KALISPELL — Missoula Hellgate created a lot of buzz with its upset-minded run through the Western AA girls basketball divisional tournament, but Helena Capital came away with the top prize. The No. 2-seed Bruins held off the No. 4-seed Knights in the championship, 43-35, Saturday.
Hellgate shocked top-ranked Helena High on Friday, and the young Knights stuck right with the much taller and more experienced Bruins for much of the title clash. Hellgate led 13-12 after one quarter and 20-19 at halftime. Capital took control in the second half, building an 11-point lead by the final three minutes of the game.
Capital beat Hellgate for a third time this season with a strong defensive effort. The Knights shot only 29 percent from the field. Capital made 42 percent of its shots. Dani Bartsch led the way with 15 points and nine rebounds for Capital. Sydney Sheridan scored 13. Hellgate senior Emma Blakely was the only Knight in double figures with 10 points.
Capital now takes the Western AA’s top seed into the State AA girls tournament in Butte next week. Hellgate is the second seed, and they’ll both be joined by Helena High and Kalispell Glacier.
Top-seeded Helena bounced back from its loss to Hellgate by crushing Kalispell Flathead on Saturday morning, 63-34. Helena star Jamie Pickens had 33 points and 13 rebounds in the win, becoming the Bengals’ all-time leading scorer.
Also on Saturday morning, Glacier shut down Missoula Sentinel, 39-26, to clinch its spot at state. Ellie Keller led the way with 14 points and five assists.
Helena and Glacier then met Saturday afternoon to battle for third and fourth place. Glacier led for a chunk of the first half, only trailing Helena 20-19 at halftime. But the Bengals built the lead up to as many as 10 points early in the fourth quarter and beat the Wolfpack, 47-40. Pickens had another big game with 19 points.