BUTTE — A pair of teams on either side of the Great Divide will head east for the State AA tournaments.
The Butte High boys and girls, Bozeman High boys and Bozeman Gallatin boys will make a run at state hardware at First Interstate Arena in Billings beginning with Thursday's quarterfinals.
The Hawks boys will head in as the 3E seed while the Raptors will be the 4E seed. Both the Bulldog boys and girls teams will be No. 4 seeds out of the Western AA.
Here's a look at those four teams' Thursday openers:
4W BUTTE HIGH BOYS VS. 1E BILLINGS SENIOR
The Bulldogs opened divisionals with a 65-55 loss to eventual Western AA runner up Missoula Hellgate and then pulled off back-to-back one-point victories in the consolation bracket to advance to the third place game and solidify a trip to state.
This will be the third-straight trip to state for Butte in Matt Luedtke's third season leading the Bulldogs. Last season, the Bulldogs lost in the opening round and then held off Billings Senior 63-62 in the loser's out bracket to advance to to the consolation semifinal.
Butte is led by the scoring of Jace Stenson, who scored 215 points in the regular season and Kooper Klobucar (200 points).
The Bulldogs draw Eastern AA champion Billings Senior in the quarterfinals.
4W BUTTE HIGH GIRLS VS. 1E BILLINGS SKYVIEW
The Butte girls path to state was similar to the Bulldog boys. The Bulldog girls opened divisionals with a loss to Helena and then reeled off consecutive wins in the consolation bracket — ending Missoula Big Sky and Helena's seasons along the way — to advance to the third-place game where they fell 49-41 to lock up the fourth seed out of the Eastern AA.
This will be the Bulldogs first trip to the state tournament since 2019, when the Butte Civic Center hosted the event. Butte, then the No. 2 east seed, fell to Helena 56-44 in the first round as the Benglas went on to complete a three-peat.
Butte's top scorer is Kodie Hoagland who notched 127 points in the regular season. Ashley Olson scored 90 and Laura Rosenleaf had 121. Rosenleaf is also Class AA's leading rebounder, with 160 in the regular season to average 10 per game.
Butte will face Billings Skyview, the No. 1 Eastern AA seed, in Thursday's quarterfinals. The Falcons beat top-seeded Billings West 49-33 in the divisional title game. It's lone conference loss of the season was a 62-60 defeat to the Golden Bears on Jan. 22.
3E BOZEMAN BOYS VS. 2W MISSOULA BIG SKY
The Hawks were dealt a stunner in the Eastern AA opener. Top-seeded Bozeman fell 53-50 to No. 8 Belgrade after posting a perfect 14-0 record in conference play in the regular season.
But Bozeman kept its cool even as it found its season on the ropes in a pair of loser-out games. The Hawks beat Great Falls CMR 77-58 and then trounced Billings West 60-46 to make it to the consolation final and book a trip to state. From there, Bozeman fended off crosstown rival Bozeman Gallatin 54-48 to sew up a No. 3 seed for the second straight season.
The Hawks haven't missed the state tournament since the 2013-14 season. Bozeman last won it all at the 2019 tournament in Butte, beating Missoula Hellgate in overtime 56-54 on a last-second layup from Brett Clark off a full court pass from Ryan Simpson.
Bozeman's top scorer this season is Montana Tech commit Ty Huse who piled up 279 points in the regular season. Trent Rogers also has over 200 points for the Hawks this season and Jackson Basye has been Bozeman's most proficient rebounder with 118.
The Hawks face second-seeded Missoula Big Sky on Thursday. The Eagles came up just short against Helena Capital, 64-60 in the Western AA title game.
4E BOZEMAN GALLATIN BOYS VS. 1W HELENA CAPITAL
It took just two seasons for the upstart Raptors to get to state. Gallatin overcame a five-game conference skid in January to end the regular season on a 5-2 run. The Raptors then opened the Eastern AA with a narrow 57-55 loss to Billings West and then, like their crosstown rival Bozeman, delivered consecutive wins in the consolation bracket to make it to the third-place game and extend their season.
Gallatin's top scorer is Eli Hunter who finished the regular season with 299 points and Ryan Schlepp who had 183.
The Raptors will take on Helena Capital in the quarterfinals. The Bruins, who took third-place at state last season, have just lost two games this season and are coming off a 64-60 win over Missoula Big Sky in the Western AA chamionship.