BILLINGS — The championship stage is set at the Southern B girls basketball tournament as Huntley Project and Big Timber won semifinal games Friday to advance to Saturday's title round.
Project won an overtime classic over Baker in the first semi, then Big Timber followed with a more conventional and less-hectic victory over Columbus in the second contest.
Huntley Project 83, Baker 76, OT
Huntley Project clinched a state tournament berth in classic fashion — an 83-76 overtime thriller over Baker in the semifinals.
Two free throws by Project's Teagan LaRoche with 9.4 seconds left forced overtime, and then the Red Devils scored the first six points of the extra period to lead 77-71. Baker got within 79-76 after a basket by Hope Gonsioroski but could pull no closer.
The game was highlighted by the performances of Baker freshman Madison O'Connor and Project sophomore Paige Lofing. Before fouling out in overtime, O'Connor scored on a sweeping left-handed shot to tie it 68-68 with 1:34 left in regulation. Her free throw and subsequent assist on a basket by Kyal Hadley put the Spartans ahead 71-68.
Lofing had a stretch in the fourth quarter in which she scored 10 points in less than two minutes. Lofing had just four points at halftime but scored 24 points after intermission to finish with a team-high 28. She made 14 of 17 from the line. O'Connor had 30 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and five steals, while Hadley finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
With the win, the Red Devils clinched a spot in Saturday's divisional title game. Baker will face Shepherd Saturday in a loser-out contest.
Big Timber 56, Columbus 49
Joining Huntley Project in Saturday's championship game will be Big Timber, which took the lead against Columbus in the second quarter and didn't relent on the way to a 56-49 victory.
Kameryn Ketcham led the Herders with 18 points, including a key 3-point shot with 2:14 remaining that put her team ahead 52-44. Ketcham hit 4 of 9 from the 3-point line.
Bailey Finn scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers, while Sheyanne Wolf had 12 points and six rebounds for the Herders. Big Timber turned the ball over just seven times and turned 12 Columbus giveaways into 17 points on the other end.
The Cougars were paced by 17 points by Natalie Gairrett and 12 from Katelyn Hamilton. Columbus slipped into a loser-out game on Saturday, where it will face Manhattan on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Rocky Mountain College.
Big Timber will play Huntley Project for the division title and the top seed from the Southern B on Saturday at 6 p.m. at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.