The 2021 Montana high school basketball season is cruising along, as teams are already about halfway through their regular-season schedules.
To that end, races for the top spots in conferences across the state are heating up. Some teams are starting to separate, while others -- like the Great Falls High, Billings Skyview and Bozeman High boys -- are starting to logjam. In fact, there's plenty of intrigue in the Eastern AA for both the boys and girls after a some key performances last week.
We're starting to get some clarity on the Class A courts, as the Havre boys and Columbia Falls girls notched solid wins last week. Miles City's boys also had one of the eye-opening wins of the week.
In Class B, Damon Gros Ventre of Lodge Grass had the performance of the season so far, while the St. Ignatius boys and Whitehall girls got statement wins. Both teams have seemingly settled in as the season has progressed and look like contenders in their respective divisions.
The Eastern C is likely going to produce intrigue the rest of the season. There are some solid teams, both boys and girls, in Districts 2C and 3C, and those teams are doing a great job of finding non-conference games when COVID cancellations affect their regular schedules. Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale's girls had an impressive weekend to get to 8-0 on the season, while Scobey's boys also won a heavyweight fight against Froid-Medicine Lake.
That and more caught our eyes last weekend.
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- The top of the Eastern AA is probably going to be a dogfight the rest of the regular season, as Great Falls High, Billings Skyview and Bozeman High all sit 4-1 at the moment. The Hawks helped create the logjam on Saturday by getting a huge 76-73 win over the previously unbeaten Bison. It was a nice bounce-back week for Bozeman, which also defeated Great Falls CMR on Thursday, after the Hawks’ late loss to crosstown rival Bozeman Gallatin on Jan. 14.
- Speaking of crosstown, Billings Senior football standouts Jacksen Burckley and Junior Bergen are doing it on the hardwood for the Broncs, too. The duo combined for 43 points to help Senior to a 53-48 win over Billings West on Thursday, vaulting the Broncs into fourth in the Eastern AA standings.
- Miles City came up with one of the surprising results of the week when it traveled to reigning co-champion Hardin and came away with a 67-66 double-overtime win on Thursday. It was the Cowboys’ third consecutive win before they came back to earth with a 67-52 loss to Billings Central the next night.
- Havre has seized control of the Northeast A and is 5-2 overall (with the losses coming to Hardin and Browning by a combined six points) after dispatching Glendive 56-47 on Friday and Sidney 72-32 on Saturday. The Blue Ponies are 5-0 in conference play and they’re now two games clear of Lewistown, Glendive and Miles City, all of which are 2-2.
- The highlight of the week came on Thursday when Lodge Grass sensation Damon Gros Ventre poured in 57 points in the Indians’ 105-63 win at Joliet. Gros Ventre made 14 2-point field goals, eight 3s and five free throws for the outrageous total. Malachi Little Nest added 22 points for Lodge Grass, which is 5-2 overall and 3-1 in District 3B after retroactively forfeiting its season-opening game against Colstrip.
- St. Ignatius has now rattled off five consecutive wins, including a 58-49 victory over previously unbeaten Thompson Falls on Thursday. The Bulldogs are 6-2 overall and 3-1 in District 7B to keep pace with the Bluehawks, who are now 6-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play. Thompson Falls won the teams’ first meeting 59-57 back on Jan. 8.
- Scobey and Froid-Medicine Lake, two of the top teams in the Eastern C, added a head-to-head matchup last week after both teams saw their schedules affected by COVID cancellations. They didn’t disappoint, either, with reigning co-state champion Scobey earning a 57-54 win to improve to 9-0 on the season. Froid-Medicine Lake is 7-1 overall, and both teams are vying for the top spot in their respective conferences.
- What a week for Belt, which just keeps churning out competitive teams year in and year out. The Huskies cruised past District 8C foe Roy-Winifred 59-39 on Thursday and then edged Class B Fairfield 41-40 on Saturday. While punching up a weight class is always a good measure of team strength, the win over Roy-Winifred, which sits second in District 8C, will serve Belt well down the stretch.
- Fort Benton and Chinook are the top two teams in District 9C, and the Sugarbeeters looked well on their way to taking control of the conference on Saturday. But Fort Benton rallied with an incredible 25-4 advantage in the fourth quarter to pull out a stunning 57-55 win. The Longhorns are now 8-1 overall and 7-0 in District 9C, while Chinook is 7-1 overall and 6-1 in District 9C.
- Billings Skyview picked up a nice crosstown win over Billings Senior, 54-43, on Friday. The Falcons return a wealth of experience from last year's team and figure to be in the mix in the upper half of the Eastern AA standings all season. They played both Billings West and Bozeman High tough in close losses earlier this month.
- Bozeman High has quietly put together four consecutive wins since starting the season with a lopsided loss to Billings West. The Hawks defeated the Great Falls schools last week, getting an important 57-46 win over Great Falls High on Saturday. Both the Hawks and Bison are now 4-1 on the season, tied for second behind unbeaten West in the Eastern AA standings.
- Frenchtown handed Butte Central its first loss of the season on Friday, as the Broncs earned a 40-32 win over the Maroons. Frenchtown is just 3-3 on the season but is 2-0 in the Southwest A, tied with Hamilton at the top of the league standings. Butte Central is 4-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
- Columbia Falls ran its record to 8-0, capping off last week's slate of games with a 48-37 win over Hamilton in a matchup between two of the Western A's top teams. The Wildkats are one of only three unbeaten Class A teams remaining, joining Billings Central (8-0) and Hardin (6-0).
- After an up-and-down start to the season, Whitehall has won its past three games, including a 64-54 win over Anaconda on Saturday. Jada Clarkson pumped in 34 points and Brynna Wolfe added 17 as the Trojans handed the Copperheads their first loss of the season.
- Great Falls Central also suffered its first loss of 2021 this week, as the Mustangs fell 51-28 to Choteau on Friday. Choteau and Great Falls Central are both looking up at Fairfield in the District 1B standings, but Friday's win will help the Bulldogs in their attempt to secure one of the top two seeds for the district tournament next month.
- Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale has certainly earned its 8-0 record. The Mavericks got in games against Melstone, the No. 1 team in District 4C, and Malta, the No. 1 team in District 2B, last week and came away with two resume-building wins. Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale defeated Melstone 56-53 in double overtime on Thursday and Malta 50-46 on Saturday. Melstone, meanwhile, bounced back for an important 43-34 District 4C win over Ekalaka on Saturday.
- The Eastern C appears to be loaded with high-level teams, and two more of them -- Scobey and Froid-Medicine Lake -- met in a non-conference game on Thursday. Scobey pulled away for a 42-28 win to improve to 8-1 on the season. Froid-Medicine Lake is now 6-2 overall but is still tied with Plentywood at the top of the District 2C standings at 4-0 in conference play.
- Belt, again, looks like one of the top teams in Class C. The Huskies notched two big wins last week, defeating Roy-Winifred 43-35 on Friday and Fairfield 34-33 on Saturday. Belt and Roy-Winifred shared the Class C state championship last year, and both teams are solid again this season. The Outlaws are 7-2 overall and 6-1 in District 8C, while Belt is 6-1 overall and 5-1 in District 8C.