LAUREL — The Melstone girls claimed the Southern C divisional title on Saturday night, out-scoring Jordan 16-6 in the fourth quarter to win 34-27. The Bridger boys used a 14-5 spurt at the end of the third quarter to run away from Broadus for a 65-50 victory.
Melstone girls 34, Jordan 27
Kayla Kombol didn't make a field goal attempt on Saturday night, but she buried nine of her 11 free throw attempts, all in the fourth quarter, to help Melstone hold off Jordan, 34-27, for the Southern C girls basketball divisional title in Laurel.
Melstone trailed 21-18 entering the fourth quarter, but eighth grader Avery Eike tied the game with a corner 3-pointer. Leni Krehbiel broke the tie on the following possession after corralling an offensive rebound and sticking it back.
"I'm speechless. It's been such a whirlwind of a year. The emotions with losing our best player and these guys continuing to believe in each other. I don't know what to say. It's unbelievable," Melstone head coach Ole Eike said. "Draya (Wacker) gets a lot of attention, and rightfully so. I think she's the best basketball player in Class C, for sure, and top five in the state. She gets a lot of attention, but the other girls say, 'Hey, I can play, too.' I'm so proud of them, because they're selfless. They win together, they lose together, and they took advantage of their opportunity."
It was a grind for both sides on Saturday night, as Melstone shot 21.1% from the floor and Jordan shot 19.2%. Melstone, though, hit four 3-pointers, three of which came from Koye Rindal. Jordan made just one shot from beyond the arc and six of its 10 free throws.
Avery Eike led Melstone with 11 points, as the Broncs are playing without junior Draya Wacker, who tore the ACL in her right knee earlier this year.
"It's kind of surreal. I don't see (Avery) as a daughter during the game, just another kid that I'm expecting to play hard and do the right things. After the game I realize, 'Hey, this kid is pretty awesome.' She has to put up with me 24 hours a day, these other kids get a break," Eike said of his daughter Avery's performance. "She carried us a little bit (Saturday), especially in the first half. So credit to her and I love her so much."
Melstone was in a familiar position on Saturday night, as the Broncs played in the 2020 Southern C title game but fell to District 4C foe Ekalaka down the stretch. The Broncs didn't shoot the ball well on Saturday, but Ole Eike knew it was just a matter of time.
"It's about staying together," Ole Eike said. "I knew it was just a matter of time that we would get a shot to go in. I think our defense is what won it for us (Saturday). They just kept grinding it out and playing the whole way. Playing for Draya, too. That's big for us."
Melstone and Jordan both advance to the State C tournament March 10-13 in Lockwood. Ekalaka finished third with a 69-47 win over Plenty Coups in the consolation, but Jordan's semifinal win over the Bulldogs assured the Mustangs a trip to the state tournament.
Bridger boys 65, Broadus 50
Bridger head coach Randy Novakovich told MTN Sports in the preseason that there was no reason his team shouldn't be playing at the State C tournament in March.
The Scouts embraced that, as a 65-50 win over Broadus in the Southern C divisional title game sealed their trip to Lockwood in two weeks.
"We don't see it as pressure. It's basketball. We just love to play. We knew were a good bunch and we just have to play," junior Baylor Pospisil said.
"Our toughest thing all year was trying to come out of second gear and play. We've finally done that the last couple of weeks," Novakovich said.
Bridger led 26-20 at halftime thanks to 11 first-half points off the bench from Chance Goltz. Goltz buried three 3-pointers in the first half to get the lid off the hoop for Bridger. Goltz wound up with a game-high 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including hitting 4 of 6 from downtown.
"These guys just told me to go in and hit a shot. I just knew I could go in and make a difference and get the game going a little bit. That's what happened," Goltz said. "We're a dual-threat team. We can get inside, we can hit anything. We can hit from anywhere. We have guys scoring from all over the court. We're not just a one-man team. Everybody on our team can score."
"Goltz has done that a couple times this year. He'll step out there and if he hits that first one watch out. You better guard him the rest of the night, he just feels it. He had a great night," Novakovich said.
Broadus was able to close the gap to two, 30-28, in the opening minutes of the third quarter, but the Scouts finished the frame with a flurry, burying four more 3-pointers and using a 14-5 run to take firm control of the game. While the Hawks were able to trim the lead to eight multiple times in the fourth quarter, the Bridger defense locked down to stave off any comeback hopes.
Bridger held Broadus big man Dillon Gee to 16 points and only five rebounds on 5-of-17 shooting. Gee had 34 points and 17 rebounds in the semifinals.
"Our coach told us just to keep the pressure up. We stayed strong and battled all night. We had three guys who could guard him. Us not getting tired and him getting tired really wore on him. We had three guys fresh rotating on him," Goltz said.
The Scouts are assured of their spot in the State C tournament, while Broadus will have to play Melstone in a challenge game on Monday night. Melstone defeated Harlowton-Ryegate in overtime of the consolation game, thanks to a go-ahead basket by Bryce Grebe just before the final buzzer.