BILLINGS – Chloe Paharik picked a good time to make her only shot of the night.
The Billings Central senior hit a game-winning 3-pointer with three seconds left in overtime Friday night to beat rival Laurel in the Eastern A girls basketball divisional semifinals and send the Rams to the State A tournament for the first time since 2016.
Maeson Cotter tied the game at 40-40 with a driving layup with 35 seconds left. The Locomotives then almost got a steal on Central’s ensuing possession, but the tipped pass went to Tess Hansen who threw a cross-court skip pass to Paharik. The senior got the shot off over an on-rushing Aspen Cotter and hit nothing but net.
It was Paharik’s only made field goal. She finished with six points on 1-of-3 shooting from the floor.
Laurel led by as many as 11 in the first half after jumping out to a 15-4 lead. The Locos led 21-16 at the half, but Central pulled within one early in the third. The spread never reached more than three in the fourth quarter.
Central had multiple chances to win the game in regulation. Olivia Moten-Schell missed a free throw with 8.1 seconds left and the game tied at 36-36. Central retained possession on a jump ball, but Tess Hansen missed an ensuing 3-point attempt to send the game to overtime.
Melissa Hanser led the Rams with 12 points. Moten-Schell and Isabelle Erickson added 10 each. Aspen Cotten led the Locos with 14, while Maeson scored 10.
Havre and Hardin set a loud tone for the semis in the first game.
The Blue Ponies jumped out to a 17-point first-half lead thanks to a swarming defense before Hardin rallied to tie the game early in the third quarter, only to watch Havre hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to seal a 60-48 win and berth in the State A girls tournament.
Havre didn’t give up a field goal until the 5:45 mark of the second quarter as the Blue Ponies ran out to a 22-5 lead. Hardin then raised its intensity level, finishing the half on a 17-7 run to get within 29-22 at the break.
The run continued out of halftime, as Hardin scored the first seven points of the third quarter to tie the game at 29. But every time it looked like the Bulldogs were going to take the lead, Havre responded.
The Blue Ponies took a 41-35 lead into the fourth. Hardin pulled within one multiple times, before Kyndall Keller and Sadie Filius hit back-to-back 3s with just less than 5:00 to play to put Havre up five. The Blue Ponies hit free throws down the stretch to pull away.
Keller led all scorers with 23, including 16 in the first half. Filius was the only other Havre player in double figures with 11.
Marie Five and Kamber Good Luck each scored 18 for Hardin, but the Bulldogs shot just 3 of 19 from the 3-point line.
Havre and Central will meet for the Eastern A championship Saturday night at 6 p.m. Hardin and Laurel will need to win loser-out games Saturday morning to advance to the state tournament.