HELENA -- After stumbling to end the first half, the Helena Capital boys basketball team rode an unsightly hot streak to open the second half and top the Missoula Big Sky Eagles 50-42 and advance to the Class AA state tournament.
The Bruins and Eagles chipped away at each other on defense early in the contest as the game was tied at 11-11 through the first quarter. The second appeared to be going a similar route until the Bruins fell flat to end the first half, not scoring a single point for nearly four minutes. The Eagles capitalized on the lapse and put up eight straight points to end the half and lead 24-16.
Caden Bateman had 10 points for the Eagles at the half and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. The Eagles kept the Bruins' Brayden Koch and Malachi Syvrud in check for the first two quarters as neither had more than three points headed into the break.
The second half is where the Bruins shined. Capital ran out on a 15-0 run to open the third quarter and led 31-24 before the Eagles were able to put in a shot with about three minutes left in the third quarter.
Koch finished the night with a game-high 17 points, Syvrud finished with 10.
Though the lead fluctuated slightly, the Bruins maintained control for the remainder of the matchup to win 50-42. With the win, and the Missoula Hellgate loss to Kalispell Glacier, the Bruins will become the Western AA's No. 2 seed at the state tournament and face the No. 3 seed from the Eastern AA in the first round on March 10.
Following the boys game, the No. 2 Helena Capital girls hosted the No. 7 Kalispell Flathead Bravettes and won 55-38.
From the opening tip, the Bruins were in control, jumping from a 10-point lead with seven minutes left in the second quarter to a 16-point, 30-14 lead at the end of the first half.
Kennedy Moore finished her season for the Bravettes with 14 points and five rebounds.
In the second half, the Bruins' lead ballooned to 26 points early in the fourth quarter, before the Bravettes were able to find some life and chip away at the lead to make it a 16-point game at 54-38 with just under two minutes to go.
The Bruins tacked on one more point from the free throw line in the effort to win 55-38. Paige Bartsch led the Bruins with a game-high 15 points, Dani Bartsch tacked on 10, and Mara McGinley shot 33% from beyond the arc to finish with 13.
With the win, the Bruins girls will also be the No. 2 seed for the Western AA and will face the No. 3 seed from the Eastern AA when the Class AA state tournament starts in Great Falls on March 10.