Cowboys, Cowgirls open divisonal play Wednesday

By Abe Winter Star Staff Writer

If the Custer County District High School basketball teams are successful in the play-in games early Wednesday, both the Cowgirls and Cowboys will be rewarded by having to play a second game on Wednesday in the Eastern A Divisional in Billings..

“I don’t like it, but we put ourselves in this position,” said Cowboys coach Houston Finn.

His team gets into the postseason party at 9 a.m. when it faces Havre at the Rimrock Auto Arena. A win and the Cowboys play again at 3:30 p.m. against well-rested Hardin, one of the best in the 10-team field.

“We did that last year, too,” said Kaden Stradley, the CCDHS point guard.

The Cowboys advanced into the modified eight-team, double-elimination event by defeating Havre, then beating Park (Livingston) before dropping two games and being eliminated with a 2-2 record.

Stradley is hoping things will be different. That, despite a 5-12 record.

“It’s a new day,” he said. “Everybody’s 0-0, so you have to play your best basketball.”

More important, he said, is attitude.

“We’ve got to have a winning attitude,” Stradley said.

Stradley, a junior, and senior Gabe Gundlach generally carry the scoring load for the Cowboys.

Finn said the team isn’t out of contention for a state berth. Four teams advance to the state Class A, scheduled March 1-3 in Bozeman.

“We’re right there, but we have to fix turnovers and taking bad shots. If we do that we’ll be OK,” he said. “We need everybody to chip in, have three or four players in double figures.

“We’re a better team than our record shows, but Havre’s better than their record shows, too. I’ve seen what we’re capable of, but we need to put 32 minutes together.”

Havre owns a win over Dawson County (Glendive), which defeated the Cowboys 57-53 last Saturday and is 2-0 against CCDHS this season.

If they get past Havre, the Cowboys would play again Thursday, no matter what would happen against Hardin.

Meanwhile, the schedule maker wasn’t kind to the Cowgirls, either. They play at 1:30 p.m. against Sidney, a team they’ve overpowered twice this season.

Another victory over the Eagles would send them into the eight-team bracketed tourney against Havre at 8 p.m., also on Wednesday.

The Cowgirls, who are 8-9, have had a rollercoaster ride through the season and coach Chase Haughian was mystified last week when his team won a big game on the road at Hardin and then were humbled at Glendive.

“We had a huge morale victory over Hardin and then we had a rival game … we gotta step up and be ready to play,” Haughian said. “We didn’t have enough ball pressure.”

Pressure defense is a key to the success of the Cowgirls, but Haughian has a list of elements needed to advance beyond the 10-team Divisional.

It includes defensive rebounding, recognizing shooters, guarding the 3-point line, stopping transition layups, limiting turnovers and making more free throws.

“That would help,” Haughian said when reminded of the latter.

Still, he has confidence in his team.

“If everybody steps up and does their job, we’re deep enough and we’re made for this tournament,” Haughian said.

There are four seniors — Bailee Murnion, McKenzie Taylor, Ashley Venable and the injured Amanda Beard (torn ACL) — who would rather see their prep basketball careers end in Great Falls in two weeks (March 8-10).

As for the boys, there are two seniors — Gundlach and Shawn Beeler — who also would like to be among the qualifiers for State next week (March 1-3) in Bozeman.

“I am confident we will have it figured out by tournament time,” Finn said. “We are close to rising to another level.”

(Contact Abe Winter at or 406-234-0450.)

“We need everybody to chip in; have three or four players in double figures.”
— Houston Finn Cowboys Basketball Coach
“If everybody steps up and does their job, we’re deep enough and we’re made for this tournament.”
— Chase Haughian Cowgirls Basketball Coach