HELENA —The Missoula Sentinel boys' basketball team was on the ropes Friday night, but hit clutch shots in the final few minutes to win in the semifinals of the Western AA Divisional tournament.
The top-seeded Spartans defeated fourth-seeded Glacier 46-42 at Helena High after trailing most of the game.
Sentinel moved on to the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday here against Hellgate. The Knights knocked off Helena High 58-32 in Friday's other semifinal.
"I thought Glacier did a great job of preparing on defense," Sentinel coach Jay Jagelski said. "We didn't hit shots in the first 31 minutes, but we did at the end. We just started to attack the rim more."
Sam Beighle was the defensive focus for Glacier, but he still scored 22 points for the Spartans. Gaige DeShazer added 11.
"We've seen a lot of junk defenses this year, but none that good," Jagelski said. "We knew it was coming, but it's hard to prepare for."
Jagelski said his team will be ready for the title game, even though it was pushed to the last second.
"We've had tough games all year," Jagelski said. "We've had a lot of close games. I think those moments prepared us for this."
The Wolfpack played with emotion all game with scoring coming from various people. Brec Radenmacher led the way with 16 points and Drew Engellent added 10.
"We changed the defense up on them all game, but they hit the shots in the end," Glacier coach Mark Hawkins said. "My kids played hard. We've got to move on and have a short memory."
Glacier moved into an elimination game at 9 a.m. against crosstown rival Flathead. Both teams need to win that game to earn a berth to the state tournament and play for third place in this tournament.
"We have to play a crosstown game, and those games are always hard," Hawkins said. "We'll get them rallied. They are tough kids."
MISSOULA HELLGATE 58, HELENA HIGH 32: Second-seeded Missoula Hellgate wouldn't fall victim to the feisty, sixth-seeded Bengals.
The Knights won the semifinal contest to earn a state tournament berth. The Bengals, who knocked off No. 3 Kalispell Flathead on Thursday, go into an elimination game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday against crosstown rival Capital.
"It's a great opportunity to play a crosstown game with an opportunity to go to state," Helena coach Brandon Day said. "Our guys will come ready to play against a very good Capital team."
Hellgate used its aggressive defense to get the best of Helena. The Bengals didn't find easy shots, and since they've struggled with offensive consistency this season that was something that couldn't happen.
Helena's top scorers had a rough night. Connor Murgel scored only two points and was 0-for-2 from the field. Alex Johnson was held scoreless with only four shots.
"Hellgate is a really good team," Day said. "Their length and pressure made shots difficult. These guys came out ready for the game. We just didn't handle their pressure well."
"We had to make sure we were locked in defensively, and we did a good job of that," Hellgate coach Jeff Hays said. "We had to make sure Murgel didn't score, and Johnson. When we play defense like that that drives our offense in transition."
Rollie Worster led the way for the Knights with 18 points and five rebounds.
FLATHEAD 64, BIG SKY 44: Kalispell Flathead survived the first elimination game of the tournament with a victory over Missoula Big Sky.
Tyler Johnson and Sam Elliott led the way for the Braves with 11 points each. Stephen Bridges, Eric Seaman and Dawson Smith added eight points apiece.
Brady Tabish was the top scorer for the Eagles with 11 points, while Camdyn LaRance added nine.