BILLINGS – The 2018 State A Boys Basketball tournament has its first two participants.
The Hardin Bulldogs and Belgrade Panthers clinched State A berths Friday with wins in semifinal games at the Eastern A divisional inside Rimrock Auto Arena.
HARDIN 61, Laurel 41
David Evans scored 19 points, and Trae Hugs added 17 with four three pointers to propel Hardin past Laurel 61-41 in the day’s first semifinal.
Laurel took a 16-15 lead early in the second quarter Gaje Leischner’s third three of the opening 10 minutes. But Hardin closed the quarter on a 16-8 to take a 31-24 lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs sealed the game in the third with an 18-1 run through the first 6:30 of the quarter to take their largest lead at 49-25.
Evans added 12 rebounds for a double-double, while Hugs led the team with four steals. Hardin forced Laurel into 20 total turnovers.
Leischner finished with 11 points, while Camden Hill and Deklan Harper added eight each for the Locomotives.
BELGRADE 41, Lewistown 33
Senior Dawson Fowler scored 15 points to lead the Belgrade Panthers to a 41-33 win over Lewistown in Friday’s other semifinal.
Lewistown led 14-13 after a low-scoring first half, but Belgrade outscored the Eagles 12-6 in the third to take a lead they’d never give up.
Fowler made perhaps the play of the tournament early in the fourth quarter. On the right wing, the senior slipped going to his right, but kept his dribble on his knees, dribbled behind his back as he stood up, and hit a three to put Belgrade up 31-21.
Lewistown pulled within 36-33 with just over 1:00 to play, and had two chances to get within one point, but missed two shots at the rim before Belgrade finally cleared the rebound. The Panthers scored the final five points of the game from the free throw line.
Easton Page added 10 points for Belgrade. Jaden Graham led Lewistown with 12.
Belgrade will play Hardin for the Eastern A boys championship Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
Laurel and Lewistown face loser-out games Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. Laurel will face Billings Central at Rimrock Auto Arena, while Lewistown will play Sidney at Rocky Mountain College. Both winners will advance to the State A tournament.