MISSOULA — Bigfork became the first team to punch a ticket in the semifinal round of the State B girls basketball tournament, defeating St. Labre 55-47 in the first round Thursday at Dahlberg Arena.
Rakiah Grende scored 13 points and Ellie Berreth added 12 for the Valkyries, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed from the Western B. Bigfork never trailed, building a 10-4 lead after the first quarter and 27-14 advantage at halftime.
Both teams got off to slow starts, combining to make just seven of 30 field goal attempts in the first quarter. Bigfork settled down in the second quarter, though, making three of seven 3-point attempts to open up a double-digit lead.
The Vals’ defensive pressure created problems for St. Labre all game, forcing 31 turnovers.
Priscilla Flatmouth and Teegan Ewing led St. Labre with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Jaime Berg, who signed this week to play collegiately at Montana Tech, had a quiet game with just five points on 1-of-9 shooting. Berg did collect 11 rebounds, though, six on the offensive end.
Bigfork will meet Three Forks in the State B semifinals. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday. St. Labre will play Poplar at 9 a.m. Friday in a loser-out contest.
Three Forks 63, Poplar 59
Three Forks hadn’t lost a game all season. Kyle Olson was intent on keeping it that way in the first round of the Class B girls basketball state tournament at Dahlberg Arena on Thursday.
Olson scored the game’s final seven points, rallying the Wolves from a three-point deficit with less than a minute remaining to a 63-59 win over Poplar. Olson finished with a game-high 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including a 6-of-11 mark from 3-point range.
“There’s a mental click. It’s like, ‘We’re not losing this game.’ I was like, ‘There’s nothing to lose here, let’s just shoot it,'” Olson said.
The Wolves were in a dogfight all game. Poplar scored the first six points to set the tone, and the teams traded buckets much of the first half. Three Forks held a 32-29 lead at the break, but Poplar took control in the third.
The Indians, behind Alleen Russell and Imani Bighorn, outscored the Wolves 13-6 in the third to take the lead going to the fourth. Poplar extended the lead to six points late in the fourth, before Shainy Mack and Olson led the rally.
Mack couldn’t get her outside shot going all game, missing her first 10 attempts from 3-point range. The standout senior came up big when it mattered most, though, hitting a deep 3 to tie the game at 56 with under two minutes remaining.
Hailey Brunelle answered with her own 3 to give Poplar the lead back with 1:06 to play, but Olson took over from there, hitting a 3, scoring a layup off a turnover and sinking two of four free throws to ice the game.
“We were down quite a ways and I thought we were in trouble,” said Three Forks coach Mike Sauvageau. “We got a couple quick steals. With Kyle and Shainy you never know. They can light it up and hit five in a row each, and finally Shainy got one to go. She worked on it all day and finally got one to go and got a couple things inside. Kyle’s just Kyle. She’s awesome. She never has a bad game, she always puts the ball in the hole, makes plays. It was a great team effort: Paeton Ohs came off the bench, Kendall Lynn, Sinclair Oliver came in, bought us minutes, played great defense. If we don’t have those three, we lose this game.”
Mack finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists, whiile Morgan Allen contributed 14 points, nine rebounds and sseven assists. Olson added nine steals to her stat line, as Three Forks forced Poplar into 29 turnovers.
“We were expecting a hard game, but I didn’t expect it to be that physical and that tempo,” Olson said. “It was a lot faster-paced (than expected). I thought they were going to tired, but they stuck with us the whole game, challenged us.”
Russell finished with 17 points to lead Poplar, while Bighorn finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. The Indians will face St. Labre in a loser-out game at 9 a.m. Friday.
Three Forks, the lone undefeated team remaining in Class B, will face Bigfork in a semifinal game at 3:30 p.m. Friday.