BILLINGS — State championships are nothing new to Havre’s girls, but divisional titles had eluded the Blue Ponies. Until Saturday.
Havre stormed past Hardin 69-50 at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark to claim the Eastern A crown, the program’s first since 2018. The Blue Ponies had lost the previous two Eastern A championship games to Billings Central before winning state each time against the Rams.
There wasn’t much drama in either of Saturday's title games. Lewistown blew past Glendive 66-40 to capture its second consecutive division tournament championship. The Eagles head to state riding high with a 21-0 record looking to make amends for last year’s heartbreak in the title game against Butte Central.
The Class A state tournament begins March 9 in Bozeman.
Havre girls 69, Hardin 50
State titles are the standard at Havre, and the Blue Ponies have won a bunch; four of the past five in Class A, to be precise, including each of the past two.
Havre looked the part of a champion all weekend, but Saturday’s win over Hardin added a trophy that had been missing for five years.
“We wanted this,” said senior post Yelena Miller, who finished with 16 points and is back in full-force after an early season injury. “We hadn’t gotten one in a long time, so we wanted to get this one.”
That was evident from the start, as a 9-0 run had the Blue Ponies up 13-4 in the first quarter and they never gave up ground. A 3-pointer by Amaya Jarvis gave Havre a 31-12 lead with two minutes remaining in the first half.
Hardin tried to press Havre, but that only led to transition points the other way. Defensively, the Blue Ponies man-to-man defense helped limit the Bulldogs to just six field goals in the first half.
Jarvis and fellow freshmen Ariana Gary and Sierra Parker combined for 30 points for the Blue Ponies, who have now won 12 consecutive games as they chase a third straight state title.
“I think we’re going to make a big impact on the state tournament,” Miller said. “We’ll just keep going and play our game.”
Hardin, which is also headed back to state, was led by Aiyanna Big Man’s 11 points and Dierra Takes Enemy’s 10.
Earlier Saturday, Billings Central’s girls defeated rival Laurel 68-43 to earn third place and an official berth to state. As the No. 4 seed from the East, the Locomotives will have a play-in game next week against the West’s No. 5, Columbia Falls.
Lewistown boys 66, Glendive 40
Lewistown’s Royce Robinson said “it was like something out of a movie” when Butte Central’s Dougie Peoples hit a game-winning 3 to beat the Eagles at the buzzer of last year’s state championship game in Missoula.
“It was pretty hard for all of us to take in right at that moment,” Robinson recalled. “It was like, ‘What are we supposed to do here?’ It’s definitely been on our minds.”
That’s why there wasn’t a big celebration when Lewistown won the Eastern A title on Saturday in convincing fashion over Glendive. There are bigger goals ahead for the Eagles.
They’ll head into state on a roll with an undefeated record, and with their best players doing what they do best. Scoring phenom Fischer Brown — despite injuring his left ankle in the third quarter — finished with 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting while Robinson had 17 points and nine rebounds.
A Brody Jenness 3 at the five-minute mark of the second quarter put the Eagles ahead 28-8 and the game remained out of reach for Glendive, which still earned a trip to state for the second consecutive season.
Michael Murphy had 14 points and five rebounds to lead the Red Devils. Levi Eaton had 10 points and Chase Crockett added nine points and five boards.
Lewistown’s Robinson said his team is prepared for the next step.
“We’re ready to go two weeks from now to accomplish the No. 1 goal we have, to win a state championship,” Robinson said. “It’s a great accomplishment to be divisional champs, but it won’t mean anything if we’re not champs in two weeks.”
Billings Central claimed the third-place trophy earlier Saturday with a 55-48 win over Havre, and with it an official state tourney berth. Havre has a play-in game next week versus Columbia Falls to qualify for the field of eight in Bozeman.