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What I’ll be watching: Conference titles to be decided on regular season’s final weekend

Posted: 4:05 PM, Feb 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-07 18:05:10-05
Ethan Bell (1) drives to the basket in a Chinook win over WGR. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

It’s the final weekend of the high school basketball regular season for all classifications other than Class AA and a handful of regular-season champions are still to be crowned.

The Central A boys and Northwestern A girls titles have come down to the final weekend. The Cut Bank girls have a big weekend ahead of them with the District 1B title on the line. Class C has another tremendous weekend on tap, with several conference championships on the line. The Fairview boys can lock up a conference title without having to play against top competition. Chinook and Plenty Coups, though, will need to win against teams hot on their tail. The Savage, Great Falls Central and Arlee girls must beat teams with 12-plus wins to claim conference titles.

Class AA

Boys

  • Missoula Sentinel faces a big-time test at home on Thursday night when the Spartans welcome in Helena Capital. Sentinel sits second in the Western AA, while Capital is fourth. In the first meeting in Helena, Sentinel escaped with a one-point win after a defensive stand in the final seconds. If Capital can knock off the Spartans, the Bruins would still be in contention for the conference’s No. 2 seed at the divisional tournament.
  • The Eastern AA has four teams within a game of first place, one being Bozeman. The Hawks visit Skyview on Thursday evening hoping to keep pace with the rest of the conference. Skyview sits 3-4 in conference play and could potentially be on watching the state tournament rather than playing. The Falcons can start their climb back into the picture with a win against the Hawks.

Girls

  • It’s a big weekend of girls basketball for Helena High. The top-ranked Bengals host No. 5 Missoula Hellgate on Thursday night and visits Missoula Sentinel on Saturday. The Bengals are the two-time defending champions and haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. If Helena is able to sweep the weekend, it would be well-positioned for a regular-season title.
  • Missoula Hellgate has quite the opportunity ahead. The Knights have been surging in the Western AA of late and have a chance to jump into the regular-season title picture. The Knights face No. 1 Helena High on Thursday and No. 2 Helena Capital on Saturday. A weekend sweep could potentially put Hellgate into second in the conference.

Class A

Boys

  • The Central A regular-season title is on the line Friday night in Lewistown. Livingston leads the conference and holds the head-to-head edge over Lewistown, but the Eagles can claim the title at home if they win by more than seven points. Seeding will be critical for both teams at the Eastern A divisional tournament. Livingston’s weekend doesn’t get any easier, as the Rangers host unbeaten Class B No. 2 Big Timber on Saturday.
  • Hamilton has clinched the Southwestern A regular-season title, but the Broncs should still have quite the test on Saturday night when they welcome in Dillon. Dillon could have been in contention for the conference title, but Hamilton took the first head-to-head meeting in Dillon by two.

Girls

  • The Northwestern A regular-season title will be up for grabs Saturday night in Columbia Falls. The Wildkats’ only loss in conference play came at Browning by three in overtime just a few weeks back. Browning, still unbeaten in conference play, can wrap up the conference with another victory against Columbia Falls, but the Wildkats will hope home-court advantage propels them to the regular-season championship. Browning’s huge weekend of games gets started Thursday night when the Indians host unbeaten No. 1 Havre.
  • The Southwestern A title, too, is on the line this weekend. Corvallis leads the conference over Butte Central by a game, but the Maroons own the head-to-head advantage and can claim the regular-season crown with a win on Saturday in Corvallis. However, the conference has been fairly unpredictable throughout the season, so matchups at the district tournament could be more important than seeding.

Class B

Boys

  • Two of Class B’s best teams meet Friday night in a non-conference bout, when No. 4 Deer Lodge hosts Three Forks. Both teams have racked up 12-plus wins this season. Although there are no postseason implications, this should be a great matchup between one of the Southern B’s best in Three Forks and one of the Western B’s best in the Wardens.
  • Rocky Boy visits Choteau on Thursday, and that game does have postseason implications. Choteau is still in contention for the No. 2 seed at the District 1B tournament, while Rocky Boy is battling the Bulldogs for the No. 3 seed. Choteau must win out this weekend to have a shot at surpassing Shelby, while Rocky Boy needs the same to move above Choteau.

Girls

  • Huntley Project can wrap up the District 4B regular-season title on Thursday night at home, as the Red Devils host 2-15 Shepherd. The Red Devils’ wins over Roundup and Columbus in the season’s final weeks propelled them to the top of the standings.
  • Shelby sits atop the District 1B standings entering the season’s final weekend, but its Cut Bank that controls its postseason outlook. Cut Bank beat Shelby in both meetings this season. The Wolves host Rocky Boy and Choteau this weekend, and a pair of wins would result in the regular-season title. However, Rocky Boy won at Cut Bank on Jan. 11, and Choteau lost by just one to the wolves on Jan. 10.

Class C

Boys

  • If Fairview can take care of business at it has in recent weeks, the Warriors will claim the District 2C regular-season title. The conference has been wild all season long, as six of the 10 teams are above .500 in conference play. Fairview plays Brockton and Bainville this weekend, who are both 2-14 on the season. The Warriors have won eight consecutive games since their Jan. 11 loss at Froid-Medicine Lake in overtime.
  • Plenty Coups and Park City are tied for first in District 6C entering the final weekend, but the Warriors can take home the regular-season title with a pair of wins. It won’t be easy, though, as Plenty Coups hosts third-place Bridger on Friday night. The Scouts can’t win the conference title, but they can spoil Plenty Coups’ hopes.
  • No. 5 Chinook has the District 9C regular-season title in its sights, but the Sugarbeeters will need to beat Fort Benton for the second time this year to accomplish that. The Longhorns are 15-1, lost by just two at Chinook on Jan. 12 and can claim the regular-season title, too, with a win. In the always-competitive Northern C, winning the district tournament next weekend will be of even greater importance.

Girls

  • Two of Class C’s top five teams are set to face off on Saturday night, as No. 2 Savage visits No. 5 Froid-Medicine Lake. Last season, Savage won the district tournament before seeing District 2C foes Plentywood and Froid-Medicine Lake advance to the state tournament. The Warriors have been playing like a team on a mission behind new head coach Bill Triplett and can wrap up the regular-season title with a win against the Redhawks. Savage hosts Plentywood on Friday night, setting up a potential weekend of revenge for the Warriors.
  • The District 14C regular-season title will be decided on Thursday night in Arlee, as the first-place Scarlets host second-place Charlo. Arlee got the better of the Vikings in the first matchup, winning at Charlo by 12. The Scarlets and Vikings have far and away been the best two teams in the conference all season, so another meeting is likely on tap in next weekend’s district championship.
  • There’s some very good teams in the Northern C that we’ve talked about all season – Belt, Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap, Box Elder, Fort Benton. Great Falls Central and Simms, though, are both 14-2 in District 10C. The Mustangs meet Friday night for the regular-season conference title. Power, though, could throw a wrench in the postseason picture if Simms is to lose to Great Falls Central on Friday and the Pirates take down Simms at home on Saturday.