GREAT FALLS -- In a tournament dominated by parity, Missoula Sentinel is the exception.
And a notable one at that.
Just two of the eight games at the State AA girls' basketball tournament thus far have been decided by double digits: Sentinel's 21-point domination of a first-round game Thursday and the Spartans' 49-33 semifinal submission of Great Falls CMR on Friday.
All that's left is an 8:30 p.m. matchup with old foe Helena on Saturday at Great Falls' Four Seasons Arena, the final step in a determined march to state gold.
"We came to state with a mission and we've been focused this entire week," Sentinel junior Kylie Frohlich said. "I think that's really helped us come out strong and take it to the other team before they can take it to us."
Where the Spartans (21-1) put an immediate stamp on the game against Billings West with a 16-1 opening run, Friday's outing was far from one sided at first.
Sentinel led 10-5 after a heavyweight brawl of a first quarter, but the Spartans' suffocating zone defense helped the Missoula girls build on that quickly in the second. Frohlich had two buckets wrapped around a Jordyn Schweyen layup-and-1 in the opening minutes as the lead became double digits, 17-7.
"They've got five girls with long arms and they move and get into position," CMR coach Brian Crosby said. "That's tough to simulate. I thought we got some looks that we wanted early on, just didn't make them."
The lead grew to as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter -- still short of the 28-point gap Sentinel built on Thursday -- and the Spartans' bench again handled much of the final frame.
Sentinel held CMR (14-8) to 25.7 percent shooting for the game and only 18.8 percent in the first half. Addison Gardner topped out with 13 points, but nearly half of that came on free throws.
Meanwhile Frohlich finished with 15 and eight rebounds, and Emma Blakely and Schweyen each scored 11 for the Spartans.
Sentinel beat Helena both times they played in the regular season, but each win came by no more than six points.
"They want to finish out as strong as they can and we know Helena High is a tough team," Sentinel coach Karen Deden said before rattling off half the Bengals' roster. "... They're hard to deal with every night."
Helena 45, Bozeman 43
What looked like a blowout in the making proved to be anything but as Helena held on in a thrilling 45-43 semifinal finish.
Tied 43-all, the Bengals (19-3) held the ball for the final shot after Bozeman's Riana Rogers sunk a layup high off the glass with 1:20 remaining. Helena tossed the ball down low to Jamie Pickens who was swarmed by several Hawk defenders.
The referees called a foul on the floor, but with Helena in the double bonus Pickens went to the free-throw line for two shots with 4 seconds to play. She made both.
"We still were confident that we could pull it out because what's the worst we can do? Go into overtime," Helena coach Eric Peterson said. "Just for us to have the composure to hold the ball for over a minute, that sometimes can be hard."
Helena could only manage a half-court desperation heave.
The Bengals stormed out to a 22-5 lead in the first quarter, but Bozeman responded with a 15-5 surge in the second and tied the game at 28-all early in the third.
"Our defense, we felt a little too comfortable playing against them for the second quarter," said Pickens, who finished with a game-high 19 points and was 10 of 13 on free throws overall. "We took our foot off the gas pedal, but then we came back third and fourth."
Rogers had 10 points to pace Bozeman (15-7).
Senior 47, Glacier 45
Kola and Courtney Bad Bear combined 25 points and Billings Senior outlasted Kalispell Glacier in a consolation game.
Senior led by seven points heading into the fourth quarter. However, Glacier's Anna Schrade scored 10 fourth-quarter points to help bring Glacier back in the game. The Wolfpack tied it 36-36 after a pair of Courtney Mitchell free throws.
Sydney Norwood took a couple of big charges for the Broncs at key times when they needed to prevent Glacier from taking a lead.
"When you get four charges in two games, that's fantastic and you can't commend her enough for taking them," Robbins said. "And those are momentum changers."
Senior grabbed a four-point lead with 20 seconds left in the game after Kola Bad Bear, who had 14 points, knocked down two free throws. Glacier's Anna Schrade followed that up with a 3-pointer making it a one-point game with 9.9 seconds remaining.
Kola Bad Bear went 1 of 2 on free throw attempts after that, and Glacier's last-second shot missed the target.
"We just have to be consistent," Robbins said. "If we can play with consistency, especially on the offensive side, and everyone contributes, we're going to be fine. That's what has to happen."
West 56, Capital 53, OT
Late free throws proved to be the key as Billings West held on late to defeat Helena Capital in a consolation contest.
Raquel Jimenez scored 20 points for the Golden Bears including knocking down five free throws in overtime that helped West hang onto the lead.
Shayla Montague drained a 3-pointer for West with 1:54 left in overtime, and the Golden Bears never trailed again.
After Montague's three, the Golden Bears relied on seven free throws to help keep the lead late. West led 55-51, but a foul on a 3-point shot by Megan Lindbo allowed Capital to climb within two in the final seconds.
Jimenez's freebies got it to 56-53, and Capital was unable to get a shot off in time.
"It's a one-game season now," West coach Charlie Johnson said. "We just talked about playing hard for 32 minutes and execute our gameplan. We did that today and we at least have another day."