BILLINGS — Semifinal Friday inside First Interstate Arena might be more important than championship Saturday, with Friday winners clinching State A tournament berths. Billings Central, Glendive and Havre had a chance at two berths each, with Hardin's girls and Laurel's boys also in action.
Eastern A Boys
BILLINGS CENTRAL 60, Havre 55
Brock Blatter blocked Josh Warp's game-tying 3-point attempt with five seconds to play and then made two free throws to ice a 60-55 win for Billings Central over Havre in the final game of the night.
Central looked on its way to an easy win, up 58-47 with 1:30 to play, but Havre scored eight points in just over a minute to make it a one-possession game. Marcus Wittman then missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Havre got the rebound and drove the length of the floor, but Blatter blocked the lay-up attempt out of bounds with 13.9 seconds left.
Havre then ran a double-screen on the right wing to get Warp a look at the tie, but Blatter fought through the defenders to block the shot and collect the rebound before being fouled. It was Blatter's sixth block of the night.
Central jumped out to a 14-7 lead after the first quarter and led 27-18 at the half thanks to a balanced attack. Seven Central players scored in the opening two quarters. The Rams led by as many as 13 points in the third, but Havre trimmed the deficit to 41-33 by the end of the quarter.
Blatter and Cayden Merchant led the Rams with 16 points each. Warp led Havre with 15 but shot just 5 of 15 from the field. Kellen Detrick and Clint Owens added 13 each for the Blue Ponies.
Central clinches a State A berth with the win and advances to Saturday's Eastern A championship game. Havre will play a loser-out game Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at Lockwood High School with a state berth on the line.
LAUREL 52, Glendive 37
Laurel ran out to a 29-17 halftime lead and Glendive never got closer than eight in the second half as the No. 1-seeded Locomotives clinched a State A berth with a 52-37 win.
Laurel dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Red Devils 28-13. Glendive managed just six made field goals in the first half without a single offensive rebound. Laurel also forced seven first-half turnovers, a product of one of the best defenses in the state.
"That's the Laurel way," said senior Colter Bales. "Growing up in Laurel, if you don't play defense, you don't play."
Laurel led 18-9 after the first quarter and sealed the victory late at the free throw line, finishing 20 of 23 as a team. Bales and Konnor Gregerson led the team with 11 points each. Glendive's Riley Basta led all scorers with 13.
Laurel will play Billings Central in Eastern A championship at 6 p.m. The Locos swept two meetings with the Rams in the regular season, including one game inside First Interstate Arena.
Glendive will play Lewistown in a loser-out game Saturday at 11 a.m. at Lockwood High School. The winner will punch a State A ticket.
Eastern A Girls
HAVRE 50, Hardin 46
Havre used a 24-11 run between the third and fourth quarters to outlast Hardin 50-46 in one of the most intense Eastern A games of the season.
The Bulldogs took a 32-26 lead with 3:00 to play in the third, but Havre closed the gap to 32-31 by the end of the quarter. The Blue Ponies then took the lead early in the fourth and never gave it up thanks to a strong performance at the free throw line. Havre shot 16 of 19 from the line in the second half.
Sadie Filius led a balanced Havre attack with 12 points, while Kylie Walker chipped in 11 and Yelena Miller added 10.
The teams traded the lead throughout the first half, though neither held more than a four-point advantage. The two went into halftime tied at 20-20, perhaps luckily for Havre as the Ponies shot only 6 of 23 from the field in the half. They forced 10 turnovers to make up for it.
Kylee Old Elk led Hardin with 13 points, while Neveah Alden added 10. The Bulldogs shot 40.5% from the field as a team, significantly better than Havre's 33.3% mark, but Hardin's 14 turnovers and Havre's nine extra free throw attempts were difference.
The win clinches a State A berth for Havre. Hardin will need to win a loser-out game Saturday morning at 9 a.m.
BILLINGS CENTRAL 60, Glendive 33
Mya Hansen scored 18 points and Central held Glendive to just 14 total in the second half as the Southeast's No. 1-seeded Rams pulled away for a 60-33 win.
Glendive led for much of the first period, but Central found its offense in the final two minutes of the quarter to take a 17-13 lead after one. Neither team scored in the first four minutes of the second, but Central's Solei Elletson hit two 3-pointers to spark 10 points over the final four minutes of the half which gave the Rams a 27-19 lead at the half.
Hansen caught fire in the third, scoring 13 of her 18 after the break as Central extended the lead to 44-30 after three, before holding Glendive to just three total points in the fourth.
Elletson scored 11 while Isabelle Erickson added nine points and seven rebounds. Codi Nagle led Glendive with a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double, but the team shot just 12 of 42 from the field (28.6%).
Central clinches a State A tournament berth with the win and will face Havre in Saturday's Eastern A championship at 4 p.m. Glendive falls to a loser-out game Saturday at 9 a.m. at Lockwood High School.