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What caught my eye: Scoreboards light up, unbeatens fall

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Posted at 3:58 PM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 11:21:20-05

What a weekend on Montana’s high school basketball courts.

Eye-popping scores rolled in throughout the weekend, including a pair of triple-digit outbursts on opposite ends of the state.

The race atop the Western AA boys and girls standings became slightly more clear by Saturday night, as both Helena Capital teams flexed their muscles at home. Butte’s boys and Billings West’s girls needed big comebacks, but they won in thrilling fashion.

The Hardin and Lodge Grass boys lit up the scoreboard on Elvis Old Bull Day, as the two teams combined for more than 200 points. The Browning girls stand alone atop the Northwest A standings after a dramatic win over a previously unbeaten opponent.

Harlem joined in on the high scoring, as its boys team averaged 101 points over its two games this weekend. Huntley Project’s boys bounced back from their loss to Lodge Grass with a non-conference victory over one of the Southern B’s best. St. Labre and Big Timber are beginning to separate themselves on the girls side as the favorites in a crowded Southern B field.

Fort Benton proved its status as one of the Northern C’s elite, while Fairview handled one of its top challengers in District 2C quite easily. Melstone and Charlo have put themselves in the driver’s seat of their respective conference title races with victories over the weekend.

Electric scoring on the boys side and unbeatens falling on the girls side highlight what caught my eye over another busy weekend on the hardwood.

Reminder: Scores, stats, standings, story ideas and record-breaking performances can be emailed to sports@ktvh.com.

Boys

Class AA

  • Helena Capital bounced back from a loss to Missoula Hellgate with a big win at home on Saturday night over previously unbeaten Missoula Sentinel. The Bruins hit a flurry of 3-pointers, showing their offensive firepower. Holding Sentinel’s high-octane offense to just 59 points is impressive, too. There’s time for Sentinel to rebound in the standings, but Capital has asserted itself as the No. 2 team, at least for now.
  • Butte won in thrilling fashion at Kalispell Flathead on Friday night. The Braves led by 10 at the end of the first quarter, but Butte kept chipping away. Jake Olson, who poured in 16 third-quarter points to put Butte ahead, hit the game-winning shot as the buzzer sounded to give the Bulldogs the win. It’s a big win for Butte looking at its state tournament hopes.

Class A

  • Plenty of offense was on display on Thursday night in Lodge Grass at the inaugural Elvis Old Bull Day, as Hardin topped the Indians 112-92. The game saw both teams surpass the 50-point mark in the first half, and three players eclipsed 25 points. Two supreme talents surpassed 35 points, as Hardin’s Famous Lefthand (35) and Lodge Grass’s Damon Gros Ventre (37) poured in baskets from all over the floor. Don’t be surprised if both teams are playing on Saturday night at their respective state tournaments in March.
  • Hamilton could be in the conversation of playing on Saturday night at the state tournament, too. The Broncs handed Dillon a 50-40 loss in Dillon on Saturday night, cementing themselves as the Southwest A’s No. 2 team. Hamilton will have another shot at Butte Central in the regular season to possibly surpass the Maroons.

Class B

  • Hardin and Lodge Grass weren’t the only boys teams lighting up the scoreboard over the weekend. Harlem hung 92 points on Class C foe Box Elder on Friday, and Wildcats topped that mark with a 110-63 win over Poplar on Saturday. If this is the Harlem offense to expect over the second half of the season, the Wildcats could challenge for a Northern B title.
  • Huntley Project bounced back from its beatdown in Lodge Grass, as the Red Devils rallied for a 55-48 win over Colstrip at home on Friday night. Colstrip’s only previous loss was to Lodge Grass. Huntley Project has looked to be one of the stronger teams in the Southern B this season, but it will need to continue to prevail in tight games to advance in the Southern B divisional tournament.

Class C

  • Fort Benton has taken control of District 9C and looks every bit the part of a Northern C title contender. The Longhorns went into Chinook on Saturday night and handed the Sugarbeeters a 71-39 loss, just Chinook’s second of the season. The Longhorns are 10-0 and are the only unbeaten team remaining in the Northern C.
  • Fairview looks like it has a stranglehold on District 2C, as the Warriors handed top contender Froid-Medicine Lake a 58-32 loss on Friday night. Fairview’s only loss this season is to Eastern C rival Scobey, and it’s looking increasingly likely the two are on a collision course to meet at the divisional tournament.

Girls

Class AA

  • Billings West overcame an 11-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter to stun Billings Senior in overtime on Friday night. West closed regulation on a 17-7 run, capped by a Laitin Lantin buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force the extra period. West picked up the win and also kept Senior from having a perfect weekend in conference play, as the Broncs came from behind to beat Bozeman on Saturday.
  • Helena Capital continued its hot play in Western AA play, as the Bruins beat Missoula Sentinel on Saturday, 53-42, to complete a Bruins sweep of the Spartans. Capital has wins over Missoula Hellgate and Sentinel early on, but the Bruins have their biggest game of the year upcoming when they take on crosstown rival and three-time defending champion Helena High.

Class A

  • Browning has knocked Columbia Falls from the ranks of Class A’s unbeatens, as the Indians topped the Wildkats 59-58 in Columbia Falls on Thursday night. Browning and Columbia Falls appear to be state tournament-caliber teams, and the two squads will likely meet multiple times throughout the remainder of the year.
  • Dillon’s girls sit alone atop the Southwest A after a 40-29 win over Hamilton on Saturday. Both teams entered the game unbeaten in conference play and remain the top two teams in the standings. Dillon’s only loss this season came at the hands of Livingston, and since that game the Beavers have been red hot. Keep an eye on them down the stretch.

Class B

  • Good luck figuring out the Southern B, but it looks like two teams have started to separate themselves. St. Labre beat Colstrip 57-35 to hand the Fillies their second loss in conference play. St. Labre’s only loss in conference play is to Forsyth, which has lost to Colstrip and Roundup. The Braves get a chance at sole possession of first place when they host the Dogies on Tuesday night.
  • Big Timber is another team that’s looking like its ahead of the pack in the Southern B. The Sheepherders handed Class A Livingston a 56-50 defeat on Saturday night, improving their record to a perfect 10-0. Some big tests still loom on the schedule, but Big Timber has the potential to run the table in the regular season.

Class C

  • Melstone ran its record to a perfect 10-0 on Saturday night, as the Broncs defeated Northern Cheyenne 52-28, although the game was close for the majority of the game. Melstone is the only team unbeaten in District 4C play, and its youth should only allow for improvement.
  • Charlo handed Hot Springs its first loss of the season on Friday night, as the Vikings beat the Savage Heat 43-40 to take control of District 14C. The Vikings control their own destiny in terms of seeding at the district tournament, and they're likely hungry for another berth at the state tournament after losing both games last year.