Sentinel girls step closer to 4th straight AA title

Three-time defending champion Missoula Sentinel fought back a good challenge from Billings Senior and registered a 50-44 first-round victory Thursday in the state Class AA high school girls’ basketball tournament at the Butte Civic Center.
Other first-round action saw wins by Bozeman, 52-47 over Missoula Big Sky in overtime, Billings West, 53-47 over Kalispell Glacier, and by Helena Capital, 44-30 over C.M. Russell of Great Falls.
Friday’s games show Senior (13-9) playing Big Sky (14-8) at noon, and Glacier (17-5) taking on Great Falls CMR (9-13) at 1:30 in loser-out games. Then, Sentinel (19-3) plays Bozeman (16-5) at 6:30 and Billings West (12-10) meets Capital (19-2) at 8 in semifinals.
Following are game capsules from the contests played Thursday:

Missoula Sentinel 50, Billings Senior 44
Shannon Worster sank 24 points as three-time defending champion Missoula Sentinel came out on top of a defensive tussle with Billings Senior in the first game Thursday of the state Class AA high school girls’ basketball tournament at the Butte Civic Center.
Sentinel started slow as the Broncs galloped ahead 12-6 and kept a 24-16 advantage at halftime. However, the Spartans honed in for 21 points in the third stanza and led 37-34 going into the last frame.
Sentinel was then able to expand its lead. Haley Rogers was next-high scorer for the Spartans with nine points. Sentinel improved to 20-3 for the season. The Spartans are the top seed from the Western Conference. They will play in Friday’s semifinals against Bozeman at 6:30.
Jordyn Wagner scored 14 points and Taylor Mims 10 for the Boncs, who are 13-10 going into Friday loser-out play. They will play Missoula Big Sky at noon.

Bozeman 52, Missoula Big Sky 47
Emerald Toth downed two free throws with 4.6 seconds on the clock as Bozeman nudged upset-minded Missoula Big Sky in overtime during Thursday’s first round of the state Class AA high school girls’ basketball tournament in the Butte Civic Center.
The teams entered the OT tied at 44-all after Caitlin Lonergan of Bozeman stuck home a rebound basket with 1.6 seconds left on the fourth-quarter clock. It salvaged the overtime chance for the Hawks.
Bozeman used free throws to gain a quick 48-45 advantage in the extra frame before McKenna Arledge sank a pair of freebies for Big Sky to draw her team to within a point. However, Bozeman effectively controlled its possessions, though had trouble from the foul line in the waning seconds until Toth came through for the Hawks at the end.
Lonergan and Bailey O’Leary scored 13 points each to lead the win. The 6-foot-1 Toth gathered in a game-high 16 rebounds. The Hawks took a 45-31 rebounds command. Bozeman will take a 16-5 record into the Friday 6:30 p.m. semifinal against defending champion Missoula Sentinel.
Madisyn Shaide of Big Sky took game-scoring honors with 19 points. Arledge hooped 17. The Eagles are 14-8 for the season and will play Billings Senior on Friday at noon in a loser-out tilt.

Billings West 53, Kalispell Glacier 47
Nevada recruit and Blackfoot, Idaho, senior transfer MorningRose Tobey scored a game-high 18 points and led Billings West back from trailing at halftime.
Glacier was up by 29-21 at halftime as the taller Wolfpack scored well on second-chance putbacks and inside play. Six-foot-one Brielle Bumgarner, 6-1 Katie Wiley and 6-0 Nikki Krueger each tallied six points before the end of the half.
Tobey netted 13 of her points after intermission as the Golden Bears clawed back. They had started to gain the momentum against the Wolfpack toward the end of the first half.
Brianna Shirley, a 5-10 sophomore, battled inside for West and scored nine of her 11 points prior to intermission. Cody Rogers also scored 11 points in the win.
Glacier was led by 6-0 Tessa Krueger with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Helena Capital 44, Great Falls CMR 30
Capital was in control throughout as the Bruins held Russell to nine first-half points and single digits in three of the quarters.
Capital led 21-9 at halftime before the Rustlers rallied some in the third before the Bruins regained control for the final run.
McKenzie Johnston scored 18 points to lead Capital. Tjaden Pallister helped with seven points and a game-high eight rebounds as the Bruins had the advantage on the boards, 35 rebounds to 29.
Taylor Edwards of CMR had 18 points.