The young Missoula Hellgate girls might have had their big breakout party on Saturday with their third-place finish in the state Class AA basketball tournament in the Butte Civic Center.
The Knights, who have six freshmen on their roster and start three of them with another freshman and a sophomore the first ones in off the bench, beat Helena Capital 51-38 to take home the trophy.
Hellgate grabbed a 15-11 lead and led almost all the way, taking a 24-17 halftimen advantage and nailing down the win with a 16-9 fourth-qaurter margin.
Bailee Sayler, a 6-foot freshman, scored 22 points — 12 in the first half and 10 in the second — to tie a career and lead the Knights to their first win in four tries against Capital this season. They also own a win against Helena High, which was going for its third straight state championship later Saturday in the title tilt versus Billings West.
Enma Blakely, one of two senior Hellgate starters, scored 10 points and keyed the clinching fourth quarter with six of her points. The other senior starter, 6-1 Kylie Lunday, had eight points and five rebounds. Sayler led the Knights on the boards with seven rebounds and also registered a block as the team wrapped up a 16-9 season.
Freshman Addy Heaphy contributed six points and good defense while also playing a good floor game for Hellgate.
Capital finished at 22-4 and was the Western AA Divisional champion, having defeated Hellgate in the divisional title game. Helena High has the year’s three other wins over the Bruins, including one in the state semifinals Friday night.
The Knights’ defense held all Capital scorers to single digits. The Bruins were led by Sydney Sheridan with nine points and Megan Lindbo with eight. Dani Bartsch, a 6-1 sophomore, pulled down nine rebounds.
— Bruce Sayler, buttesports.com