The calendar has turned to February, which means the Montana high school basketball postseason is right around the corner.
Teams have begun to emerge around the state, including some who picked up huge wins over the weekend to solidify their status as contenders.
The Eastern AA boys have a little clarity at the top after Bozeman picked up a road win and Great Falls High trounced the defending co-champions. The only unbeaten team in Class AA also kept its perfect record intact with a win against its rival.
Defending co-champion Helena Capital is still one of the best in the Western AA girls. The Bruins kept their hopes for a regular season conference title alive with a narrow win at home over one of the top teams in the conference.
There's just one unbeaten team remaining in the entirety of Class A boys, as Dillon just keeps on winning. Laurel stumbled to an Eastern A foe but remains unbeaten in conference play. That Eastern A divisional tournament should be quite competitive.
Billings Central won the battle of defending Class A girls co-champions, but these two will meet later this year to likely decide the regular season conference title. Butte Central's girls have raced to the top of the Southwestern A by handing the conference leader its first loss in league play.
Damon Gros Ventre wasn't on the floor at First Interstate Arena for Lodge Grass, but the Indians still were able to snap a long losing streak against their rival. The other Class B boys defending co-champion is certainly going to make its presence felt in the Northern B, as Fairfield picked up a monster win over the weekend.
It was an impressive weekend for the Big Timber girls, who continue to rack up victories against some strong teams in the Southern B. Defending co-champion Missoula Loyola suffered another loss, this time on a non-conference road trip.
The Manhattan Christian boys aren't going anywhere. The Eagles made that clear with a dominant performance against a previously unbeaten team. Bridger remains unbeaten in the Southern C, as the Scouts fought off the No. 2 team in District 6C.
The Fort Benton girls are well on their way to a District 9C regular season title. Just one more formidable obstacle stands in the way for the Longhorns. Charlo and Seeley-Swan continue to impress in the Western C, currently has a total of four unbeaten teams in its three conferences.
Every game matters in the push for the postseason. Here's what caught my eye during a weekend packed with basketball.
- Great Falls High finds itself in a tie atop the Eastern AA standings after an impressive win at home over defending co-champion Billings Skyview, though the Bison don't own the tiebreaker. Great Falls High won 66-54 to hand the Falcons their second loss in conference play. Those two losses have come to the two teams at the top of the standings, as Bozeman and the Bison are in control of the Eastern AA.
- Missoula Sentinel is the only unbeaten team in Class AA, as the Spartans beat rival Missoula Hellgate to keep the perfect season alive. Sentinel has all the pieces to make a state title run, and the early returns have been pleasant for the Spartans. As they turn towards the homestretch, they'll hope to be playing their best basketball.
- Dillon boasts the only unbeaten record in Class A. The Beavers had to earn it over the weekend, though, as they went on the road and beat one of the top teams in the conference in Frenchtown. It was a tough stretch for Frenchtown, as they also lost to Corvallis and now sit third in the conference standings.
- Laurel is still perfect in the Southeastern A, but the Locomotives lost to Northeastern A's Miles City on the road for the first loss to a Montana team this season. The Eastern A looks like it has several teams capable of claiming a divisional title in a few short weeks and the Cowboys have thrown their hat in that ring.
- Lodge Grass proved it can win without its superstar. Damon Gros Ventre went down with a sprained ankle on Friday night and wasn't able to play Saturday against rival Hardin. The Indians pushed the Class A Bulldogs to overtime before winning 93-90 in Billings. Lodge Grass had three players combine for 75 points. That's a nightmare for opposing coaches to hear.
- Fairfield will once again be in contention for a state title, as the defending co-champions knocked off Shelby, 57-56 on Friday night. Although the Eagles have losses to Class C Belt and Class A Havre, they've beaten some top competition in Class B. It's going to be fireworks when the Eagles play Lodge Grass in Billings.
- The Western C looks like it still goes through Manhattan Christian. The Eagles thumped previously unbeaten Twin Bridges, 60-41, to take control of the regular season conference title race. Pieces have changed for Manhattan Christian over the years, but the result remains the same. The Eagles are a force in Class C boys basketball.
- Bridger is the only remaining unbeaten team in the Southern C, as the Scouts held off yet another tough challenge from Harlowton-Ryegate. Bridger has trounced the majority of its opponents and now likely won't be tested again until the District 6C tournament. This Scouts team looks like it has all the makings of a state tournament team.
- Defending co-champion Helena Capital is starting to get rolling at the right time. The Bruins knocked off Kalispell Glacier, 48-40, at home to stay within striking distance of unbeaten Missoula Hellgate. A late-season meeting between the two will decide the regular season conference champion.
- Speaking of the Knights, they kept their perfect season going with a narrow win over rival Missoula Sentinel, 39-36. Hellgate has taken care of everyone in its path so far, but can the Knights keep that momentum rolling throughout the remainder of the regular season?
- Round 1 of the battle between defending co-champions went to Billings Central, as the Rams handed rival Hardin their first loss of the season on Friday night at First Interstate Arena, 54-50. It wouldn't be a surprise to see these teams meet up in the postseason, but a regular season conference title will be decided the next time these two do battle.
- Butte Central has thrust itself into the regular season conference title race in the Southwestern A after a win over Hamilton this past weekend, giving the Broncs their first loss in league play. The Maroons' only loss this season came to Frenchtown, which sits fourth in the conference. It's going to be a wild finish to the season in the Southwestern A.
- The unbeaten Big Timber girls are on a mission. The Sheepherders beat Whitehall, one of the better teams in District 5B, then throttled Columbus, one of District 4B's best, by nearly thirty points for their second win over the Cougars in the week. There will be new challenges at the Southern B divisional tournament, but the Herders have big goals in mind this year.
- Defending co-champion Missoula Loyola hit a snag this weekend after ripping off several victories. The Breakers fell at Bigfork by nearly 20 points, one of the more surprising results of the season. The Valkyries are in fourth place in District 7B, which is setting us up for a thrilling Western B divisional tournament.
- Fort Benton is in a class by itself in District 9C. The Longhorns beat North Star for the second time this season and have just one more test before they can claim a regular season conference title. Fort Benton has quite the resume this year, too. Expect these girls to be playing late in the season.
- Seeley-Swan and Charlo also look like they could be playing late in the season. The Blackhawks and the Vikings continue to beat up on their conference opponents. Along with Manhattan Christian, the Western C boasts three unbeaten teams. It's going to be a thrilling divisional tournament.