March 8-10, 2018
Butte Civic Center
With defending champion Belt not in the field, the race for the Class C state title looks wide open. Runner-up Arlee also did not make the tournament, leaving Twin Bridges, who finished third last season, as the highest returning finisher. Froid-Lake finished fourth last year.
On the surface, it seems like there are no truly dominant teams in the Class C girls field this season. Every team comes in with at least two losses, with Twin Bridges (20-2) and Box Elder (21-2) having the best records.
Froid-Lake breezed its way to the Eastern C title, winning each game by double-digits and will make their third-straight state tournament appearance, including last season's fourth-place finish. Froid-Lake has played just one of the teams in the state tournament field — Plentywood. The Red Hawks lost their first two meetings against the Wildcats, but managed to beat them in their third meeting in the Eastern C championship.
Other qualifier: Making their first appearance at the state tournament since 2016, Plentywood was favored coming into its district and divisional matchups, but the Wildcats lost to Savage in the 2C final before falling to Froid-Lake in the Eastern C tournament by 18 points. The Warriors handed Plentywood two of its losses this year by a combined two points.
A team from the North has won seven of the last 15 years worth of state championships and the Belt Huskies own five of the last six, but it's Winnett-Grass Range instead this year that enters the Class C tournament on a tear, having won 10 of its last 11 games and as the North's top seed. The Rams three losses this year have all come against Belt, who they managed to avoid in their divisional tournament. It’s the first state appearance for the Rams since 2014, when they finished in third.
Other qualifier: Box Elder finished runner-up in the Northern C tournament and enter the state tournament as the No. 2 seed. The Bears are in the state tournament for the second time in the last three years.
Ekalaka hasn’t played in the state tournament since 2013, but the Bulldogs have lost just one game since Dec. 21 and have been playing tremendously after a 1-3 start to their season. Ekalaka is 1-1 against teams in the state tournament, losing to Northern C champion Winnett-Grass Range in the first game of the season. The Bulldogs beat Harlowton in the Southern C divisional by seven points.
Other qualifier: It took a challenge game against Bridger, but Harlowton is returning to the state tournament for second year in a row. It was the fourth game the Engineers played against the Scouts this season, with Harlowton taking all but one of those contests.
If there's a favorite of this tournament, the Twin Bridges Falcons might be it. They're currently riding a 14-game win streak and are led by the one-two punch of Nevada-Reno signee Kailee Oliverson and Raeanne Bendon. The Falcons have just two losses this season to conference rivals Ennis and Drummond. Twin Bridges finished third in the tournament last year, battling back after falling to Belt in the semifinals.
Other qualifier: If there’s a team that knows how to push Twin Bridges, it’s Ennis as the two have met five times this season with the Falcons holding a 4-1 advantage. Ennis and Twin Bridges have already met in both their district and divisional championship games already, can they do it again in the state championship?
Fun fact: Box Elder beat Belt in the Northern C semifinals to get into the divisional championship against Winnett-Grass Range. It was the first time in over a decade that the Bears beat the Huskies. It helped assure there would be no state tournament for Belt, which has won five of the last six state tournaments and put an end to a decade-straight streak of state tournament appearances for the Huskies.
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