BILLINGS -- Big Timber's girls used a late third-quarter run Saturday night to pull away from Columbus 49-40 to win the Southern B girls basketball divisional championship at First Interstate Arena. Both teams will advance to next week's State B tournament on the same court.
The Herders, who led 21-19 at half, turned up pressure defense in the third burning off an 11-0 run and outscoring Columbus 15-8 in the quarter.
"It started with defense, when we got more intense on defense, things started to flow for us on offense," Big Timber guard Bailey Finn told MTN Sports. "We're a fast-break team and I thought in the third we fast-breaked more than in other games."
Finn closed with 10 points while Hailee Brandon led Big Timber with 13.
"We just wanted to push the ball and work the floor," Brandon said. "Those guys were really good at driving and getting us to foul them, and they were making their free throws. So, our big thing was pushing the ball up the floor and getting a good shot off."
Payton West scored 11 in the first half for Columbus and finished with 19 to lead everybody.
Boys Championship: Manhattan 43, Huntley Project 39
The Manhattan Tigers opened a 10-2 lead after one quarter, held Huntley Project to just nine points at halftime and never trailed on the way to a 43-39 Southern B championship win. But it wasn't that easy.
Tigers head coach Wes Kragt didn't expect it to be, having played at Huntley Project under current Red Devils coach Mark Branger from 2006-09. Kragt was actually Branger's starting point guard on the Red Devils' 2007 State B championship team.
"That was a tough-fought game," Kragt said. "We had the lead early, then they went on a big run and tied it up and we just had to grind it out from there."
With a divisional title on the line, Red Devils big man and scoring leader Noah Bouchard was forced to the bench with less than a minute left in the half after being whistled for his third foul. But he nailed a three-quarter court, nothing-but-net buzzer beater to end the third, sparking a 9-0 Project run to tie it 28-28 in the fourth quarter.
"That was a heck of a shot and definitely a momentum shifter," Kragt said. "That kind of got them going right away and when that stuff happens you've just got to block it out and play for the next play."
The Tigers did just that.
"Tie game, we drew up a play. (Tate) Bowler comes off a screen, hit hits it, we jump back up two and then we were just right back into our defensive mindset," Kragt said.
Bowler's shot sparked a 7-0 Tigers run but Huntley Project refused to lay down.
Trailing by four with 4.3 seconds left, Bouchard was fouled shooting a 3. He hit the first free throw and missed the second before the Red Devils called timeout down 41-38. Bouchard returned to the line and made his third free throw drawing Huntley Project to within 41-39.
The Red Devils quickly fouled with 4.0 seconds left sending Bowler to the line, who calmly hit both three throws to ice Manhattan's championship win.
After Saturday's survival of the fittest, Kragt looked like he'd just gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson as he reflected on his appreciation for his mentor and former school.
"You know, I love Huntley Project," Kragt told MTN Sports. "It's been very good to me. Mark Branger is one of my best friends. I'm very appreciative of what he's done for me and I was just happy to be in a moment where it was us against Huntley."
Suffocating defense helped the Tigers to a 19-9 halftime lead. Caden Holgate was Manhattan's only player scoring double figures with 17 points. Bouchard was Huntley Project's only player in double digits, leading everybody with 22.
Girls Consolation: Roundup 45, Joliet 34
Roundup's girls will also make their way back to the First Interstate Bank court after holding off Joliet 45-34 in Saturday's consolation game. The Panthers outscored Joliet 13-5 in the final quarter to advance.
Blythe Sealey led both teams in scoring with 18 points for Roundup. Teammate Meghan Eiselein finished with 12. Merrin Schwend led Joliet with 17 points. Sealey and Eiselein also hauled in seven rebounds apiece, along with Joliet's Makenna Bushman.
Boys Consolation: Lodge Grass 72, Colstrip 60
The Lodge Grass boys jumped on top of Colstrip 23-11 after one quarter and never trailed on the way to a 72-60 consolation win over the Colts. Their largest lead was 17, although Colstrip trimmed it to a one possession game in the fourth quarter.
Malachai Little Next led the Indians with 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. DC Stewart closed with 12 followed by Damon Gross Ventre and Jadence Archita each with 10.
Caleb Cole (17 points) and Jaren Knows His Gun (14) were Colstrip's only players in double figures. Cole also led both teams with 13 rebounds.