MISSOULA — Early in the fourth quarter Friday at Missoula Hellgate's gym, Missoula Sentinel's Sam Beighle could feel that his shoelace was untied.
But he also felt like he was heating up.
"I was trying to tie it but I just couldn’t get a chance and I didn’t want to bend down," the Spartan senior said. "I didn’t want to lose my touch. I get superstitious like that — I just had to get another one up."
Beighle canned a pair of long-range 3-pointers in two straight possessions despite the uneven footing, which gave the No. 1-ranked Spartans a 35-33 lead over the No. 4-ranked Knights with 6 minutes to play. They held on to win the heated crosstown matchup, 47-40.
The win completed a sweep for Sentinel as the Spartan girls used a swarming defensive effort to stymie the Knights, 59-24.
No. 1 Missoula Sentinel boys 47, No. 4 Missoula Hellgate 40
Before Beighle made you look with his shoe untied, Hellgate had a defensive scheme of its own that the Spartans had trouble figuring out in the first half.
The Knights' pressure zone defense held the Spartans to just two first-quarter points and helped Hellgate build a 20-11 halftime lead.
"It was a tale of two halves. We were very good defensively first half and second half they got rolling," Knights coach Jeff Hays said.
Hellgate's Rollie Worster had 11 points himself in the first two periods. The University of Montana basketball commit finished with a game-high 26 points overall.
The sophomore even showcased how hard-fought the game was late in the fourth quarter. With 42 seconds remaining and the Spartans leading 43-40, Worster stole the ball and tried for a layup on the other end. There was no foul on the initial play, but a swarm for the rebound sent three Knights and a Spartan sprawling to the floor.
Worster rose with blood falling from his face and he and the training staff rushed to stop the flow. A fresh jersey and all cleaned up, Worster returned to the court before play resumed.
"(Worster's) a warrior and I'll go to battle with him any time, as I will with all of our players," Hays said. "But we all have some growing up to do and we need to be able to match the intensity and desire. But again, that comes back to coaching."
When the game fired back up the Spartans provided the ice.
Spartan senior Brayden Danzinger hit a pair of free throws 20 seconds later to put Sentinel ahead 45-40 and teammate Gaige DeShazer sold out for a diving steal attempt on Hellgate's next possession.
He got the ball and drew the foul to give the Spartans their 47-40 lead.
"We can always count on him down the stretch. He’s trying to find that steal. He loves the fame," Beighle said of his good friend, DeShazer. "He’s looking for that. He’s always looking for that play and he got it again tonight."
DeShazer's steal, Danziger's free throws or Beighle's bombs weren't the only big plays in a game full of them. Sentinel freshman Hayden Kolb hit on a 3-pointer in the third period that Beighle called, "the biggest play of the game."
Kolb's first triple pulled the Spartans within five, 26-21, with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter.
"His first three was the most important three because it made the kids believe," Sentinel coach Jay Jagelski said. "All of a sudden the lid is off now. Now we can do this.
"And we just battled from then on out."
Kolb's second basket from behind the arc broke a 40-40 tie late in the fourth quarter, and it served as the game-winner.
"That takes guts to come into a game like that, sitting on the bench the whole time and to step in like that and hit a shot like that," said Beighle, who had five 3-pointers himself and a team-best 21 points. "He’s gotta be on cloud nine right now because that was an unbelievable shot."
That Spartans (7-1 overall, 2-0 in conference) are also on top of the world, too, as the No. 1 team, according to 406mtsports.com rankings, also leads early in the regular-season Western AA race.
The Knights (5-2, 1-1) looked worthy of discussion as a top team in the conference, too, making the crosstown rematch slated for Feb. 10 a hot ticket.
It was Friday, at a packed Hellgate gym, and deservedly so.
No. 2 Missoula Sentinel girls 59, Missoula Hellgate 24
Missoula Sentinel coach Karen Deden challenged her team to focus on its defensive mindset Friday night.
And it did.
"The girls stepped up and just played some great D and we created a lot of opportunites for ourselves," Deden said. "We didn't always finish them but I like the effort today. I felt like the kids were working hard and doing everything I had asked them to do."
The Spartans held Hellgate to four first-half points, and Sentinel built a 32-4 halftime lead. Jordyn Schweyen connected on four first-half 3-pointers and the Lady Griz recruit finished with a game-high 16 points.
The Knights found some shooting lanes in the fourth quarter, though, as Severine Armstrong connected on two 3-pointers. She and senior post Kylie Lunday paced Hellgate with six points apiece.
"She's not afraid to shoot, she's a good shooter, she set up and she works hard to get the ball and she finished well," Hellgate coach Rob Henthorn said. "Kylie had a lot of good looks, too, but we were going big against big."
Sentinel's (7-1, 2-0) post play was indeed tough. Kylie Frohlich and Lexi Deden each scored 11 points to join Schweyen in double figures for Spartans, who have a long hiatus until their next matchup.
Sentinel has an 11-day break without a game before traveling to take on No. 1-ranked Helena in a rematch of last year's Class AA title game.
The Knights (2-5, 1-1) take on Kalispell Glacier on the same day.