all three. I guess we’ll take the hard way, and we couldn’t ask for a better ending tonight against our foe from the North. I’m just very thankful that our girls came out and were tough from the very start.”
The victory comes exactly two weeks after falling in the Northern C divisional championship to the Rams 56-47.
“You always want to play whoever’s the best, and we take that mentality,” Rosette stated. “We compete in practice. Everything we do is we want to be at our highest, and if it’s Winnett-Grass Range, then we want to play them.”
“We really wanted another chance at them,” Lillian Gopher added. “First time we played, we didn’t play like ourselves, but this time we played Lady Bear basketball.”
Star guard Lillian Gopher scored on the opening tip just three seconds into the game which jumpstarted the Bears’ offense from there.
“We build a lot of momentum on little things like that, a made layup, a pass, a steal. Everything just picks our whole team up,” Gopher said.
Box Elder trailed only once in the early minutes of the game, but the Bears took command in the second quarter by outscoring the Rams 11-5, giving Box Elder a 23-15 advantage at the halftime break.
Box Elder pushed their lead to 15 midway through the third quarter, but Winnett-Grass Range rallied to cut the deficit 10 at the end of the third after Piper Johnson buried a buzzer-beater.
In the fourth quarter, it was all Box Elder. Lillian Gopher led the charge for the Bears forcing turnovers and finding teammates with timely passes. Gopher led Box Elder with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
“It’s just an unexplainable feeling,” Gopher said of the state title. “I want to cry, I don’t want to cry, I want to be happy — just an amazing feeling, maybe a once in a lifetime feeling. We’ve all prepared for these moments, these big time games.”
Cecilia Vielle had a double-double for the Bears, scoring 10 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. Piper Johnson led Winnett-Grass Range with 15 points and five rebounds.
Box Elder held the Rams to just 27 percent shooting from the field, while the Bears shot 47 percent, including 11-for-18 in the decisive second half. Box Elder also out-rebounded Winnett-Grass Range 36-25.
“We went 2-3 (zone) and we haven’t went 2-3 all year,” Rosette said. “It worked for us the last two nights, so I guess sometimes you’ve got to pull out new tricks.”
Gopher also gave a shout out to the Box Elder faithful.
“When they’re being hype, we’re being hype,” said Gopher. “They bring us up a lot. Them being loud — we feed off of that.”