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State B girls: Big Timber survives, Malta pulls away late to move to semifinals

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Posted at 2:41 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 19:45:28-05

BILLINGS — The Big Timber girls are still perfect, as the Sheepherders were able to hold off Anaconda on Wednesday afternoon inside First Interstate Arena at MetraPark in Billings to advance to Friday's semifinals where they'll meet Malta. The M-Ettes pulled away from Missoula Loyola late to advance.

PHOTOS: Day 1 State B girls basketball tournament

Big Timber 63, Anaconda 58

Big Timber is still perfect.

The Southern B champion Sheepherders survived a thrilling first-round game with Western B runner-up Anaconda, 63-58, to advance to Friday night's semifinals of the State B girls basketball tournament inside First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.

Big Timber scored the game's first nine points, but Anaconda settled in and eventually trimmed it to two at halftime, 28-26. The Herders opened it up in the third quarter and grabbed a 49-39 lead entering the final period after a 3-pointer from freshman Kameryn Ketchum just before the buzzer sounded.

"That's (Ketchum's) job. It has been all year, come in off the bench and hit a few 3s and get us out of a slump if we're not shooting well from the outside. She did her job well," Big Timber head coach Kim Finn said. "Bailey (Finn's) 3s weren't going, but I said, 'You're mid-range is great.' She started doing that and what was working for us we tried to capitalize on."

Anaconda wouldn't let Big Timber run away in the fourth quarter, though. The Copperheads cut the Big Timber lead inside five several times in the fourth quarter, but the Herders had answer each time to keep Anaconda at bay.

"I told them that we don't want this to be the game that we break our streak, keep working hard, keep fighting," Kim Finn said. "We knew it wasn't our best game. We had some great spots and some pretty rough spots, but we're just hoping that the next couple games we'll put it together and play a complete four quarters."

Junior Emily Cooley left the game just before halftime with a left ankle injury and did not return to play in the second half. Cooley is Big Timber's leading rebounder, but the Herders had other girls pick up the slack in her absence. Guard Hailee Brandon ripped down 16 rebounds and the Herders had 20 offensive rebounds as a team.

"(Brandon) is a really good, aggressive rebounder when she's inside, so I knew her being inside would be helpful. But we had to make up her difference and they did a good job," Finn said. "Hopefully (Cooley) will get around to where she can play a little (on Friday). We're excited to have a day off."

Brandon had a double-double of 20 points and those 16 rebounds. Bailey Finn scored 23 points, 14 in the second half, and dished out six assists. Anaconda had three players in double figures led by Sami Johnson's 16 points.

Anaconda falls to loser-out action, while Big Timber is in Friday's semifinals against Malta. It's the second consecutive year Big Timber has been in the semifinals. The Herders fell to eventual co-champion Forsyth last year.

Malta 61, Missoula Loyola 45

Malta is one step closer to a state championship appearance.

The M-Ettes closed the game on a 19-6 spurt to pull away from Missoula Loyola in the first round of the State B girls basketball tournament inside First Interstate Arena at MetraPark on Wednesday for a 61-45 win.

Malta led 42-39 with less than five minutes to play, but the M-Ettes were able to get stops defensively that led to baskets on the other end to extend their lead.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair, as the two sides traded baskets on their way to a 28-all tie. Loyola buried seven first-half 3-pointers and 10 for the game, but the Breakers shot just 6 of 25 inside the arc on Wednesday.

"Defensively we needed to figure out a way we could stay in front of (Loyola's Lani) Walker somehow. Give credit to Erica (Smith), because we just couldn't sub her out. She was doing a good job of staying in front," Malta head coach Nate Hammond said. "When you've got good kids like that, you can't steal the ball from them. You've just got to figure out how to stay in front and I thought she did a good job. It's easier to score on offense when you can get some defensive stops."

The M-Ettes got a balanced effort offensively, as Allison Kunze's 14 points led the way, while Justine Lamb added 12 and Kylee Nelson and Addy Anderson each scored 10. Lani Walker led Loyola with 10 but they all came in the first half.

"The more good players you have -- of those seven kids that are rotating through, there isn't a one of them that hasn't stepped up and hit huge shots and won games for us," Hammond said. "I feel pretty comfortable with every one of them. Some may be a little more defensive-minded, some may be more offensive-minded, but as long as they keep playing together and appreciate what each other can do it really helps us and makes us pretty tough."

Malta is into Friday's semifinals where it will face unbeaten Big Timber.

"It sounds really good to be in the semifinals. It doesn't necessarily sound as good to be playing Big Timber," Hammond said with a smile. "At this point teams that play well are going to win. We've got a pretty good shot at playing well. We know how good they are and we feel like we come out and play well and get some of those momentum-type deals that we're used to getting in, especially this postseason, we'll have a really good shot at it and put some runs together."