HELENA — The race for the Western AA girls basketball conference title got a little more interesting on Thursday night.
Defending Class AA champion Helena High knocked off top-ranked Missoula Sentinel 49-46, avenging a 48-43 defeat against the Spartans back in January.
Jamie Pickens had 16 points and a team-high six rebounds, while Kamden Hilborn added 13 points, six assists, four steals and three boards for Helena High. The Bengals had 15 steals in the win and allowed only five Sentinel players to score.
Sentinel opened the game on a 4-0 run, then got five straight points from Jordyn Schweyen to take a 16-14 lead after the opening quarter. Schweyen knocked down a 3-pointer, then added another bucket before assisting on the final basket of the quarter, two points from her sister Shelby Schweyen.
Jordyn Schweyen had a team-high 15 points, while Shelby assisted with 12 and seven rebounds.
The second period belonged to the home team, which opened with a Paige Aasved 3-pointer to re-take the lead at 17-16. Emily Feller and Payton Aasved poured in five points in the middle of the quarter, then added two more from Abby Marcille before halftime to hold a 26-22 advantage.
Helena High extended the lead to 39-32 after three, getting six points from Pickens, including an and-1, while Hilborn knocked down a pair of 3s and a free throw to give Eric Peterson’s club its second seven-point lead of the game. Hilborn’s 3-pointer midway through the fourth, her fourth triple of the contest, extended the Helena lead to eight, 45-37, but Shelby Schweyen answered with a 3-pointer of her own to bring Sentinel back to within five.
After Pickens scored four straight to boost the lead to nine, Kylie Frohlich and the Spartans chipped away again, with her bucket with 30 seconds remaining trimming the lead to 49-46. The Sentinel defense held on three straight Bengal possessions, then saw Feller miss a free throw to give the Spartans a chance to tie at the end of regulation. Jordyn Schweyen’s 3-pointer was off the mark, though Frohlich was fouled on an offensive rebound, but missed each free throw.
Helena High (13-2 overall, 7-2 Western AA) looks to avenge another league loss against crosstown rival Helena Capital on Monday. The Bruins defeated the Bengals 63-49 in overtime last month, hitting 10 straight free throws to open the extra minutes.
The Bengals got 11 combined points from Paige and Payton Aasved, plus five rebounds and two assists from McKayla Kloker. Helena High hit eight 3-pointers in the win.
Sentinel (14-2, 9-1) hosts Kalispell Glacier next Tuesday, Feb. 20 before traveling to Kalispell Flathead next Saturday.