High School SportsHigh School Girls Basketball


Southern B girls: Huntley Project outlasts rival Baker, claims divisional crown

Posted at 10:07 PM, Mar 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-03 00:07:04-05

BILLINGS — It was a game befitting district rivals, with Huntley Project and Baker battling till the final seconds for divisional supremacy.

In the end, a late layup from Jayona Thomas on a feed from Paige Lofing lifted Project to a 49-48 victory to win the Southern B girls title Saturday night at First Interstate Arena.

It was the fourth matchup between the 3B foes this season, including the district final that was won by the Red Devils on Feb. 17 in Colstrip. This, though, was the closest of the four.

Avery O'Connor gave Baker the lead at 48-47 with a basket inside with 1:28 left. The Spartans had two ensuing possessions to extend the lead but came up empty, including with two free throws with 24.5 seconds left.

That left the door open for Thomas, whose left-handed hoop on Lofing's dish served as the winning points. Baker brought the ball up the court and called a timeout with 2.1 seconds left, but a final shot by Madison O'Connor was deflected and fell short at the buzzer.

Thomas' basket was one of two she made in the game. Lofing had 24 to lead all scorers and also grabbed seven rebounds. Sannah Windy Boy chipped in six points and eight rebounds.

Avery O'Connor had 15 to lead Baker while sister Madison finished with 14 and 11 boards.

In the past two years, the Red Devils are 4-2 against Baker with three of the six games (including Saturday) decided by two points or less, or by overtime. Project scored 369 points and Baker 355 in those six games. Last year's scores were an 83-76 overtime win for Project and a 70-68 win for Baker in the third-place game at state.

Huntley Project will be the No. 1 seed from the South at the Class B state tourney next week while Baker will be the No. 2.

Also earning a trip to state on Saturday was Ennis — in its first season at Class B. The Mustangs led big in the first half behind the long-range shooting of 5-foot-5 sophomore Marisa Snider then held on to beat Big Timber 48-41 for third place.

Snider was unstoppable in the first 16 minutes, during which she scored 28 of her game-high 40. But Big Timber got within four points in the fourth quarter, 41-45, after a 3 from Abby Lavarell.

Still, the Mustangs were able to finish it thanks to an inside basket by Megan Knack and three free throws from Snider. Snider shot 12 for 23 from the floor and hit 8 of 15 3-point tries to help Ennis earn a state berth of any kind since 2017.

Kameryn Ketcham led Big Timber with 15 points.

Saturday loser-out scores

Ennis 52, Lodge Grass 43

Big Timber 77, Jefferson 33