BILLINGS — Emily Kidder knew Billings Senior would go on a run. The Helena Capital junior just didn’t expect it to be so damaging.
After taking an early 4-0 lead, Kidder and her Helena Capital teammates watch Senior go on a 13-2 run in the final five minutes of the first quarter, taking a 13-6 lead. The Broncs ballooned that advantage to 16 in the second quarter, but the Bruins chipped away in the second half en route to a 40-36 State AA first round win.
“Our coach was like, ‘Hey, we all have ups and downs. All we have to do is come back, keep working and don’t give up.’ That’s what we did. We didn’t give up and we came back and won it,” said Feller, who scored a game-high 11 points.
Kacie Gross gave Capital an early 3-0 lead and Senior missed its first three shots of the contest, but the Broncs dialed in from downtown midway through the first quarter, with Ellie Ostermiller hitting a pair of 3s to go with a Mariah Linse triple that gave Senior an 11-6 lead. Ostermiller also finished the game with 11 points and three 3-pointers, all which came in the first half.
As Senior seemed ready to run away with the first of eight games at Rimrock Auto Arena on Thursday, Kidder hit a 3 before the halftime buzzer to give Capital life heading into the locker room. The Bruins responded with a 14-point third quarter, which included five straight points from Megan Lindbo and a pivotal bucket and foul from Kidder, who sank the free throw to make it 32-30 late in the third.
“Our team was like, ‘Let’s play together and let’s run the court and get some easy layups.’ That’s what we did,” Kidder said. “We all wanted to play as a team here.”
Capital tied the game at 36 in the fourth quarter on a basket by freshman Dani Bartsch, then took the lead moments later on another bucket from Bartsch, who finished with four points in the game. Capital led 38-36 for nearly three minutes while each team’s offense struggled, but it was free throws that became the story of the game late in the fourth.
Senior went 2-7 from the free throw line in the second half, and missed four straight potential game-tying free throws, including a pair of one-and-ones down the stretch. Capital didn’t fare any better in the final minute, missing the front end of a one-and-one that kept the lead at 38-36. Taylor Sullivan finally put the game away by hitting two free throws to put Capital ahead 40-36.
“It was just amazing to see her step up and hit those two free throws at the end,” Kidder said of Sullivan. “In practice, we always work on free throws and we came through and made them in the end.”
Sullivan and Kola Bad Bear battled in the post, with each struggling from the field. Sullivan, who will attend West Point next fall, made only one of six field goal attempts, but finished with six points and 11 rebounds. Bad Bear, a Montana State commit, went 2-9 and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Kacie Gross added nine points and eight rebounds for Capital, which made eight of 15 field goals in the second half.
Helena Capital advances to Friday’s semifinal game against the Missoula Sentinel. Tip-off is slated for 3:30 p.m.
“It’s amazing to come out with this first win. It’s just an amazing feeling to think you won and to start focusing on the next game (Friday).”
Missoula Sentinel 55, Bozeman 37
Kylie Frohlich scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead top-ranked Missoula Sentinel to a 55-37 victory over Bozeman in the first round of the State AA girls basketball tournament.
“We always want to come in, everyone always plays their best game at state, so we knew we wanted to come in and play our best ball right from the start,” said Frohlich.
Bozeman also entered Thursday’s game motivated, going punch for punch with the Spartans in the opening quarter. The Hawks took a three-point lead three minutes into the game and trailed only 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Sentinel sparked a late run in the second quarter, holding a 27-22 lead at halftime. The Spartans went 10-19 from the floor, led by Jordyn Schweyen’s 12 points.
“I think it just took us a little while to get into our scoring and finishing. We were missing some shots and not moving our feet as well as we could have on defense, but that picked up later,” said Frohlich. “Having us as a group of girls, we’re pretty good about talking to one another and letting each other know what we have to do and it’s not something we’ll take personally if we tell each other, ‘You have to move your feet,’ or ‘I need help with this drive.’ It’s something we can communicate with each other to try and fix.”
Sentinel extended its lead in the third quarter, forcing a Bozeman timeout when Shelby Schweyen used a fast break pass-fake to score a smooth layup. Sentinel’s bench met Schweyen with a huddle of cheers after the Hawks’ timeout.
“Those kids have a high basketball IQ. I’m not going to take credit for that,” laughed Sentinel coach Karen Deden. “They’ve played a lot of basketball and obviously, there are kids out there that can play at a different level at times. Hopefully we can continue to keep bringing plays like that because the kids want it.”
Sentinel’s defense smothered Bozeman in the second half, limiting the Hawks to only five field goals on 25 shots. Bozeman made only 28 percent of its shots in the contest.
Frohlich took over in the second half, pacing the Spartans with 14 points in the final two quarters. The Montana Grizzly commit went 8-12 from the floor and had four steals.
“Deden, her No. 1 thing she preaches to us is ‘Defense first and then offense,’” Frohlich said. “But focusing on offense, we needed to make sure when we’re getting a shot we’re getting good open looks and going toward the basket, not fading away, especially in this first game because we needed to get into a groove first. Working the ball inside-out and finding a rhythm was really important today.”
Sentinel, which led by as many as 20 in the game, advances to the State AA semifinals against Helena Capital on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The Spartans won each of their battles against the Bruins earlier this season.
“Just because we know they’re a great team, we always bring our A-game when we play them too, so we’re not overlooking anybody because you shut down one scorer and someone else is usually ready to step up and take that shot, so we’ll be ready for everything they give us and be ready to out-hustle them because they’re a very fast team.”
Bozeman falls to loser-out action against Billings Senior. The Hawks and Broncs tip off at 9 a.m. on Friday.