BILLINGS — Billings Central and Hardin cruised to Eastern A boys basketball semifinal wins Friday night to set up a rematch of the past State A title games in Saturday's divisional championship.
Billings Central 65, Laurel 45
Central won the second quarter 17-7 and never allowed Laurel to get back within single digits on its way to a 65-45 win.
The Rams led 18-12 at the end of the first. Laurel's Colter Bales thought he had cut the deficit to just three after banking in a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the referees ruled he did not get the shot off in time.
Central seized on that momentum to go up by as many as 15 in the second. The Rams maintained their advantage throughout the third, taking a 47-29 lead into the final eight minutes.
Malachi Stewart led Central with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Brock Blatter added 10 in the balanced effort.
Bales led Laurel with 13 but was just 5 of 19 from the field.
Hardin 67, Livingston 33
In the first semifinal of the day, Hardin used a big second half to run away from Livingston 67-33
The Bulldogs led just 15-12 after the first quarter and 24-18 at half after getting in foul trouble early. They even uncharacteristically stalled on two separate occasions in the second quarter.
The third quarter was a different story. Hardin's full-court defensive pressure rattled Livingston into multiple turnovers and rushed shots, which led to easy baskets for the Bulldogs in transition. Hardin won the third 21-7 and won the fourth 22-8.
Famous Lefthand led the Bulldogs with 15 points while Cayden Redfield and Trae Hugs each scored 14. Hardin shot 50 percent from the field (24 of 48). Livingston shot just 23.4 percent (11 of 47).
Central and Hardin will meet in the Eastern A title game Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Laurel and Livingston will play loser-out games Saturday morning.