BUTTE — It'll be Eastern AA champion vs. Western AA champ for the state title on Saturday.
Billings West fended off Missoula Hellgate and Kalispell Flathead — a week removed from a walk-off 3-pointer to claim the Western AA crown — upended defending State AA champion Billings Skyview in the semifinals on Friday to setup a championship between the Golden Bears and Bravettes on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.
Billings West 46, Missoula Hellgate 41
Three years ago, Charlie Johnson's Golden Bears were forced to settle for a State AA co-championship as the coronavirus pandemic brought sports in Montana to a halt following the state semifinal games.
West will now get a shot at claiming its first outright title since 2011.
Kourtney Grossman notched a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds and Sydney Pierce added 11 points as the Bears built a halftime lead against Missoula Hellgate and held on after the break to walk away with a 46-41 win to send the Eastern AA champions into the championship.
West limited Hellgate senior and future Washington State player Alex Covill to 14 points while Chloe Larsen scored a game-high 17 for the Knights.
"These last couple week we've been playing defense really well," said Johnson. "Containing a 6-foot-6 girl is very difficult to do.
"Alex is a great player and so is Chloe Larsen. We made a couple more plays. We had a couple key offensive rebounds and put backs and free throws at the end there."
Brooklyn Pierce added 9 points for a West squad that shot 30% from the field compared to 26% for Hellgate.
Kalispell Flathead 51, Billings Skyview 43
The Bravettes magical postseason run continues.
A week after Avery Chouinard hit a game-winning 3-pointer to claim the Western AA crown, Flathead followed up by knocking off the defending champion Falcons.
The Bravettes did enough to limit Gatorade Montana Player of the Year Breanna Williams, who racked up 20 first-half points as Skyview built a 29-23 halftime but was held to just five after the break as the teams exchanged six lead changes and four ties.
"This is just an exciting thing for the Flathead community and the Flathead family," said Bravettes coach Sam Tudor. "I've just really enjoyed this ride."
Flathead is now back in the state championship for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.
After watching Williams seemingly score at will in the first half, Flathead needed a little motivation in the locker room.
"They were kind of hanging their heads, it was just a matter of switching their mindset a bit," said Tudor. "Giving them a gameplan that they believe in. And boy they believed in it."
Kennedy Moore led Flathead with a double-double, scoring a team-high 20 points and pulling down 10 boards. Maddy Moy added 14 points for the Bravettes, who finished the game shooting nearly 43% from the field to Skyview's 31%.