By Bruce Sayler
Box Elder rules the state in Class C girls’ basketball and senior post Cecilia Vielle said it is all because of hard work and sacrifice.
“It was a team effort,” the 6-foot-3 — or 6-4 — Vielle said in a victory celebration on the Butte Civic Center floor moments after the Bears beat Winnett/Grass Range 52-34 in the state tournament championship game. “All of our names are going on it.”
She raised the state championship trophy to point where the nameplates would be placed.
Vielle scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and was simply too much for Winnett/Grass Range to contain. She was the boss inside the key.
“I’m not 6-4 for nothing,” she declared. “That’s (dominate) what I do. I went out there with my gameplan and performed how I do. (Head coach) Joel (Rosette) told me to go out there and do what I do.”
She also stifled the Rams. Winnett/Grass Range found the key too busy and for their penetration and rebounders were being blocked out by the Vielle, taking away the safety net for any Winnett/Grass Range outside shooting.
The championship is Box Elder’s second in girls’ basketball, its first in 20 years since the 1998 game when the Bears nipped Richey 38-36 for the title. Belt defeated Box Elder in the 2016 championship game. Winnett/Grass Range, which topped the Bears for the Northern C Divisional crown, finished second at state for the second time. The Rams lost to Belt in 2013.
Junior Lillian Gopher, a 5-10 point guard, scored 13 points to lead Box Elder’s latest win.
The Bears never trailed. Maia Henderson’s two free throws just before the end of the first quarter snapped a 10-all tie and the Bears had the lead for good. Eve The Boy scored a layup for the first points of the second period. After Katie Zimmerman drained a 3-point shot for Winnett/Grass Range, the Bears finished the half on 9-2 run and led 23-15 at intermission. Vielle pulled down nine of her rebounds in the first half.
They stretched the lead to 12 points, 27-15, as Vielle and Joelnell Momberg both tallied baskets to begin the second half. Eight points, six on 3-pointers by Piper Johnson kept Winnett/Grass Range in the game, but Box Elder was still in front by 35-25 heading into the final frame.
Gopher, The Boy, Nikayla Anderson, Wolf Chief and Vielle all scored in the first 4 ½ minutes of the fourth quarter as the Bears pulled away.
The Rams tried to stay in the contest with Sydney Browning netting 3-pointers at the 7:05 and 2:43 junctures for her team’s only points in the first six minutes of the quarter. A 9-3 spree down the stretch clinched the win, the championship and a 25-2 season for Box Elder.
“We deserve this more than anything,” Vielle said. “We worked so hard for this thing.This is the best feeling in the world and I’ve been wanting to say that.”
She acknowledged the competition, and the test it provided a championship team.
“Oh, my gosh,” Vielle said, with emphasis. “We had to go through Fort Benton, Twin Bridges, Winnett/Grass Range, Medicine Lake/Froid, Great Falls Central, Belt and now we’re the state champions. We did it.”
Winnett/Grass Range was no slouch. The Rams finished with a 22-4 record and its runner-up trophy, Johnson, a 5-7 senior guard, led them with 15 points and five rebounds. Browning scored 10 and came up with four steals.
Box Elder’s scoring was rounded out by Wolf Chief with nine points Henderson with eight, The Boy with six, and Momberg and Anderson with three apiece. Sarah Parisian, Zayna Henderson, Brittany LaFromboise and Tallen Oats also played.