CHINOOK — New division, same success.
The Chinook Sugarbeeters girls basketball team is a perfect 8-0 on the year with an average win margin of 38 points. The transition from Class C to B has proved to be no issues thus far, but the Sugarbeeters know better than to take any game lightly.
“Everyone comes to play every single night,” said junior guard Alexus Seymour. “Everybody is going to give you your best game, and coming from Class C to Class B, everybody of course is going to give you their best game because they want to show you what Class B is really about.”
Chinook's girls have found success this season because of their team chemistry and the way they practice. Head coach Mike Seymour has his team thinking with a defensive mindset, and that has helped them to keep their opponents around an average of just 25 points per game.
“I’m so proud of our team. We push each other so hard through practice. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior, everyone is pushing each other and we work really hard,” said senior guard Hallie Neibauer.
Like many teams in Montana, the Chinook girls have been playing together since they were young. Growing up inside the very gym they now play in, they’ve always wanted to hang a banner of their own. After putting together more than 20 wins last year and making it to the Class C state tournament, the Sugarbeeters feel they are close to accomplishing their goals.
“We’ve been hungry since we were second graders. I remember walking in here as a kid and looking up on those banners and seeing everything and I remember thinking this is what I want, this is what we work for,” said junior forward Hannah Schoen. “I walk into practice every day and I tell these girls this is what we are working for, this is what we are pushing for when we are conditioning and exhausted. We’re sitting here pushing for these moments, and we all come in with the mentality of no one is going to roll over and give it to us. We’re going to have to work and push for every second and every point we get, and we are so hungry to get that banner and we are so hungry to get every win we can.”
The only banners in the history of the Chinook girls basketball program came from back-to-back titles in 1986 and 1987. Both titles were in Class B before the school went down to Class C. With the return to Class B and the three-decade gap between state titles, these Chinook girls are hoping to restore greatness in their community.
“I think it would mean so much to the community. We’ve been persistently good but we haven’t gotten to that point yet, and I think it’d mean a lot to those people who have been here since that last championship banner to finally see another one come into the program,” said Schoen.
They also understand that achieving this goal is not just for them or the many loyal fans of the community that have been there throughout the years, but also for the next generation of girls in the gym watching them play and wanting to be just like them.
“Looking up as a little kid, like looking up at the banners and being like that team did that ... that’s what I want to do,” said senior guard Jenna Liddle. “Trying to push yourself to get that banner, to get that state title, to set up and influence the younger kids because every little kid likes to look up and see their idols, so we’re trying to push ourselves to become the kids’ idols and we’re trying really hard to just be there for them”