BILLINGS — It's what every athlete plays for, a shot at the championship. On Thursday night four teams took the court at Lockwood High School in Billings hoping to win their semifinal matchup and head to the State C girls basketball title game.
(1E) Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale 43, (2N) Roy-Winifred 38
In the first semifinal game, it was Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale, which demolished Jordan 66-27 in the first round, taking on Roy-Winifred, which outlasted Seeley-Swan in Wednesday's first round.
The teams traded runs, but in the end, the undefeated Mavericks held on for a 43-38 win over reigning co-state champion Roy-Winifred.
In the first quarter the Outlaws utilized their size to dominate the undefeated Mavericks on the boards and blocked shots to take a 10-4 lead.
Then Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale adjusted, utilizing a full-court press to force Roy-Winifred into quite a few turnovers. The Outlaws had 11 turnovers at the half and the Mavericks had only four, which led to Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale outscoring Roy-Winifred 15-4 in the second quarter to take a 19-14 lead.
"I thought our defensive effort was great," said Amber Erickson, the head coach of Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale. "Our game plan was to use our speed, quickness and tempo and try to get them in our defensive pressure and make them take some quick shots -- get them into a transition game with us a bit. I thought we did a good job. We tried to stay true to who we are, keep the pressure on."
At one point in the third, the Mavericks held an eight-point lead, but Roy-Winifred came back to pull within two with little time remaining and found itself down 30-26 heading into the fourth.
To start the final quarter, the Outlaws went on a 5-0 run to take a 31-30 lead, but the Mavericks' Kia Wasson drilled a 3-pointer to retake the lead 33-31.
It was a basket-for-basket game after that. With about two minutes left Wasson drilled another 3 to break the 37-37 tie and the Mavericks hung on from there to win 43-38.
"This has been a long process for us." Erickson said. "We've lost a lot of big games up until this year. This was our year. They've exceeded my expectations. We never had a goal to be undefeated, we faced a lot of competition and they've met it head on and they've come just ready to get after it every game."
Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale remains undefeated on the season and is headed to the State C championship game to face off against Fort Benton. The title game takes place at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.
Wasson had a team-high 14 points for Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale. Freshman Isabelle Heggem had a monster game for Roy-Winifred, finishing with a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds.
(1N) Fort Benton 64, (2W) Manhattan Christian 31
Fort Benton squeaked by Plentywood in the opening round and it was looking to defeat Manhattan Christian in the semifinal round of the Class C girls basketball tournament on Thursday. The Eagles dominated Melstone to get into Thursday's semifinal and had lost only one game all season, which came in the Western A title game.
The Longhorns took the flight right out of the Eagles from the start and went on to win 64-31.
"They work hard, they've put in tons of hours so it's just exciting for them to get that (win)," said Fort Benton head coach Cassie Pimperton, as her team is now headed to the title game.
The Longhorns jumped out to a 20-7 first-quarter lead and found themselves up 31-14 at the half. Fort Benton senior Aspen Giese dominated the first half, scoring 15 points. It wasn't just Giese. The team played outstanding defense by jumping passing lanes and swiping steals. They had 11 steals in the first half and forced the Eagles to turn the ball over 15 times.
"Shut them down," Pimperton said. "Shut down their inside game. Our defense got us rolling on offense and, I mean, the girls were hungry. The girls came out intense and focused."
Fort Benton finished the game with a whopping 16 steals. Aspen Giese had a game-high 21 points and six steals. Sophomore Emerson Giese finished with 18 points.
The Longhorns now have a two-day wait until they play the Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale Mavericks for the title at 5 p.m. on Saturday.