GREAT FALLS — For Box Elder fans, it feels like deja vu at the Class C girls basketball state tournament.
Like last year, the Bears entered as the No. 2 seed out of the Northern C division. And just like last year, the Bears will be playing for the state title.
Box Elder built a double-digit lead against Savage in a Friday semifinal game at Pacific Steel & Recycling Four Seasons Arena and then held off the Warriors for a 59-51 win.
“It feels really great and amazing. This is what we planned for, so it’s really exciting to know that we’re back here,” said Box Elder junior Joelnell Momberg, who poured in a game-high 25 points Friday.
Momberg got the Bears started early, scoring 16 points in the first half as Box Elder built a 31-20 lead at the break. The teams traded buckets in the early going of the first quarter, but Box Elder closed the first quarter in a flurry to build a 10-point lead they would never relinquish.
The Bears turned the table on a Savage team that prided itself on its defense. Box Elder pushed the tempo and forced the Warriors into 14 first-half turnovers that resulted in 14 Box Elder points.
“By getting more rebounds, that’s more possessions for us,” Momberg said. “Up-and-down pace, we’ve got to finish layups, and I think we did that.”
“In the locker room, we talked about, ‘We’ve got to keep pushing. We can’t let them come back,’” added Kyla Momberg, Joelnell’s freshman sister. “We just had to keep bringing it to them, make smart decisions.”
Box Elder continued to pour it on in the second half, growing the lead to as many as 18 points multiple times.
But each time the Bears ballooned the lead, Savage seemingly had an answer. The Warriors continued to fight back, getting with 11 points multiple times in the third and fourth quarters behind another strong performance from Haylie Conradsen. The junior paced Savage with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Soda Rice added 14, and Kiana Miller flirted with a triple-double, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Savage couldn’t get Box Elder’s lead to single digits until late in the fourth quarter. With less than a minute to play, the Warriors got within six, but Box Elder iced the game with detailed execution on offense and solid free throw shooting.
“We just wanted to come in and we knew what to do. We’ve been watching video, had our stat papers, we’ve been reading them. We were ready for this,” said Kyla Momberg, who scored eight points off the bench. “We knew what we were coming in for.”
Savage (24-2) falls to loser-out play and will play Wibaux at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Box Elder (24-2), meanwhile, is back in the state championship after cutting down the nets last winter.
Like last winter when the Bears beat Winnett-Grass Range for the state title after losing in the Northern C championship, they’ll get a shot at revenge on Saturday. They lost to Roy-Winifred in last week’s divisional championship, and they’ll meet the Outlaws at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“Last year I was just the cameraman at state, I was just watching,” Kyla Momberg said. “This is my first time, and it’s pretty awesome to go back with them. … It’s pretty cool. I’ve always dreamed of this since I was younger.”
Roy-Winifred 60, Scobey 50
Two weeks ago, Roy-Winifred was entering the District 8C girls basketball tournament as the conference’s No. 4 seed.
On Saturday, the Outlaws will be playing for the state championship, seeking the first title for either school since 1996. Roy-Winifred defeated Scobey, 60-50, in a high-intensity, back-and-forth semifinal game at the Class C girls basketball state tournament at Pacific Steel & Recycling Four Seasons Arena Thursday.
“We’re so excited,” said Roy-Winifred junior Dyauni Boyce. “We’re such a young team, and to … be fourth in districts and then come out and be in the state championships, it’s good.”
The Outlaws, who don’t have a single senior on the roster, have gotten here largely on the legs of their inside tandem of Boyce and freshman Madeline Heggem. To be sure, that duo contributed again Friday, combining for 27 points,18 rebounds and five assists.
It was Boyce who gave Roy-Winifred the momentum going into halftime. Scobey had just taken a 23-21 lead late in the second quarter on the strength of four 3-pointers, including two from Gracee Lekvold, who had 10 first-half points. But Boyce banked in her own running 3-pointer from 25-plus feet at the buzzer. That shot — which Boyce said was “definitely luck” — gave the Outlaws a 24-23 halftime lead.
“That was amazing for her to be able to come in and hit the shot,” Heggem said. “It pumped us up and we just came out ready to win.”
The Outlaws took that momentum into the third quarter and seized control of the game. They outscored the Spartans 19-11 in the third frame and built multiple 10-point leads in the second half.
Every time Roy-Winifred looked like it was in position to pull away, though, Scobey had an answer — often from Lekvold or Kortney Nelson. They each finished with 18 points in the game, combining to make 5 of 8 3-point attempts.
“It’s so frustrating, but, I mean, that’s part of the game. It happens,” Heggem said of Scobey’s persistence. “You’ve just got to keep that intensity the entire game and just keep rolling.”
Scobey got within five late in the fourth quarter, but Roy-Winifred was able to shut the door at the free throw line. The Outlaws made 17 of 24 free throws as a team, including a 13-for-18 mark in the second half.
Olivia Geer had a big game for the Outlaws, scoring a game-high 22 points on just 11 field goal attempts. She was 2 of 5 from 3-point range and 4 of 8 from the foul line.
“When they take us away, for her to step up and drain the 3s and take it in and get the layups, that’s awesome,” Boyce said of Geer’s big scoring night.
With Friday’s win, Roy-Winifred (20-5) advanced to Saturday’s state championship game, which is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. The Roy-Winifred co-op has never played for a championship, and neither school has won a title since Winifred claimed three from 1993-96.
Scobey (22-2) falls to loser-out play and will meet Ekalaka at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.