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Thunderbirds tagged as team to beat at boys' Class C

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This year's State Class C boys' basketball tournament is like taking a trip to Baskin Robbins - there's a couple of favorites and everything else looks really good.

Counting the play-in game, the top nine teams in the state meet at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls starting Thursday to play for the state Class C title.

The Hays-Lodgepole Thunderbirds enter the tournament as the team to beat after defeating top-ranked Big Sandy in both the District 9-C championship and the Northern C divisional championship.

The T-birds have the best record in the field at 22-2. Hays-Lodgepole's lone losses on the season were to Big Sandy and Rocky Boy.

The Thunderbirds are led by 6-foot-5 super sophomore A.J. Long Soldier. Last year as a freshman Long Soldier led the T-birds to a third place finish at state after joining the team late in the season.

Hays-Lodgepole meets the second seed out of the South, Wibaux (21-3), in the 2 p.m. game on Thursday. Wibaux was ranked sixth in the state in the final regular season power poll.

Hays-Lodgepole, Big Sandy and Wibaux are the only three teams at state that were in the last regular season Top 10 poll.

Big Sandy (19-4) will try to bounce back from its district and divisional title losses against Hays-Lodgepole behind some young talent. Freshmen leaders Blake Brumwell (6-7) and Corbin Pearson (6-4) look for their first state wins against Highwood in the 11 a.m. play-in game.

Unranked Shields Valley enters the tournament with the second best record out of the field at 20-3. Brock Arthun, a 6-5 senior, is a Rebel that definitely has a clue. Arthun scored 27 points in the Western C divisional title game to lead Shields Valley to a 73-44 win over Gardiner.

Shields Valley meets Saco (18-8) in the 6:30 p.m. game on Thursday.

Roberts (20-5) waits to square off against the winner of the play-in game in the final contest of the day at 8 p.m.

Froid-Medicine Lake (17-6) plays Gardiner (17-7) in the 12:30 p.m. game. Gardiner is led by Mitchell Cloghessy, who nearly averages a double-double per game.

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