By Derek Hendrickson
GREAT FALLS — The Laurel Locomotives shook off last night’s disappointing semifinal loss by jumping all over the Polson Pirates, building a quick 17-2 lead in route to a 58-27 win in the consolation semifinal at the Four Seasons Arena Saturday morning.
The big lead allowed Laurel to freely substitute as they prepare for the consolation final tonight at 6:30 against the winner of the Belgrade vs. Havre game.
The Locomotives got some revenge against the Northwestern Division and will play for a trophy this evening, just not the one they came for.
Butte Central Head Coach Brodie Kelly has talked in the past about the difficulty of bouncing back after a semifinal loss that essentially ends the goal that teams set out to achieve at the beginning of the season.
Perennial power Laurel fully expects to play on Saturday night at the State Tournament and was able to get past any negative emotions they felt after stumbling against Columbia Falls to help them make it to the second to last game of the Class A season.
Laurel senior star Evan Jones showed the state what it missed out on last night when he was sidelined with foul trouble in the first half. Today he lit up the scoreboard for 17 first half points, 10 of which came in the first.
The Locomotives took the opening tip and got an inside basket from Zac Allen. After a stop they set up a similar play with the exact same result to quickly go up 4-0.
Then Jones took over. He got inside for a bunny of his own, then hit a 3, made a nice move finished with a mid-range bank shot and finished his personal run with a deep, heat check 3-pointer from well beyond the NBA line marked on the court.
Fellow senior Taylor Maida hit a 3 shortly after and it was 17-2 Locomotives.
Much like Laurel reverted to their best form, Polson showed some of their midseason woes that resulted in several lopsided losses. Their lone bright spot was Andrew Curley hitting on 2 of 4 three point attempts to account for half of the Pirates points in the 32-12 first half.
Polson couldn’t cut into the lead in the third quarter despite Cedrick Smith’s six points. Laurel played backups for the majority of the frame and still won the frame 14-7.
The Locomotives briefly brought out the starting lineup for the fourth . The main purpose seemed to be to ensure no rally would begin, but the Pirates could not reproduce their three point shooting that got them to this point.
Jones used his time in the final quarter to get over the 20 point mark, putting up five points and giving him 24 for the game. At the time he was subbed out for good the Pirates only had 21 as a team.
With 3:08 to go in the game Polson head coach Brad Pluff took out his two seniors, Smith and Andrew Weltz, who got a big ovation from the Pirate faithful in attendance. That resulted in a final few minutes of what could be a preview of future state tournaments as both teams got to showcase their young talent.
Curley, Smith and Weltz were the only three players who scored prior to garbage time for Polson, finishing with eight, seven and six points respectively.
The Locomotives forced 21 Pirate turnovers and the 12 Laurel steals were a big factor in building the early lead. Jones was joined in double figures by 6-foot-7 post Quinton Holmlund, who had 10.