BUTTE – Box Elder used a 20-6 run spanning the second and third quarters to pull away from Froid-Medicine Lake in the semifinals of the State C girls basketball tournament in Butte on Friday. The Bears went on to win 54-41 and move to Saturday night’s championship game.
“We stayed consistent and played all four quarters, put it all together, that was a tough team,” Box Elder head coach Joel Rosette said. “We were able to rebound pretty well against their bigs. … I thought we did a pretty good job in the second half adjusting to them defensively. Offensively we did a good job of pushing the ball and attacking, not settling for jump shots.”
Box Elder junior Lillian Gopher put the exclamation point on the Bears’ victory with a no-look pass to Eve The Boy to send the Box Elder faithful into a frenzy in the closing minutes.
“(Lillian) played amazing,” Rosette said. “Directed the offense, rebounded, assists, steals — she was an outstanding player (Friday).
“(Lillian is) a special player, and we’re happy she’s on our team. She came out and performed on the big show. She works so hard, so to see (her performance), I’m extremely proud of her.”
After Froid-Medicine Lake decimated the Harlowton defense on Thursday, they struggled to muster anything offensively against the Box Elder defense. The Bears held the Redhawks to just 29 percent shooting, while Box Elder shot 50 percent from the field.
Gopher led Box Elder with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Cecilia Vielle added a double-duble for Box Elder with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Box Elder, the No. 2 seed from the Northern C, will face Winnett-Grass Range in Saturday night’s championship game. Froid-Medicine Lake, the No. 1 seed from the Eastern C, will continue their hunt for a trophy Saturday morning against Ennis in loser out action.
“Every year we set high goals for our program,” Rosette said. “To be here performing at state, that’s what we worked so hard for, starting from the summer on. So, the girls really worked and we’re here, we’re in the championship game, and we’re excited.”
Winnett-Grass Range 41, Plentywood 21
Winnett-Grass Range suffocated Plentywood Friday night in Butte to punch their ticket to the State C girls championship game on Saturday. The Rams, the No. 1 seed from the Northern C, knocked off Plentywood in the semifinals, 41-21.
“Everybody wants to play the last game of the season, that’s what it’s all about,” Winnett-Grass Range head coach Vic Westphal said. “They’ve been dreaming of it. It’s fun for them. A lot of people don’t realize it isn’t just the season that started on a certain day, they put a lot of extra time in, and the fun part for me is that they took me for a pretty good ride this year. I have to stay awake until 8 o’clock three nights in a row, everybody’s worried about that.”
Plentywood scored the first two points of the game, but then the Rams took over. They pushed their lead to 19-12 just before halftime on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Tia Stahl. Plentywood failed to score double figures in any quarter, managed only nine second half points, and shot just 19 percent from the field for the game.
“Defensively you have to be impressed these last couple of nights,” Westphal said of their astounding effort on the less glorious end of the floor. “Defense, you’ve heard it, everybody has heard it, it gets you to championship night, and we’re there because of defense.”
Sydney Browning led a balanced attack for the Rams, finishing with 11 points and five rebounds. For the second straight game Brynn Jolma finished with a game-high for rebounds, grabbing seven Friday night.
Winnett-Grass Range sets up a Northern C divisional championship rematch with Box Elder for the State C girls championship on Saturday night.
“They’re a class team,” Westphal said of Box Elder. “We know a lot of kids on that team, coaches, it’s a blast. We’ve always talked about we have a tough district and they get us primed for divisional, but our divisional is a bearcat, and we always feel if you can come out of that Northern C divisional you have a chance. One of us has a chance, and I hope we come ready to play. It’ll be fun.”