Rejuvenated Vikings out for Class B crown

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Bigfork's Chase Chappuis sinks a shot against Seeley-Swan in Bigfork. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

It could have been a grueling 11 days for the Bigfork boys basketball team.

After winning the Western B divisional, the Vikings could’ve used their nearly two-week-long layoff before the Class B state tournament to fit a few more tough practices or long film sessions into the waning season.

But they didn’t.

Bigfork held two full-speed practices last week and one more this week before departing for Missoula on Wednesday.

“To be honest, it gets to be a long season at this point, so it’s OK to take a day off and enjoy family a little bit and get away from basketball,” Bigfork head coach Sam Tudor said. “We did not get lackluster over this week. If anything, we just got healthier and a little more mentally prepared.

“When you’ve got three games in three days, you’d better be healthy and ready to go.”

Tudor believes his team is.

The Vikings, 21-0 on the season, kick off state play today at noon with a test against Joliet, Southern B’s No. 4 seed.

The J-Hawks, like every other team in the tournament, are gunning for Bigfork, which enters the tournament among the favorites to win the title.

But having a target on its back is nothing new for Bigfork.

“We’ve felt pressure from probably the first game of the season, because we knew we had some talent,” Tudor said. “We don’t let ourselves buy too much into the pressure of winning. We just go out and play. That’s what’s been fun to watch this year, their ability to just go out and play and do their best. It’s paying off for them.”

A first-round win would give Bigfork its fifth semifinal berth in the past six years.

To get that victory, though, the Vikings must find a way to slow down Taylor Rowlison and the sharp-shooting Joliet offense.

Rowlison, a senior lefty, set a school record with 46 points in Joliet’s win over St. Labre in the Southern B divisional.

“He’s a scoring machine,” Tudor said.

“Our height could give them a problem, and their shooting could give us a problem,” Tudor added on the matchup. “At this point in the season, all the games are tough.”

With that said, Tudor likes his team’s chances. It’s given him no reason not to.

Beau Santistevan, Anders Epperly and Logan Gilliard, all of whom average double figures, lead a Bigfork offense that is as lethal as any in the state.

Last year, Tudor said, his team wasn’t playing its best basketball at the end of the season.

He feels much differently this season.

“We’re 100 percent going into the state tournament,” Tudor said. “We’re chomping at the bit, ready to go.

“These boys are performers, so we’ll be OK when we get on that big stage.”

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