MISSOULA -- On Friday evening the Western AA girls basketball semifinals were decided with two exciting games. The host No. 3-seed Missoula Sentinel Spartans took down the No. 2-seed Missoula Hellgate Knights while the No. 1-seed Helena Capital Bruins narrowly squeaked by the No. 4-seed Kalispell Glacier Wolfpack.
Helena Capital Bruins 44, Kalispell Glacier Wolfpack 41
In the first girls semifinal it was the heavily favored Capital Bruins taking on the Glacier Wolfpack. From the opening tipoff it was a close game until the final seconds ticked off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Throughout the first half it was completely neck and neck as both teams scored 13 points in the first quarter, and both teams also scored nine points in the second quarter to head into the half tied at 22.
To start the second half, both teams slowed down on offense as Glacier outscored Capital 5-4 in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, both offenses came alive and got going. After Kaylee Fritz scooped up an offensive board and scored, Glacier led 34-31 with four minutes to play. However, the Bruins managed to get to the free throw line three consecutive times to scored five points and take a 36-34 lead.
From there, Glacier was never able to regain the lead, but had its share of opportunities down the stretch that were halted by Capital's Paige Bartsch. Bartsch grabbed two key offensive rebounds to not even allow Glacier to get a shot off to tie the game.
Bartsch finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting while her sister Dani finished with a game-high 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting and an 8-for-11 mark from the charity stripe.
As a team, the Bruins finished 12 for 45 (26 percent) from the field and 1 for 15 (6 percent) from beyond the arc while getting to the free throw line 32 times and converting on 19 of those attempts.
For Glacier, Aubrie Rademacher led the charge as she finished with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds. As a team, Glacier went 11 for 35 (31 percent) from the field and 4 for 12 (33 percent) from beyond the arc.
Missoula Sentinel Spartans 42, Missoula Hellgate Knights 28
In the second girls semifinal local fans were treated to a bonus Missoula crosstown game as the Hellgate Knights and Sentinel Spartans tipped off.
From the start, Sentinel looked like a team on a mission as it outscored the Knights 16-7 in the first quarter. However, in the second quarter both teams slowed down as a total of only nine points were scored as Sentinel outscored Hellgate again, 6-3, to take a 22-10 lead into halftime.
However, in the second half Hellgate began to chip away at the Spartans lead. In the third quarter, Hellgate outscored Sentinel 11-6, but Sentinel led 28-21 entering the final quarter. In the fourth, Hellgate came out with solid defense and found ways to get buckets. With just more than six minutes to play Hellgate scored a bucket to cut the Sentinel lead to three.
Sentinel went on to hold tough the rest of the way and eventually outscored Hellgate down the stretch on free throws.
Lexi Deden led the way for Sentinel as she scored a game-high 14 points. She made 6 of 9 attempts from the free throw line and also collected eight rebounds. Brooke Stayner also added 11 points, converting 6 of 8 from the free throw line.
As a team, Sentinel shot a combined 12 for 33 (36 percent) from the field and 4 for 11 (36 percent) from 3-point range.
Baylee Saylor led the scoring for Hellgate as she finished with a team-high 12 points. Hellgate combined to shoot 10 for 34 (29 percent) from the field and 3 for 15 (20 percent) from beyond the arc.
Sentinel and Capital face off on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. with the Western AA divisional title as stake.