Montana’s high school basketball teams have played nearly a third of their compressed schedules with less than a month remaining before the onset of district tournaments.
Both the Eastern and Western AA boys conferences are going to be a battle, but a pair of leaders may have emerged from the pack over the weekend. There were some dramatics in the girls ranks, too, where a pair of the state’s top teams picked up narrow road wins.
The defending co-champion Hardin boys look to be in a bit of trouble in the Eastern A. The Bulldugs are trending in the wrong direction, even after rivalry win midweek. The Billings Central girls, also defending co-champions, are setting up a date with defending co-champion Hardin to set the Eastern A hierarchy.
Overtime wound up deciding a meeting between two of the top Southern B boys programs, while a last-minute flurry propelled Roundup's girls past defending co-champion Forsyth. The Rocky Boy boys and Thompson Falls girls are also more than a blip on the radar at this point.
Melstone has been a mainstay atop District 4C in recent years, but the Broncs have had no shortage of contenders during that time. Add the Terry boys to the mix in 2021. Chinook, too, has been a team with sustained success. The Sugarbeeters are doing it this year by filling up the scorebook.
Basketball continues to go nearly non-stop. Here’s what caught my eye over another week full of hoops.
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- Billings Skyview's boys picked up a huge win over crosstown rival Billings West, 67-46, to assert themselves as one of the lead contenders for the Eastern AA title. Despite losing some talent, the Falcons have plenty left on the roster.
- Missoula Sentinel's Alex Germer is a problem for opposing defenses. The Montana State commit poured in 37 points to lead the Spartans past Helena Capital in a critical battle in the Western AA. With Hellgate down this year, it appears as if Sentinel is the team to beat out west.
- The Laurel boys shook up the top of the Eastern A standings by defeating rival Billings Central over the weekend. The Locomotives defeated the Rams at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark to jump in front of their rivals in the conference standings. It seems the Eastern A is seeing a shakeup from recent years.
- Another big part of that change in the Eastern A is that of the Hardin boys. The Bulldogs beat rival Lodge Grass on Wednesday but followed that up with losses to Lewistown and Laurel, the latter capping a huge weekend for the Locomotives.
- Two of the best Southern B boys programs delivered on a classic last week, as Huntley Project escaped Colstrip with a 52-50 win in overtime. The Red Devils won on a buzzer-beater by Noah Bouchard as time expired in the extra period. Colstrip has had a run of sustained success and looks like it will again be a force in a crowded Southern B.
- Maybe the Northern B isn't so cut-and-dry after all. Shelby ran into trouble at Malta but escaped with a four-point victory, by far it's closest of the season. The Coyotes nearly coughed up a lead to the Mustangs before holding on. Always one of the most competitive divisions in the state, keep an eye on the Northern B, as it should have some good boys teams outside of just Shelby.
- Melstone's boys find themselves looking up in the District 4C standings. The Broncs were defeated by Terry, 47-44, as the Terriers have jumped out to an early lead in the conference. Terry looks like a legitimate threat in the conference early on and can establish itself as a contender in the Southern C by continuing to post impressive victories.
- Speaking of impressive victories, the Chinook boys continue to rack those up. The Sugarbeeters had three games last week and scored at least 80 points in two of those. The other? Chinook hung up 73. This offense continues to rack up big numbers and will be a force in the Northern C all season long.
- Missoula Hellgate's girls squeaked another one out. The Knights held on against Kalispell Glacier for a one-point win to keep hold of the top spot in the Western AA. Hellgate has wins over the Wolfpack and defending co-champion Helena Capital on its resume and is emerging as one of the newest contenders to a field full of championship-caliber teams.
- Defending co-champion Billings West is another one of those quality, championship-caliber teams. The Golden Bears fought back against crosstown foe Billings Skyview to earn a 47-44 win. Skyview is going to be competing for the top spot in the Eastern AA all season long, so West's win gives them a leg up.
- The Billings Central girl look he part of the top team in Class A. The Rams cruised past rival Laurel last weekend, flexing their defensive muscle by holding the Locomotives to 21 points. There's an embarrassment of riches offensively for Central, but it seems that the Rams have bought in defensively, too.
- Columbia Falls looks to have the edge on Browning in 2021. The Wildkats picked up a victory over the Indians in their first meeting of the season in what will be a pivotal piece in determining the Northwest A champion. The battle will likely be decided when these two meet again.
- The Roundup girls handed defending co-champion Forsyth a stunning loss over the weekend, 33-32, as the Panthers scored seven points in the final 90 seconds to rally for the win. It's going to be a crowded field at the Southern B divisional tournament, but both of these teams are capable of making a run at any time. Roundup, though, can build off this win.
- The Thompson Falls girls are scoring points at a pretty high clip. The Bluehawks scored north of 70 points per game last weekend and posted more than 80 on Tuesday night. The Western B has another face in the mix, as the Bluehawks look to be one of the most potent offenses in the state.
- Fort Benton is likely the favorite in the Northern C after an impressive 44-35 win over defending co-champion Roy-Winifred. Fort Benton has tons of talent and depth across its roster and will need all of that to make a run through the gauntlet of the Northern C. Don't count out the Outlaws yet, though.
- Seeley-Swan looks like it's going to be one of the top teams in the Western C throughout the year. The Blackhawks picked up a win over Philipsburg last weekend in what should prove to be one of the better wins later in the year. Watch out for Seeley-Swan this season.