MISSOULA — For the first time in three years, Missoula Sentinel exacted revenge on crosstown rival Missoula Hellgate as the Spartan boys basketball team raced past the Knights 56-44 on Thursday evening at Sentinel's gym.
Alex Germer dropped 25 points for the Spartans and Tony Frohlich-Fair added 11 as Sentinel improved to 6-0 on the season after topping Hellgate for the first time since 2018.
"A lot of this game really helped us from the past three years," said senior Hayden Kolb, who scored seven points. "Last time we beat them was my freshman year and it felt really good to finally get back at them, especially in a double-digit win and after last year when they put it to us, it feels good to get that back to them."
The win was significant for Sentinel, which early on has been a state favorite in the Class AA ranks. But a win over Hellgate, the program to beat in Missoula and across the state for the past two seasons, was a much-needed statement to prove the Spartans are the real deal in 2021.
The game started slower than most would expect, with the Knights leading just 6-5 after the first quarter. Both teams were finding open looks but shots were not falling as they shook off the jitters and excitement that comes with much-anticipated crosstown matchups.
After taking a 20-17 lead into halftime, Sentinel came out firing in the third quarter and went on an 8-0 run highlighted by a dunk from Frohlich-Fair as the Spartans took a double-digit lead.
"The beauty of this team is we have 10 seniors and so they’ve been through the wars, they’ve done this," Sentinel coach Jason Maki said. "They know that last year they got their butts kicked and they remember that and so they were calm and they knew what to do. I just kind of reiterated what they already knew. They moved the ball really, really well in the second half and got some open looks and then we were able to push the lead up a little bit."
The pressure continued in the fourth quarter as Sentinel ballooned its lead up to as much as 18 points after a floater from Frohlich-Fair made it 51-33 with 5:35 left in the game. Germer scored 16 of his points in the final quarter to put the Knights away.
"I’m usually not a coach after a game to say a lot of words but I wanted to encourage our guys," Hellgate coach Jeff Hays said. "I saw a lot of good things, things that you can only get better if you learn from it, whether that’s experience, whether that’s making plays. We weren’t ready (Thursday) and that’s just the way it goes but hopefully we will bounce back, learn from it, get better and continue to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us."
Josh Wade led Hellgate (5-2) with 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, while Griffin Kinch and Brogan Callaghan each added nine.
"We talked about it being a learning experience," Hays added after the game. "We’re really an inexperienced group in big games especially as a group, not just individually, and you look at those guys. They’ve got (Soren) Syvrud and (TJ) Rausch who are carrying a football team to an undefeated state title. You’ve got Germer, Tony and Hayden who I thought played well tonight. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of talent that we went up against tonight and they performed and got the job done."