An all-Billings final is in store for fans at the state Class AA high school boys’ basketball tournament being played in the Butte Civic Center.
Billings Skyview and Billings West, the top two seeds from the Eastern Conference, are to meet at 6:30 p.m. to decide the crown. Both take 19-3 records into the rivalry championship clash.
Skyview reached with a 53-39 semifinal-round win over Helena Capital on Friday, just before West denied Great Falls High, 74-68. The tournament loser-out games on Friday saw Missoula Hellgate mash Missoula Big Sky 75-37 and Bozeman top Missoula Sentinel 52-39.
Saturday’s schedule will begin with two 9 a.m. loser-out games, Bozeman (16-7) against Great Falls High (15-8) in the Civic Center, and Helena Capital (17-6) against Hellgate (20-2) in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School.
The loser-out winners are to play at 3:30 p.m. in the Civic Center before the 6:30 Skyview-West championship game.
Capsules of Friday’s games follow:
Billings Skyview 53, Helena Capital 39
Skyview’s high-wire act was too much speed and athleticism for Capital to deal with in the first semifinal of the state AA boys’ basketball tournament.
The Falcons performed with a net, too. Well, two of them – one on each end of the court. Superb athletes Ray Quan-Evans, Trevon Strong and Kendal Maier kept attacking from the freewheeling zones while post players Nolan McHugh and Jameson Willems cleaned up on the inside for Skyview, which managed to keep pulling away as the Bruins grew weary.
Capital led early and used two strongboy baskets by powerful 6-foot-4 senior post Sam Bryggman to score four straight points for a 13-9 edge.
It was the last time the Bruins saw the lead.
Brandon Acheson zeroed on from 3-point range for the Falcons and the first period ended with the Bruins barely ahead, 13-12.
Logan Nelson scored on a tip and then the 6-4 Manuel performed a steal and layup, then drove for another hoop as Skyview opened an 18-13 command. The halftime difference was 25-19 as the Falcons benefitted from a long possession just before intermission. Strong was fouled on a drive to the basket, then was pushed after the shot. He was awarded two shots for being fouled on the shooting attempt, then another two because of the push. He sank three of the four. Skyview maintained possession on the intentional foul call, and used it to send Manuel back to the hoop on another scoring drive.
The Falcons stretched the lead just after haltime with a Willems tip and a Manuel fast-break basket off an Evans steal. It was a 10-point bulge, but Capital battled back. The Bruins cut the deficit in half and trailed 38-32 going into the last frame.
Sean Mulcahy and Keegan Syvrud led Capital’s comeback.
Skyview then clicked off the next 10 points of the game and clinched a spot in the Saturday night championship game. Evans and Strong combined for all 10 with dazzling ball-handling and athleticism.
Manuel finished with 17 points and Strong, the future Montana State football player, with 15 to lead the win. Evans had eight points and Montana Tech recruit Nolan McHugh totaled five points, eight rebounds, a block and an assist. The Falcons are 19-3 heading into the championship game.
Mulcahy led Capital with 13 points and Bryggman was next-high with eight. The Bruins go into Saturday loser-out play with a 17-6 mark.
Billings West 74, Great Falls High 68
Point guard Trevor Spoka triggered a closing run for Billings West that sent the Golden Bears past Great Falls High and into the all-Billings championship game set for Saturday night in the state Class AA high school boys’ basketball game.
West took a 49-48 edge into the final period and, after a trade of two points, made it a seven-point game on back-to-back 3-point goals by Spoja and Braydon Deming.
The Bison came back with an 8-3 run to narrow the gap to 60-58 with 3 minutes, 14 seconds left. Brendan Howard sank four straight free throws after Montana Tech recruit Lukas Vining drilled a 3-pointer in the Bison run.
Kameron Rauch netted a free throw and then Spoja bombed in a 3-pointer, then followed it with a basket off a steal-and-pass by 6-foot-8 Rocky Mountain signee Danny Betcher. The spree gave the Golden Bears a 66-58 command with 2:14 on the clock.
The Bison were forced to shoot 3s and foul, hoping for slowing the clock and gaining possession. Spoja meshed four free throws and Rauch and Deming each caged one as West fought off a pair of treys by Daniel Silverstein and one by Vining to maintain the advantage.
Silverstein’s second 3-ball, at the 18-second mark, cut the margin to four points, but Betcher tallied a fast- break layup and the win and title berth were in the bag for West.
Spoja and Rauch ended up with 17 points each to pace the Golden Bears’ production. Betcher and twin brothers Braydon and Bryson Deming each put in nine for the West attack. A balanced rebounding effort gave the Golden Bears a 31-23 advantage on the boards. Montana Grizzly signee Jared Samuelson led with six.
Great Falls leaders included Howard, a 6-4 sophomore, with 24 points and nine rebounds, Jake Wetzel with 13 points and Vining with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Bison led 15-8 five minutes into the game as Howard tallied six points to lead the surge. West, though, caught up by the first-quarter buzzer, 17-all, as Bryson Deming nailed a 3-pointer and Betcher finished off a fast break and a five-point run.
Neither team backed off in the second frame and the half closed with West holding a 33-32 edge following a medium-range Spoja jumper.
The Eastern Conference rivals traded runs through the third quarter, which ended with West again up by a point, 49-48, on a Rauch free throw he made after the buzzer due to being fouled on a 3-point attempt as the horn sounded.
West will take a 20-3 record intothe title tilt versus rival Skyview. Great Falls is 15-8 going into loser-out play Saturday morning.
Bozeman 52, Missoula Sentinel 39
Adam Huse scored 16 points and Aaron Weidenaar 10 as Bozeman bounced Missoula Sentinel in loser-out play. The Hawks grabbed a 13-9 edge by the end of the first quarter and led 32-22 at halftime.
Trace Bradshaw pulled down 11 rebounds for Bozeman to lead all boardmen.
Zaccheus Darko-Kelly tallied 15 points to pace Sentinel, which finished with a 10-13 record. Bozeman goes into Saturday’s loser-out round with a 16-7 overall mark.
Missoula Hellgate 75, Missoula Big Sky 37
Hellgate took out Thursday’s disappointment from a loss to Great Falls High on in-Missoula rival Big Sky and sent the Eagles packing for home.
The Knights romped to advantages of 21-9 after one quarter and 53-19 at haltime on the way to the rout. Oregon State signee Tres Tinkle poured in 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the win.
Next-highest on the team was Rhett Baerlocher with nine points. The Knights will go into the Saturday loser-out round with a 20-2 overall ledger.
Big Sky ended its season with a 10-13 record. The Eagles were led in their finale by Colin Bingham with 12 points and seven rebounds.