LAUREL — The Billings Central Rams and Havre Blue Ponies will tell you they're focused on Friday night's undefeated semifinal at the Eastern A volleyball divisional, but quarterfinal wins earlier Friday afternoon that clinched State A tournament berths were arguably more important.
BILLINGS CENTRAL 3, Laurel 1
Central won another round in the oldest rivalry in Yellowstone County, though Laurel - playing on its home court - didn't make it easy for the regular season champion Rams. Laurel led late in game one, only to see Central come back to take it 25-23.
After a 25-19 win in game two, it looked like Central was on its way to a sweep, but Laurel jumped out to a 12-6 lead in game three to put pressure on the favorites. Central responded with seven straight points to take the lead back as the two went back and forth the rest of the game. Laurel saved game point at 24-23, and then Kenya Fike's kill at 26-25 gave the Locomotives the game.
Central quickly rebounded in game four, running away with a 25-11 win to take the match.
HAVRE 3, Hardin 1
The Blue Ponies overcame a slow start to jump out to a 2-0 lead and hold on for the win. Hardin took a five point lead late in the opening set, but Havre rallied for a 26-24 win.
Havre carried the momentum over to a 25-15 game two win, and a 6-2 lead in game three. But Hardin staged their own rally, winning 23 of the next 34 points to pull within 2-1. Havre regained composure to take a tight game four 25-22 and the match.
Central and Havre will meet at 7:45 p.m. Friday night in the undefeated semifinal. Laurel and Hardin fall into loser-out games, also set for Friday evening.
Four teams advance from the Eastern A divisional to the State A tournament, set for Nov. 11-13 in Bozeman.