BILLINGS -- Florence's gallant run through the consolation bracket was cut short Saturday at the Billings Skyview gym.
Red Lodge edged Florence 47-42 for the chance at the third-place trophy. Natalie Hilderman scored 16 points to lead the Rams, and Danielle Zahn finished with 15 for the Falcons (17-10). Zahn hit four 3-pointers in the game.
In the championship game at the MetraPark Arena, time stood still twice late in the game.
First, came the final 1.1 seconds on the game clock. That’s what stood between the Fairfield Eagles and their return to the top of the Class B girls basketball mountain, and, in the words of senior Allix Goldhahn, “I mean, that 1.1 second seemed way longer than 1.1 second.”
Second, came the brief moment of not knowing what to do when a referee’s whistle and final buzzer sounded simultaneously. Malta’s Sophia Stiles, in that final 1.1 second, was able to inbound the ball under her own basket off the back of a Fairfield defender, pick it up, and put up a shot.
But Fairfield’s Natalie Klinker was there to get a hand on Stiles’ shot and as the ball bounced out of bounds, the buzzer sounded and the whistle blew, several players looked back toward the referee to see if there would be a call.
None came, and the Eagles jumped and screamed in celebration, state champs for the first time since 2014 with a 34-33 victory at Rimrock Auto Arena.
“I was kind of afraid of a foul, but all that was going through my head in that last second was I can’t let her get a shot off,” Klinker said.
“I don’t think there’s a better feeling,” said Goldhahn, who picked up the pieces with 17 points after Malta limited the Idaho-bound Klinker to just four points, well below her usual output. “I’m shocked still. Just at the end … it’s a great feeling, I guess that’s all I can say.”
This was the seventh time since 2009 that Malta and Fairfield have played for the Class B championship. It’s also the 11th consecutive year that one of these two teams have claimed the title. The last team not from Malta or Fairfield to win the championship was Missoula Loyola, which defeated Baker in 2006.
Earlier Saturday, Three Forks claimed third place with a 63-56 win over Red Lodge. It’s been quite a season for the Wolves, who finished 22-5 a season after they didn’t even qualify for the Southern B Divisional.
Kyle Olson scored 29 points to pace the Wolves, who took an 11-point lead into the second quarter and maintained it most of the way. Red Lodge got to within four on a Kylie Kelly 3-pointer late in the game, but Three Forks didn't buckle.