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Southern B: Paige Lofing's 43 propels Huntley Project to title; Columbus downs Red Lodge

Huntley Project celebration
Columbus celebration
Posted at 8:16 PM, Mar 04, 2023

BILLINGS — Two years after going 0-17, the Huntley Project Red Devils won the Southern B Girls Divisional championship Saturday night 69-61 over Big Timber thanks to sophomore Paige Lofing's 43 points in an all-time performance.

And in the final game of the weekend, Columbus' boys beat Red Lodge for the third time in four tries this season to claim the boys championship, 55-48.

Huntley Project 69, Big Timber 61

Paige Lofing scored a tournament game-high 43 points on 15-29 FG shooting, including 5-12 from three and 8-10 from the free throw line. Lofing also grabbed 10 rebounds and drew 10 fouls after continually driving at the heart of the Big Timber defense.

Big Timber started fast, scoring 20 points in the game's opening five minutes and leading 22-9 late in the 1st quarter. Huntley Project then went on an 18-4 run to take a 27-26 before eventually taking a 31-30 lead at halftime.

After scoring 16 in the opening half, Lofing pushed the Red Devils lead to 10 in the 3rd quarter. Big Timber climbed within 59-56 after a Kameryn Ketcham three with just over 3:00 to play, but Lofing responded on Project's ensuing possession with a runner in the lane. She then sealed the game away with free throws down the stretch.

Ketcham led Big Timber with 19 points, but on just 7-23 FG shooting. Senior Bailey Finn scored 16 with eight rebounds and six assists.

Both teams head into the State B tournament in Great Falls at 21-2. Huntley Project will play Wolf Point in Thursday's opening round at 1:30 p.m. while Big Timber will play Missoula Loyola at 8:00 p.m. Columbus and Baker are the other two teams to advance from the Southern B.

Columbus 55, Red Lodge 48

Columbus' size proved to be a little too much for Red Lodge in the boys championship game. Cougars 6'9" junior Hayden Steffenson led players with 17 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 8-11 FG shooting with playing all 32 minutes. Mike Courts added 14 points, while Columbus' lone senior Michael Curl added 10 points and eight rebounds.

Neither team ever led by more than the seven point margin at the end. There were eight lead changes and five ties as the game stayed close throughout, what you would expect from two familiar opponents. Columbus led 27-26 at half before the Rams tied it at 36-36 going into the 4th quarter.

It was a balanced scoring effort from Red Lodge. Walker Boos led them with 12 points while Jacob Stewart and Calvin Garmann each had 10. Thomas Buchanan and Landon Tomlin scored eight a piece. Their inability to hit from three-point range (2-17) didn't allow them to make a big enough run to catch Columbus in the end.

Columbus with face Malta Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at the State B tournament in Great Falls. Red Lodge will play Bigfork at 5:00 p.m. Lame Deer and Lodge Grass also advanced to state from the Southern B tournament.