BILLINGS — Lewistown is one win away from its second straight Eastern A divisional title. The lone obstacle in the Eagles’ way is a championship rematch with spirited Glendive.
Lewistown overcame early foul trouble — and Billings Central’s physicality — to win Friday’s first semifinal at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. The Red Devils followed by outlasting Hardin in the other semi.
The title game between Lewistown and Glendive will tip off Saturday at 7 p.m.
Lewistown 59, Billings Central 40
The Rams ran off the floor at halftime with momentum, and their emotion showed it. But it’s difficult to keep a powerhouse down, and undefeated Lewistown stormed to the finish line for a 59-40 victory.
A Kyler Northrop 3 in the third quarter put Central ahead 36-32, which forced Lewistown coach Scott Sparks to call a timeout. From there, the Eagles closed the game on a 23-8 run — turning a scare into a rout.
“We call that timeout and Sparks got on us,” said Lewistown standout Fischer Brown. “But that’s what we needed. We needed a wakeup call, like, ‘Hey, this is a big game. This is a must-win scenario.’ This team … we fought back. We did a great job.”
Brown spent a good portion of the first half on the bench after he incurred his third foul, but he scored 15 of his game-high 24 points after intermission. Royce Robinson scored 11 first-half points to pick up a lot of the early slack.
Central’s physicality put the Eagles on their heels. But Lewistown's depth and fast-break style blew the game open in the later stages. Brown and Robinson combined for 16 rebounds, while Brody Jenness (nine points) and Matthew Golik (seven points) added key supplemental scoring.
“The rest of the team, they didn’t get rattled,” Brown said of his early foul trouble. “We didn’t feel any pressure that it was going downhill. We had to pick it up, and that’s what we did.”
Northrop had 19 points for the Rams while making 4 of 5 3-point attempts. Central will face Lockwood in a loser-out game on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Glendive 65, Hardin 57
With a 6-12 record, Glendive had a less than spectacular regular season. The players will be the first to admit it.
But the postseason has served as a reboot, and the Red Devils find themselves playing for the division crown for the second straight year — and with a berth to state already locked up — following a 65-57 victory over Hardin.
“We didn’t win a lot of games in the regular season, but we played a lot of tough games, we played a lot of teams close,” Michael Murphy said. “Coming here (coach Wade Murphy) wrote ‘0-0’ on the board, and we said, ‘Everyone’s equal.’
“This is the best group of guys that I’ve ever played with. We lost four, five, six in a row at times. We could have easily beat ourselves up, but we came into practice every day and got after it. And here we are.”
Murphy finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, and was part of a balanced output that included 17 points from Kohbe Smith, 13 points and 10 boards from Chase Crockett, and 10 points from Levi Eaton.
Hardin trailed by nine points after the first quarter and was forced to chase the lead all game. The Bulldogs, who face Havre in a loser-out contest Saturday at 10:30 a.m., got 21 points and six rebounds from Elias Stops At Pretty Places and 13 points from Antonio Espinoza.
As for the Red Devils, they knocked off Lewistown during the regular season last year, and look forward to Saturday’s title-game challenge.
“Lewistown’s a great team. There’s no doubt about it,” Michael Murphy said. “But I think we’re excited to go out and play another great team and just keep building.”