District basketball tournaments get going in just three short weeks, and postseason pictures around the state are beginning to take shape.
Billings Skyview’s boys bounced back from a tough start to conference play with two massive victories on the road in Great Falls. Helena Capital’s boys proved their legitimacy in the Western AA with a rivalry win. Kalispell Glacier and Helena Capital won thrilling rivalry games on the girls side to stay in contention in the Western AA, too.
Hardin and Billings Central delivered yet another classic game in the boys rivalry, while the Hardin girls did something to Billings Central that no team had done this year. Frenchtown’s boys knocked a team from the ranks of the unbeatens, while Browning’s girls nearly fell victim to the same fate.
Shelby’s boys added another impressive win to their resume and look to have established themselves as a true contender in the Northern B. Bigfork could again be the team to beat in the Western B, as the Vikings find themselves atop the standings. The Bigfork girls are atop the standings, too, after winning a pivotal game this weekend, while the Harlem girls suffered their first loss of the season to a familiar Northern B foe.
Dodson came thisclose to knocking off two of the Class C boys unbeatens in the same weekend, but the Coyotes instead left with a pair of losses. Simms has all but locked up a regular-season conference title, and Melstone took a leap in that direction, too. Manhattan Christian’s girls could be on their way to taking the next step, while Westby-Grenora continues to cruise in the Eastern C. Belt avenged its only loss of the season, but how much weight does the victory carry?
That and more highlight what caught my eye over a busy weekend of hoops.
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- Helena Capital kept pace with the top of the Western AA over the weekend, as the Bruins defeated crosstown rival Helena High 56-43. Capital’s only loss in conference play is to unbeaten Missoula Hellgate. Helena High, however, finds itself on the outside of the conference’s top four teams, meaning the Bengals will likely need to make a move before the divisional tournament.
- Billings Skyview lost its first two Eastern AA games of the year and was in desperate need of a victory this past weekend. The Falcons got two of them, beating Great Falls CMR and Great Falls High on the road over the weekend to get right back in the thick of the Eastern AA conference title race. Can Skyview build on these two wins and progress forward throughout the rest of the season?
- Hardin and Billings Central don’t seem to ever disappoint when they get together. Hardin, Class A’s lone remaining unbeaten, got all it could handle from the Rams, as Central pushed Hardin to double overtime before the Bulldogs prevailed 97-95. We’ve now seen Hardin pushed to the brink on two separate occasions, but the Bulldogs have been able to come out on top each time. Having Famous Lefthand score 41 points certainly helps. Central seems to have turned a corner this season and has been playing outstanding basketball of late. Watch out for the Rams to make a run in the postseason.
- There were two unbeaten Class A boys teams to begin the weekend, but Frenchtown took one down. The Broncs beat Butte Central 50-44 to hand the Maroons their first loss of the season. It’s a huge win for Frenchtown in terms of the Southwest A regular-season title. If the Broncs had lost, they would have been three games behind Butte Central. As it stands, the Broncs are just a game and a half back and are still in the hunt for the regular-season crown.
- Shelby is in the hunt for a regular-season title, too, as the Coyotes beat Rocky Boy, 72-61, over the weekend to solidify their second-place position in District 1B. Shelby’s only loss in conference play is to District 1B leader Fairfield. Last time the Eagles and Coyotes played, Tanner Parsons was just returning from injury. He’s now acclimated to the rotation and has Shelby playing some of its best basketball all year.
- A familiar name sits atop District 7B, as the Bigfork Vikings claimed the district’s top spot with a win against Eureka over the weekend. Eureka came in without a loss in conference play, but Bigfork beat the Lions 48-31. The Western B doesn’t appear to have a dominant team this season, but Bigfork is making sure its name remains on the short list of contenders.
- What a tough weekend for the Dodson Coyotes. On Thursday, Dodson took on unbeaten Melstone, falling to the Broncs 45-43. The Coyotes followed that up with a game against unbeaten Scobey on Saturday, falling to the Spartans 49-48. Two of Class C’s four unbeaten teams nearly fell to Dodson in the span of three days. Dodson’s only other loss on the season was a 33-point beatdown at the hands of Scobey earlier this year. If anyone is to upset the Scobey/Fairview Eastern C divisional title rematch, it could be the Coyotes.
- Melstone’s weekend didn’t get any easier. On Saturday, Melstone traveled to Ekalaka, a team the Broncs only beat by five at home back in December. Saturday’s game was even tighter, as Melstone held off the Bulldogs for a 38-37 win to preserve its unbeaten record. The Broncs have had plenty of close calls already this season and the District 4C tournament is shaping up to be fantastic.
- Simms is well on its way to clinching the District 10C regular-season title. The Tigers handed Power a 68-39 defeat to move their record to 11-1 and stay unbeaten in conference play. Simms now has a nearly insurmountable lead in the conference standings. The Tigers have just one game remaining on their schedule against an opponent with a record better than .500.
- Kalispell Glacier needed to win its rivalry game against Kalispell Flathead or the Wolfpack would lose an opportunity to jump into the top four of the Western AA. Glacier trailed Flathead by 10 at halftime, but the Wolfpack would rally for a thrilling 51-49 victory. Flathead missed a chance to pick up a conference win and move up in the standings. This could be the kind of game that flips a season for a team. Don’t be surprised if Glacier can ride this momentum throughout the rest of the season and into the Western AA divisional tournament.
- Although Glacier moved up in the Western AA, the Wolfpack are still staring up at conference-leading Helena Capital. The Bruins didn’t lead for a single second of the 32 minutes in regulation against rival Helena High, but it didn’t matter. Capital trailed by 10 at one point in the second half before rallying to tie the game, eventually winning 39-34 in overtime. Capital remains the only unbeaten team in Class AA girls basketball, while Helena is now fifth in the Western AA.
- Billings Central is no longer the only unbeaten Class A girls team. The Rams started the season 10-0 with wins over Class A title contenders Havre and Hardin, but Hardin got its revenge on Central at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. Hardin trailed 3-0, but then the Bulldogs would lead for nearly every second of the game after that on their way to a 65-55 win over the previously unbeaten Rams. Hardin did it with four girls scoring in double figures, something that’s going to be extremely tough for Class A teams to slow down.
- Browning nearly saw its perfect conference record fall by the wayside over the weekend, as the Indians barely held off Whitefish for a 50-48 victory. Browning is now 9-2 overall, but its near-loss to 3-9 Whitefish could be cause for concern. The Indians have shown they can play with some of Class A’s best, as evidenced by their victory over Columbia Falls, but Browning needs to beat the teams at the bottom of the barrel. Letting a team hang around can lead to an upset.
- Just as the Bigfork boys are atop the District 7B standings, the Bigfork girls are, too. The Valkyries beat Eureka, 53-47, to break a three-way tie with the Lions and Thompson Falls atop the conference standings. Bigfork will finish its season with a date with Thompson Falls that will likely decide the District 7B regular-season champion.
- Harlem won’t be running away with the District 2B regular-season title after all. The Wildcats were handed their first loss of the season by Malta, as the M-Ettes won 49-40. Malta avenged its previous loss to Harlem back on Dec. 20 – a 48-47 win by the Wildcats in Harlem. The battle for the District 2B title between Harlem, Malta and Glasgow should be terrific.
- Belt made a statement over the weekend with a 52-37 win over Roy-Winifred in Winifred to avenge its only loss of the season. However, Roy-Winifred sophomore standout Madeline Heggem did not play, as she heals a foot injury before the postseason begins. The Huskies have beaten every team on their schedule, but just how much does this win mean without one of the Outlaws’ top players? We’ll likely see these two teams battling it out at the District 8C tournament, Northern C divisional tournament and possibly even the State C tournament.
- Westby-Grenora is looking like a serious contender for a spot at the State C girls tournament, too. The Thunder beat Plentywood, 50-40, over the weekend to pick up their second win of the season against the Wildcats. The Thunder are now 12-0 and have two wins over 8-4 Plentywood, have beaten 9-3 Froid-Medicine Lake and also handed 11-1 Scobey its only loss. Westby-Grenora, Melstone, Fort Benton and Charlo are the only remaining unbeaten teams in Class C girls basketball.
- Manhattan Christian took hold of District 11C’s top spot with a 49-39 win over West Yellowstone, giving the Wolverines their first loss of the season. Both Manhattan Christian and West Yellowstone played in the semifinals of last year’s Western C divisional tournament, and the Eagles ultimately finished fourth. Both teams should again be in the hunt for a Western C divisional title, but they’ll meet again with the district’s regular-season title on the line.