RONAN – The tournament favorites held on to win the Western B girls divisional tournament. But it took everything they had to hold off the tournament upstarts.
Bigfork used a strong fourth quarter to beat Deer Lodge 41-36 in the championship. Both teams will advance to the state tournament March 8th-10th in Missoula.
Not much separated the Vals and Wardens for much of the night. Bigfork did shoot to an early 7-1 lead, only to see Deer Lodge come back to take the lead early in the second. The Vals held an 18-16 advantage at half.
In the third, it looked like Bigfork might start to pull away after building a seven-point lead. But Deer Lodge came back to tie the game entering the fourth, 27-27. Bigfork’s lead was still only three in the final minute, but the Vals made enough free throws to seal the title.
Star forward Jamie Berg once again led the way for the Vals, doing most of her damage from the line. She scored 20 points, and made 12/18 from the free throw line. Deer Lodge used a balanced attack. Darcy Walker led the team with only seven points.
Bigfork rolls into the state tournament with only a single loss all season (a 68-63 loss to class A power Columbia Falls back in December). Deer Lodge making the trip as well is a bit of a surprise.
The Wardens came into the Western B as the three-seed from the 6B. They opened with a 37-19 win over 7B runner-up Eureka. Then shocked 6B champ Florence 36-32 in the semifinals, handing the Falcons only their second loss of the year.
Florence did come through the loser’s bracket on Saturday, beating Anaconda 65-51 and Missoula Loyola 62-52. But the Western B only advances two teams to state. And because the Falcons lost to Deer Lodge in the tournament, they cannot challenge the Wardens. So a great season for Florence ends at divisionals.
Loyola advanced to the third-place game with a 48-31 morning win over Eureka.