HELENA -- Basketball in March is typically associated with surprises, and this season -- for the Montana High School Association boys basketball tournaments from classification AA down to C -- there were plenty of surprises.
In spite of the typical upset, the teams, generally speaking, finished pretty congruent with the top of the 406mtsports.com rankings all year long.
Missoula Hellgate, a team that was typically at the top of the 406mtsports.com's Class AA rankingss, finished second behind Bozeman and star player Ryan Lonergan, who led the team and proved that he perhaps is just as good on the hardwood as he is on the gridiron. Lonergan, who will go to Montana State to play football, proved he was indeed a superior athlete in this tournament, as he and his team upended the favorite Knights 53-51 in an overtime thriller.
For the majority of the season, Class A was all about Billings Central and Hardin. The Billings Central Rams proved to be the stronger team in the end after capturing the Class A trophy with a 62-44 victory over Hardin led by Chrishon Dixon, Sam Gray and Cade Herriford.
Class B boys basketball was a little less predictable all season because there were so many high-caliber teams near the top. Bigfork -- the team that entered the 2018-2019 campaign as the defending champion -- didn't disappoint. One thing you can't quantify in playoff games is big-game experience, and the Vikings utilized theirs to prevail over Missoula Loyola 47-43 in the championship. With Anders Epperly, Clayton Reichenbach and Logan Gilliard leading the Vikings to their second consecutive Class B title, you could never doubt this crew, though they had plenty of challengers including Loyola, Big Timber and Three Forks.
The Class C boys followed a more predictable pattern. All season, the narrative for this classification was about two teams: Manhattan Christian and Arlee. And for a previous couple of seasons, that has held. All season the Eagles were ranked No. 1 and the Warriors were ranked No. 2. The results of the MHSA Class C boys game bore that out.
What was surprising was the dominant fashion in which the Eagles finally got the better of the Warriors, a team playing in their fourth consecutive state title game and looking for their third consecutive victory. The Eagles, led by Caleb Bellach's 42 points and Josiah Amunrud's 20, outscored the Warriors by themselves in their 81-53 triumph.
Class AA boys
2. Missoula Hellgate
3. Billings West
4. Great Falls
Class A boys
1. Billings Central
3. Butte Central
Class B boys
2. Missoula Loyola
3. Big Timber
4. Rocky Boy
Class C boys
1. Manhattan Christian