It was a wild weekend on the high school hoops scene across Montana. With several teams battling for postseason positioning, it was no surprise that another handful of unbeaten teams went down.
Both No. 2 teams in the Class AA coaches polls lost on the road, the Wolf Point girls are no longer unbeaten, the District 9C girls continue to beat up on each other and the Eastern C boys and girls races get tighter and tighter. The season’s final few weeks are gearing up to be an absolute sprint to the finish.
- What a tough weekend for Bozeman. The then-second-ranked Hawks travelled to Great Falls to face Great Falls High and Great Falls CMR and left with a pair of losses. On Friday night, Bozeman fell behind CMR early and never recovered. The Hawks stumbled again on Saturday night against the Bison, falling behind by 17 after the first quarter and losing by 15. GFH is at the top of the Eastern AA with CMR just a game back. Bozeman will have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks, as the Hawks sit fourth in the conference.
- Billings West is making its presence known in the Eastern AA. The Bears, ranked No. 5 in the latest Class AA coaches poll, dominated Billings Skyview at home on Thursday night, winning by 20. West sits in a tie for second with CMR and is right back in contention for the Eastern AA’s top spot, while Skyview has fallen back to fifth. West meets Bozeman in another big conference game on Thursday night.
- Helena Capital and Helena High were both unbeaten heading into their crosstown rivalry game on Friday evening. Although Bengals star Jamie Pickens was slowed down, Helena High still topped the Bruins and kept its unbeaten record intact. The Bengals maintain their No. 1 ranking, while Capital moved up from No. 3 to No. 2. The Bengals have firmly asserted themselves as the favorites for a third consecutive Class AA title.
- Butte handed previous No. 2 Billings West its first loss of the season in stunning fashion. The Bulldogs hit a game-winning shot with three seconds to play to beat the Bears and move atop the Eastern AA standings. West and Butte no doubt have circled their next meeting on Feb. 16, as it will likely decide the Eastern AA regular-season champion.
- Top-ranked Billings Central continued its stellar season with a pair of impressive wins over the weekend. The Rams first took down Lewistown at home on Friday night and followed that with a win over rival Laurel on the road on Saturday. The Rams are now 10-1 with their only loss coming to Class AA Billings Skyview. Central sits atop the Eastern A currently, but another showdown with defending champion Hardin looms on the schedule.
- Whitefish picked up a big win over Polson on Friday night to gain some separation from the Pirates in the Northwestern A. While Browning is at the top of the conference, the Bulldogs now have a two-game cushion over Polson for the conference’s No. 2 spot. After just two wins last season, Whitefish has set itself up to make a run at the Northwestern A title.
- The Columbia Falls senior class has won a trophy at each of the past three state tournaments. Browning, however, is a serious threat to the Wildkats and their run atop the Northwestern A. The Indians took down Columbia Falls in overtime at home on Thursday night and now sit atop the conference looking down on the Wildkats. Browning’s only Class A loss is to defending champion Havre.
- After a slow start to the season, the Butte Central girls have strung some impressive victories together. The Maroons used a last-second shot and defensive stand to beat Frenchtown on Friday, avenging a loss earlier in the season to the Broncs. The win also sprung the Maroons ahead of Frenchtown in the Southwestern A conference standings and into a tie with Corvallis at the top.
- Big Timber just keeps on rolling. The Herders continued their unbeaten season by dismantling defending Southern B champion Three Forks on the Wolves’ home floor, winning by 21. Big Timber is now 12-0 on the season, No. 2 in the MontanaSports.com polls and joins Colstrip as the only undefeated teams remaining in Class B. Big Timber has all but sealed the District 5B regular-season title and appears to be one of the top contenders for the Class B title.
- Shelby is certainly among the contenders for the Northern B divisional title, as the Coyotes defeated Rocky Boy for the second time this season and will have another shot at Fairfield for the District 1B regular-season title. Rocky Boy, however, will be as tough an out in the postseason as any team, as the Northern Stars have lost just once by double digits – a 14-point loss to Fairfield in mid-December.
- Harlem’s girls had an impressive weekend. First, the Wildcats beat Malta to gain even more distance in the standings from the third-place Mustangs. Then in Wolf Point on Saturday, Harlem handed the previously unbeaten Wolves their first loss of the season. Harlem has thrust itself into the conversation for the top team in the Northern B alongside Shelby and Wolf Point.
- Deer Lodge started the season with a few bumps after a fourth-place finish at the 2018 State B girls tournament. The Wardens have ripped off five consecutive wins, including a five-point win over Missoula Loyola on Friday. The win over the Breakers moves Deer Lodge just a game back in the win column of Loyola. With a pair of games remaining against conference-leading Florence, the Wardens’ conference title hopes are still alive.
- The Eastern C looks to have tremendous depth this year, and that was evident again over the weekend. Westby-Grenora handed Plentywood its second loss of the season in a three-point thriller. This has caused a logjam at the top of the District 2C standings, where Fairview, Plentywood and Westby-Grenora are tied at 3-1 in conference play, and Richey-Lambert, Culbertson and Froid-Medicine Lake sit at 2-1. That’s not to mention District 3C, where Scobey is unbeaten and Lustre Christian boasts a 10-3 overall record. The Eastern C divisional tournament is setting up to be phenomenal.
- Through the first few weeks of conference play, it looked as if Great Falls Central would trounce each opponent in its path on its way to the District 10C regular-season title. However, the Mustangs lost at Heart Butte on Friday night, allowing the Warriors back in the race. Great Falls Central still holds a game lead over Heart Butte and the two have already split their head-to-head meetings this year.
- District 8C has been brutal all year long. Winnett-Grass Range avenged an earlier loss to Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap by beating the Titans by 12 on Thursday night. However, the Rams lost the following night to district-leading Belt. The 8C has four teams with 9-3 records or better. Of those four teams and their nine losses, eight have come in conference play.
- District 2C, too, looks to have tremendous depth at the top. Froid-Medicine Lake and Savage are both 11-0 and in the top five of the initial MontanaSports.com polls, while Plentywood played in the semifinals at last year’s state tournament and returns a pair of key contributors. Plentywood, however, lost a heartbreaker to Westby-Grenora on Friday night by two. The Thunder couldn’t upset Savage on Saturday night, but Westby-Grenora has claimed a top-four spot in the district and has a shot at another statement win on Friday against Scobey, which has only lost to Class B Wolf Point.