BOZEMAN – Trust the process.
That’s what Missoula Hellgate coach Rob Henthorn preached to his team in practice, and the Knights showed that the message was received clearly in a 48-36 win over Great Falls CMR in the opening round of the Class AA tournament.
The Rustlers opened the game shooting lights out, jumping out to a 16-6 lead behind the hot shooting of CMR senior Emily Funseth who finished with a game high 18 points.
“They shot 75-percent like the first three or four minutes, we got down but we have to trust the process,” Henthorn said. “We talked all week about trusting the process. We weren’t doing a good job of closing out shooters. When you don’t close out on a three point shooter, they’re going to make it.”
The Knights closed the first quarter with a 7-0 run to pull within 16-13, and then controlled most of the second quarter to lead 24-23 at halftime. The Knights made their move in the third quarter, starting the half on a 9-0 run to build a double-digit lead.
CMR fought from behind the rest of the game, pulling within three at one point in the fourth quarter but Hellgate answered every threat with runs of their own and
“Third quarter, we got on a couple fast breaks got a lead and made a couple shots,” Henthorn said. “And it’s a game of runs, and we want to finish one run ahead of them.”
Hellgate was led by Keke Davis with 10 points. Bailee Sayler had nine, while Lauren Dick, Perry Paffhausen and Alex Covill scored seven each. Henthorn was happy with his team’s balance and ability to respond after an early deficit. Allie Olsen added nine points and nine rebounds for CMR. After
“We are so resilient, we are a team,” he said. “We have 11 players that can come on at any time and that’s what we’ve been building on all year. We started with five or six players, and now we trust anybody.”
The Knights will face Helena Capital in the semifinals, CMR will face Billings Skyview in loser-out action.
Helena Capital 54, Billings Skyview 44
Paige Bartsch scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help lead the No. 1-seed Helena Capital Bruins to a 54-44 first round win over Billings Skyview at the State AA tournament.
“I thought they battled, we had some mental lapses that we’ll have to clean up tomorrow against a better team,” said Capital head coach Katie Garcin-Forba. “We knew Skyview wasn’t going to lay down and die, we’ve watched a lot of their games where they’ve made late comebacks. We have to do a better job of not letting people attack and doing a better job defensively.”
The teams were tied at eight after the first quarter, and Capital held a 17-12 lead at halftime. But the Bruins exploded for 21 third quarter points, pushing the lead to as many as 17 in a much more typical performance from Garcin-Forba’s team.
“I thought our defense was very good in that stretch,” she said. “I thought we moved the ball better offensively. We had five assists in the first half and 10 in the second half. I think that’s very telling, we shared the ball more and got more people involved in our offense.”
Mara McGinley added 15 points for the Bruins, shooting 5-of-13 from beyond the arc. Her range helped keep the Falcons from closing the gap between the teams.
“We always tell her to keep shooting the ball,” Garcin-Forba said. “She was getting rhythm shots, we did a good job of finding her to get her in rhythm shots. Great job from her to get touches, which opens things a lot on the inside.”
Brooke Berry led Skyview with 15 points and six rebounds, Jessica Henckel added 13 for the Falcons. Skyview trimmed the lead to single digits in the fourth quarter but Capital answered every run.
“I’m never comfortable with a No.1 vs. No. 4 matchup. We’ve seen upsets in the past, it’s never a given,” Garcin-Forba said. "We got the first game jitters out, and we get to regroup a little bit. Just to be on a different court, in a big open facility was just a little different than our home court.”
Helena Capital will face Missoula Hellgate in the semifinals on Friday at 3:30 p.m. while Skyview will face Great Falls CMR in loser-out play at 9 a.m.
Missoula Sentinel 36, Bozeman 33
All Missoula Sentinel coach Karen Deden could do was breathe a sigh of relief after her Spartans walked off the court with a 36-33 win over Bozeman in the first round of the Class AA tournament.
The Sentinel defense held Bozeman to just five points in the first half, and went to the locker room up 20-5. But the Hawks staged a furious comeback in the final quarter, twice cutting the lead to two points but ultimately coming up short.
“That first round game is always kind like that,” Deden said. “Bozeman got to sleep in their own beds, we drove here today. The arena is different too. It’s quiet, kind of quieter in a sense than our own school because of what’s going on in society. So, where you would have gotten a big crowd noise in the first half, you didn’t get that.”
The Spartans were led by Jayden Salisbury with 16 points and Lexi Deden who overcame a slow start to post 10 points and eight rebounds. Bozeman was led by Addie Ekstrom who scored 15 points, including all five Bozeman tallies in the first half.
“In the second half, Bozeman made some adjustments,” Deden said. “We looked a little tired, but we weathered the storm and I’m proud of the kids.”
After Lexi Deden went 1-for-2 at the free throw line to give the Spartans a three point lead with 6.1 seconds left, the Hawks couldn’t get a shot off on the other end and Sentinel punched its ticket to the semifinals.
The Spartans are one of the youngest teams in the tournament with two sophomores, two juniors and only one senior in the starting lineup.
“If I’d have told these girls at the start of the season that we’d be in the semifinals they wouldn’t have believed me,” Deden said. “But I’m really happy with the progression of this season and how hard these kids have worked, and I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball.”
Sentinel will play in the AA semis against Billings West on Friday at 5 p.m.
Billings West 53, Kalispell Glacier 31
The Billings West girls turned in a dominant performance in a 53-31 win over Kalispell Glacier in the first round of the State AA tournament.
West jumped out to a 19-4 lead after the first quarter and led 33-12 at halftime. The Bears, who led by 23 point at one point in the second quarter, were led by Layla Baumann who scored 14 points for West. Willa Albrecht added nine points. Kenzie Williams led Glacier with nine points, Aubrie Rademacher had six.
Glacier opened the third quarter on a 12-4 run to cut the lead to 37-24, but couldn’t climb any closer the rest of the way. West poured it on the fourth quarter to win by 22 and advance to the Class AA semifinals, where they will face Missoula Sentinel.