HELENA —The Missoula Sentinel High 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 AA Western Conference divisional tournament.
The top-seeded Spartans defeated fourth-seeded Glacier 46-42 at Helena High after trailing most of the game.
Sentinel moves on to the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday here against the winner of the Helena-Hellgate game late Friday night.
"I thought Glacier did a great job prepared 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 there."
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 feels 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 Engallent 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 moves 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."
Flathead 64, Big Sky 44
Kalispell Flathead survived the first elimination boys basketball game of the AA Western Conference divisional tournament with a 64-44 victory over Missoula Big Sky.
The third-seeded Braves move on to another elimination game at 9 a.m. Saturday against Glacier.
"When your season is on the line you tend to tense up," Flathead coach Ross Gustafson said. "We wanted our guys to relax and have fun. We did a good job of that."
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.
"We hit a couple shots early and that gave us confidence," Gustafson said. "We made the extra pass and got the easy shot."
Brady Tabish was the top scorer for the Eagles with 11 points, while Camdyn LaRance added nine.
"It's going to be a dogfight tomorrow," Gustafson said. "Tomorrow is a chance to get to state. We just have to be ready to go."
Hellgate 58, Helena 32
Hellgate's defense sparked its offense as the Knights defeated Helena 58-32 in the semifinals of the AA Western Conference divisional tournament. The second-seed Knights earned a state tournament berth and head into the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday here against top-seeded Missoula Sentinel.
"It's a relief to win this game," Sentinel coach Jeff Hays said. "Big Sky pushed us (Thursday) night, and we had to work hard. And it was the same with Helena. It's a great feeling and a great accomplishment to make state. We are going to enjoy it tonight and get ready for a tough Sentinel team."
The Bengals go into an elimination game at 10:30 a.m. against crosstown rival Capital. Both teams need to win that game to earn a state tournament opportunity as a top-four team in the seven-team divisional bracket, and the chance to play for third place this tournament later in the day.
"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."
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. Grady Koenig was Helena's top scorer with nine points, followed by Hayden Ferguson with six andAidan Brus with five.
Rollie Worster led the way for the Knights with 18 points and five rebounds. From there the scoring was spread out to 10 other players. Kade Lunday had nine points and Bridger Deden added eight.