BILLINGS — Familiar District 4B foes met in the semifinal round of the Southern B boys basketball tournament Friday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark, and Red Lodge secured a spot in Saturday's title game with a gritty win over Huntley Project.
It also clinched a berth in the state tourney for the Rams, which according to athletic director John Fitzgerald is the program's first since 1985.
It will be an all-District 4B title game, as Columbus outlasted defending state champion Three Forks 51-46, which clinched a state berth. Red Lodge and the Cougars met at the district tourney, with Columbus winning by 11 points.
Red Lodge 57, Huntley Project 44
It marked the fourth time that Red Lodge and Huntley Project have played this season. Project won both meetings in the regular season but Red Lodge has since evened the series in the postseason, which included a 57-44 victory in Friday's semifinals.
The Rams did it with strong shooting and even stronger rebounding. Both Jacob Stewart and Thomas Buchanan registered double-doubles; Stewart had 16 points and 11 rebounds while making 7 of 12 shots from the field, and Buchanan had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and made 5 of 9 from the floor.
Walker Boos added 12 points for Red Lodge, which shot 46% as a team and ripped down 47 total rebounds, including 16 on the offensive glass. The Rams outscored the Red Devils in each quarter, notably 21-13 in the fourth.
Jeffery Thomas had a double-double of his own to lead Huntley Project, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 boards. Jake Cook finished with 17 points.
Columbus 51, Three Forks 46
Columbus led by one point with two minutes remaining but didn't allow Three Forks to make a field goal the rest of the way and held on for a 51-46 semifinal win.
Defense was the name of the game for the Cougars, especially in the interior, as 6-foot-9 Hayden Steffensen and 6-5 Michael Curl clogged the paint to force 20 3-point attempts, of which the Wolves made just four.
Steffenson was a menace all night, using his height advantage to score 25 points — while making all 11 of his field goal tries — and grab 13 rebounds. He also had four blocked shots.
While the Cougars will play for the championship, Three Forks dropped into a loser-game Saturday morning against Lame Deer. The Wolves were led by Shane Williams' 18 points. Dylan Swenson finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.