GREAT FALLS -- When the game is on the line, Helena High wants the ball in Kamden Hilborn's hands.
Or in the girls' she is defending.
Guarding an uneasy three-point lead, Hilborn drew a picture-perfect charge with 15.4 seconds to play to secure the Bengals' 46-41 State AA basketball championship victory over Missoula Sentinel on Saturday, the program's first in 20 years.
It also denied the fourth title in six years for the Spartans, who were served yet another spat of adversity before the game in an illness to double-double queen Kylie Frohlich.
Despite Frohlich going scoreless in just 6 minutes of game time, and two other starters missing because of serious knee injuries, Sentinel was within 44-41 with under 30 seconds to play. Then Hilborn made the defensive play of the day in a game filled with them.
The junior guard planted in front of a driving Jordyn Schweyen -- the game's top scorer with 18 points -- and crashed to the floor on contact to a chorus of whistles.
"I got two blocking (fouls) right before that so I was like, 'This has to go,'" said Hilborn, whose forced turnover took away Sentinel's last chance at a game-tying shot. "I was just praying because if I take this, it's over."
Helena (20-3), which lost to Sentinel (21-2) twice in the regular season by less than six points, got the one that mattered most. It's the first state title for the Bengals since 1997. Helena also beat the Spartans that year.
"Playing them, it's always one of my favorite games," Schweyen said of the rivalry. "Beating them twice in the regular season -- it's hard to beat a good team three times. And they're a great team."
Helena took a 10-9 lead after a quarter when Kendra Kloker's 3-pointer banked in ahead of the buzzer and the Bengals led 21-17 at half on a last-second putback bucket by Jessica Ellsworth. Helena had 12 offensive rebounds for the game and busted the Spartans 26-14 on the boards.
Much of that was because of 6-foot-2 Jamie Pickens, who would have been guarded by 6-0 Frohlich and 6-1 Lexi Deden (ACL injury). Still the Spartans made it a focus to get her in foul trouble to draw focus away from the post play.
"We did a good job and we did everything we could (against Pickens)," Sentinel coach Karen Deden said. "I'm proud of the girls and proud of this season they had."
Schweyen hit a 3 just 10 seconds out of halftime, and Emma Blakely turned a steal into a layup and a free throw after a foul as Sentinel grabbed a 23-21 lead. Helena came back with two Pickens free throws and then a Taelyr Krantz three.
Though Sentinel tied it twice more, that was the Spartans' final lead.
Hilborn led Helena with 13 points and Kloker, Krantz and Pickens each had eight in a well-rounded attack.
Senior 42, Bozeman 34
Billings Senior coach Zach Robbins watched Bozeman battle back from a 17-point deficit in Friday's State AA semifinals. Up 15 in Saturday's third-place contest with the Hawks, he knew his Broncs weren't out of the woods.
The Hawks caught fire on a 16-2 run to take their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter, but Senior withstood the storm to earn bronze with a 42-34 victory.
"Once we got up and we had a timeout and we said, be prepared for their run because they're coming and we've got to withstand it," Robbins said.
Bozeman trailed 27-14 when the run started early in the third. Alex Carey's layup with 5:45 to go in the game put the Hawks ahead for the first time, 30-29. Sensing things were about to unravel, Senior's Kola Bad Bear took over.
Less than 15 seconds later Bad Bear hit the first of two 3-pointers in a minute-and-change stretch that put Senior (16-7) squarely in charge again.
"We knew we had to step it up right there, and if we had let them score again they would just keep chipping away, pulling further and further away," said Bad Bear, who finished with a game-high 12 points.
Riana Rogers led Bozeman (16-8) with 11 points, including six during that paramount 16-2 run.
Bozeman defeated Billings West, 37-28, earlier in the day while the Broncs topped Great Falls CMR, 49-44, to reach the third-place finale.
Bad Bear's double-double helped Senior advance past CMR; she scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Kyra Willis led CMR with 15 points and 10 boards.
Only West's Brianna Shirley reached double figures in the other consolation game. She scored 13 points. Tarabochia paced Bozeman with nine.