GREAT FALLS — The 2020-2021 State A boys basketball tournament continued on Thursday with two morning first-round games.
In the first game, Polson survived a hot-shooting first half from Lewistown to move on. Billings Central used its size to pull away from Butte Central in the second half and advance to the semifinal round.
Polson 69, Lewistown 55
Polson outlasted a 3-point barrage from Lewistown to take a 69-55 win over the Golden Eagles in the first round of the State A boys tournament.
Each played at an intrepid pace in the first half, with Lewistown taking a a 21-15 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Eagles extended the lead to 33-20 in the second quarter and shot 71.4% from the 3-point line in the half. But the Pirates weathered the storm, closing the deficit to 36-33 by halftime.
In the second half, the Pirates opened on a 7-0 run and took control. Polson's Colton Graham scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half, while Lewistown shot just 28% from the field in the half, including 0 for 13 from beyond the arc.
Jarrett Wilson followed Graham with 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Pirates, and Braunsen Henriksen scored 14. Polson advances to Friday's 7:30 p.m. semifinal game.
Bryce Graham led the Eagles with 17 points and Royce Robinson had 16. Lewistown will play in a loser-out game Friday at 11 a.m.
Billings Central 62, Butte Central 44
Cayden Merchant scored 19 points and Billings Central crashed the boards to beat Butte Central 62-44 in the first round of the State A boys basketball tournament.
The game was tight in the first half. Offensively, Butte Central thrived from beyond the arc, shooting 5 for 9 from the 3-point line. Billings Central found success from close range to take a 28-26 lead into the break.
Billings Central's size advantage proved key, as the Rams outscored the Maroons 34-18 in the second half behind a dominant rebounding effort. Billings Central collected nearly 93% of its defensive rebound opportunities and led the team totals 35-14.
Billings Central's Malachai Stewart and Marcus Wittman followed Merchant with 11 points each, while Brock Blatter had 10 points and seven rebounds. Drew Badovinac and Dougie Peoples each had 11 points for the Maroons.
The Rams will play Polson at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The Maroons will play Lewistown in loser-out action Friday at 11 a.m.