GREAT FALLS — Missoula Loyola and Malta are set to face off in the Class B state championship game on Saturday night in Great Falls after both teams won in the semifinals. The Rams (24-1) will vie for the first state title in program history, while the Mustangs go in search of their ninth state title.
Missoula Loyola 63, Wolf Point 48
Missoula Loyola is one win away from history.
The Rams (24-1) took care of business in the semifinals, dropping Wolf Point 63-48 on Friday night to advance to the program’s fourth ever state title game. Loyola is 0-3 in those contests but are playing some incredible in Great Falls.
Loyola hasn’t faced a lot of challenges during the regular season. Their 23 wins against Class B competition all came by double-digits. The Wolves (22-4) were a formidable opponent after a remarkable season in the Northern B.
“This is great for us because we know that when we came here knowing it's not going to be easy,” said sophomore Ethan Stack. “There’s just so many teams that deserve to be here. So every game is going to be a challenge. But we especially needed that before the championship game, because that’s the one we need for sure.”
Through two games, Stack has put together a strong resume for tournament MVP. In Friday’s win, he scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting and pulled down 12 rebounds. Stack scored 31 points in Thursday’s first round win against Lodge Grass.
Reynolds Jhonston added 14 points in the win, while Raef Konzen scored 10.
The Rams led throughout, but Wolf Point was able to keep it close through timely buckets and a high volume of three point shots. The Wolves were once again led by senior Juliun Benson with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Kelby Bauer added 12 points.
Now Loyola heads to Saturday’s champion for the first time since 2019 where they will face Malta. With a chance to add state championship hardware to the school’s trophy case, for the first time in Loyola history.
“It means a lot, especially for Coach (Scott) Anderson. My drive is for him,” Stack said. “This whole team, our seniors are just a great environment. I want to do it for all these guys. And that’s what it’s going to take tomorrow to walk away with a win. A lot of grit, a lot of effort doing it for your brothers.”
Malta 47, Bigfork 41
The goal for every high school basketball team is to peak in the postseason.
And that’s exactly where the Malta boys find themselves after a 47-41 win over Bigfork in the State B semifinals.
The Mustangs, who didn’t win their district regular season or tournament title, will play for a state title on Saturday night in Great Falls.
“I got to give all the credit to the coaches,” said senior Jared Eggebrecht. “We get better every practice, every game. And we're playing our best basketball for sure right now. And you know, we work hard in practice to get better.”
Malta dominated the early part of the game, leading 17-7 after the first quarter and pushing the lead to 17 points midway through the second.
But the Vikings, a staple at the State B tournament, showed poise and battled back in the second half. They cut the lead to three early in the fourth quarter and seemingly grabbed all the momentum in the building. But the Mustangs withstood the onslaught and kept Bigfork at bay.
“That's how we've been in the past few games. We try to get out and punch them in the mouth and get a big lead,” Eggebrecht said. “And, you know, they made a run there but we're resilient. We stuck to our game plan. We did what we needed to do and we came out on top.”
The Mustangs were led by sophomores Bohdi Brenden and Treyton Wilke who scored 17 and 12 points respectively. Malta shot 43.6% from the field for the game (17-for-39).
Isak Epperly paced Bigfork with 16 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Nick Walker added nine points and five rebounds.
Malta will get a rematch with Missoula Loyola in Saturday’s state championship, set for 6:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons Arena. The Mustangs and Rams played an early season game at a showcase in Shelby, with Loyola coming away with a 59-44 win.
But with Malta playing its best basketball of the season, the Mustangs expect a different kind of game.
“They're an extremely talented basketball team,” Eggebrecht said. “But we've gotten better. They've gotten better. They're just good at everything. They don't really have weaknesses. We just have to come out and play how we do. There's nothing we can try to do other than play our best basketball.”