MISSOULA — Bigfork used a 14-0 run to pull away from Rocky Boy in the second half for a 60-45 semifinal win in the Class B boys basketball state tournament at Dahlberg Arena on Friday.
Rocky Boy had pulled within 34-28, but the Vikings quickly stabilized to grow the lead back to 20 points. Bigfork then thwarted every Rocky Boy attempt at a comeback to secure the win.
“We know they’re a good team, and it was all about composure. Keeping our composure has kind of been our strong suit all year,” said Bigfork coach Sam Tudor. “I’ve got to give it to Rocky Boy, they pushed us to the limit. What was it, a 15-point game? But, man, you never got the feeling that it was over. That was just a fun game for us.”
Anders Epperly scored 21 points and dished out six assists for the Vikings, who will play Shelby in Saturday’s championship game. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.
Bigfork’s Beau Santistevan added 15 points and 12 rebounds, playing a terrific game against Rocky Boy big man Kendall Windy Boy, who still finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in the loss.
“(Santistevan) really took on the Windy Boy kid with everything he had,” Tudor said. “Beau really showed his true colors (Friday) as a senior and a leader. I was really happy for Beau and his game.”
Ben Iron Eyes single-handedly kept the Stars in the game in the first half, scoring 20 of the team’s 22 points. Rocky Boy trailed 31-22 at the break.
Iron Eyes finished with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. The rest of the Stars combined to make just 10 of 30 field goal attempts. Bigfork was 23 of 47 from the floor.
Rocky Boy will meet Colstrip in a Saturday loser-out game at 10:30 a.m. at Missoula Sentinel High School. The Colts extended their season with a 79-77 win over Anaconda on Friday.
Bigfork is making its fourth championship appearance and third in the past five years. The Vikings won the Class B title with a 71-62 win over Columbus in 2014, the only Class B championship in the past 10 years won by a team that hailed from a division other than the Northern B. The Vikings lost to Choteau in 2016.
As the lone undefeated team remaining in Class B, Bigfork entered the state tournament as the perceived favorite.
“We haven’t really talked about the undefeated thing,” Tudor said. “But now, there’s one game left. It really doesn’t matter. We’re just going to go out and play our best game and hope for the best. What a great tournament, though. We’ve had a lot of fun this tournament. It’s been good to play some top-notch teams.”
Shelby 69, Lodge Grass 57
After making a surprise run to the Class B boys basketball state tournament in 2016 and earning a third-place trophy last year, Shelby is taking the natural step in the progression.
The Coyotes held off Lodge Grass for a 69-57 win in Friday’s semifinal round of the State B tournament at Dahlberg Arena to clinch a berth in Saturday’s state championship game.
“The process with this bunch goes all the way back to second grade. I’ve known every one of these kids since they’ve been babes. From their moms taking them to the gym to traveling all over the state of Montana playing junior high games, just believing,” Shelby coach Tom Reynolds said. “We went on that run when they were sophomores and then last year taking third, more than anything, the process and the journey has been extremely special and watching these young men progress and have this opportunity for a state championship (Saturday).”
In front of an electric crowd, Shelby and Lodge Grass played at a frenetic pace Friday. The Coyotes settled down first, building a 26-22 halftime advantage.
It was the third quarter, though, where Shelby enforced its will. The Coyotes made eight of 12 field goals in the period and seven of nine free throws to outscore Lodge Grass 24-13 and take a 50-35 lead into the fourth. An Aaron White 3-pointer briefly gave the Coyotes a 16-point lead, their largest of the game, with 1:47 to go in the third.
Lodge Grass was undeterred, though, in eight points in the first 29 seconds of the fourth quarter. The Indians ultimately got within six points, bringing their fanbase to a frenzy.
“We’re one of the most fortunate schedules in the whole state of Montana, because we have Browning, Harlem, Rocky Boy, Wolf Point, Poplar, we’re not immune to seeing it,” Reynolds said. “I always say, to go on a tournament run, to get to a state championship game, you’ve got to play a team that’s going to press you all night long. I think Browning took fourth at state in (Class) A, and we got them twice at home this year. Those games are the ones that really prepare us for this atmosphere. Obviously we would’ve liked to have done a little better at times, but against that type of pressure, you’re going to turn the ball over at times. It’s going to happen.”
White and TJ Reynolds stemmed the tide for the Coyotes, combining to score 52 points on the night. Reynolds put together a monster performance with 28 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks (and countless altered shot attempts). White finished with 24 points, converting 12 of 14 free throw attempts, and seven assists.
As a team, Shelby made 27 of its 38 free throw attempts. Lodge Grass attempted just 15 free throws all game. From the floor, the Indians were 22 of 62. Tom Reynolds credited his defense — specifically Macager McAllister, Zach Torgerson and Logan Watson — with limiting Mylon Blacksmith and Elijah Rogers to a combined 13 points. Blacksmith scored 27 points in Lodge Grass’ first-round win over Anaconda.
Lodge Grass will now face Joliet in a loser-out game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Shelby will meet undefeated Bigfork for the state championship with tipoff scheduled for 8 p.m. The Vikings handed Shelby a 64-38 loss in the first game of the season.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons, and we’ve got our hands full, that’s no question,” Tom Reynolds said of Bigfork. “That’s what makes the state championship special, is to be able to go attack them. They’re no stranger to us, obviously played them the first game of the season. I think we’ve came a long ways since then. Looking forward to it.”