Montana’s high school basketball district tournaments are upon us.
Classes AA and A still have regular-season games to get through, but Classes B and C wrapped up their regular seasons over the weekend, with some Class C districts already beginning their tournaments.
Billings West and Missoula Sentinel had big wins on the Class AA boys courts this weekend, while the Helena Capital and Missoula Hellgate girls won to separate themselves in the Western AA.
Hardin’s boys continue to steamroll the competition as they nearly hung triple digits on the board again. Hamilton’s boys kept pace with the other leaders in the Southwest A, but the Bronc girls couldn’t quite do the same. Havre’s girls made quite the statement in a non-conference matchup.
A new state scoring record highlights the action in Class B boys action, but he wasn’t the only player to fill it up over the weekend. A pair of Class B girls teams capped off unbeaten regular seasons over the weekend.
Two Class C boys teams hit the century mark over the weekend, while Belt proved that District 8C will go through the Huskies. There were three Class C girls teams with an opportunity to finish the regular season unbeaten and all three capitalized.
That and more highlight what caught my eye as end of the hoops season draws near.
- With the rest of the Western AA looking up at Missoula Hellgate, Missoula Sentinel cemented itself as the conference’s No. 2 seed with a 64-54 win over Helena Capital on Saturday. The result pushes the Bruins to the conference’s third spot. The two teams will likely play again at the divisional tournament with seeding at the state tournament on the line.
- Billings West padded its lead in the Eastern AA, as the Golden Bears are still unbeaten in conference play after a 72-66 win over Billings Skyview in overtime on Thursday. Skyview’s seven-game winning streak was snapped in the process, as West still holds a two-game advantage in the conference standings over Great Falls High and three games over Skyview.
- The undefeated Hardin boys look to be focusing back in. The Bulldogs hung 91 points on rival Lodge Grass for a 31-point victory, holding the Indians to 60 points. Hardin averaged 101.5 points per game against Lodge Grass in its two meetings. Hardin is 17-0 and the only unbeaten team in Class A. With the Bulldogs playing at the peak of their powers, there are few teams in the state capable of hanging.
- Hamilton continues to keep pace with Butte Central and Frenchtown atop the Southwest A, as the Broncs beat Dillon 44-28 over the weekend. Dillon has fallen to 2-7 in conference play in what has turned out to be a disappointing season. Figuring out the tiebreaker scenarios in the Southwest A could be a nightmare with the top three teams all having two losses.
- There’s a new name atop Montana’s record books for the best single-game scoring performance. Harlem’s Brad Cichosz set a new state record with 68 points against Poplar in the Wildcats’ 101-53 win. Cichosz and Harlem will be fun to watch throughout the postseason.
- Cichosz stole the headlines, but a duel in Three Forks gave fans quite the show. Three Forks wound up winning the game 75-67 behind junior Micaiah Hauser’s 42 points, but Columbus’ Trey Stampfel poured in 36 of his own. The showdown between two of the top teams in the Southern B lived up to the billing, as the divisional tournament could provide plenty of fireworks.
- The Plenty Coups boys can really fill it up. Plenty Coups scored more than 70 points in eight games this season, including hanging 108 on Fromberg in an 81-point win. The Warriors enter this week’s District 6C tournament as the perceived favorite and will likely be in contention for the Southern C crown, too.
- St. Regis has proven capable of scoring the ball this year, too. The Tigers hit the century mark this weekend, beating Lincoln 103-79. St. Regis has lost twice this season – both to conference foe Plains. In what is shaping up to be a crowded Western C, the Tigers should be a team to watch.
- Belt reigns supreme in District 8C. The Huskies clinched the regular-season crown with a 47-32 win over Denton-Geyser-Stanford to enter the district tournament as the No. 1 seed. Fort Benton has been the dominant team in the Northern C with a perfect regular season, but Belt should be among its top challengers.
- Helena Capital still has a grasp of the top of the Western AA, as the Bruins topped Missoula Sentinel on Saturday, 44-39. The Bruins will have a battle with crosstown rival Helena High before the Western AA divisional tournament, which shouldn't be a walk in the park.
- Missoula Hellgate will be one of the teams at the Western AA divisional tournament looking to take Helena Capital down. The Knights took down Kalispell Glacier 59-51 to stay in second in the conference. A date with Sentinel looms large.
- Two-Time defending champion Havre may not be getting enough love this season. The Blue Ponies lost early in the season to Billings Central, but they’ve been on an absolute tear since. This weekend, Havre blew out Browning, 67-35. Browning followed that up with a 57-55 win over Columbia Falls to solidify its standing as the top team in the Northwest A. It’s going to be tough to knock the Eastern A out of the trophy race at the state tournament.
- If a team from the Western A is going to win a trophy, could it be Dillon? The Beavers continue to tear through the Southwest A, running their record to a perfect 9-0 with a 39-33 over Hamilton to seal the regular-season crown. Dillon’s only Class A loss came to Livingston, which is 0-6 in Southeast A play. The two meet again in Dillon’s final game.
- Two Class B girls teams finished the regular season unbeaten. Big Timber was one, as the Sheepherders had double-digit wins over Manhattan and Livingston to close out the season. Big Timber features a young, talented lineup that shares the ball well and has several deadly weapons. Class B could be Big Timber’s for a few years.
- Missoula Loyola was the second Class B team to finish the season unbeaten, as the Breakers handed Deer Lodge a 62-21 beatdown to lock up their perfect record. Loyola has looked like the class of the Western B this year. It just so happens that the Southern B’s top seed and the Western B’s top seed will be on the same side of the bracket at the state tournament in Butte. Keep that in mind as the divisional tournaments approach.
- Three Class C girls teams polished off unbeaten regular seasons over the weekend. Melstone walloped Custer-Hysham and Melstone, each by 40-plus points, to improve to 18-0. The Broncs will likely be the favorite in the Southern C and are looking to end a serious state tournament drought.
- Fort Benton also ran its record to 18-0 over the weekend, dismantling Chester-Joplin-Inverness and Chinook. The Longhorns will be in a crowded fight for the Northern C title, as Belt and Roy-Winifred pose substantial threats. At least one talented basketball team will be left home from the state tournament out of the Northern C.
- Charlo is the final 18-0 team in Class C girls basketball this season. The Vikings beat conference foe Hot Springs by 15 in their final game of the season. Hot Springs had been one of the top teams in the Western C all season long. Charlo is looking to get back to the state tournament where it could potentially make some serious noise.