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BILLINGS -- Come Saturday evening at Billings' Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark, the Ronan Maidens hope to be partying like its 1992.

That's the last and only time the Ronan girls' basketball team won a state championship. That came in the Class A ranks, where the school will return next fall, and this week the Maidens will play in their swan-song State B tournament and try to put a stop to the Fairfield/Malta show.

Fairfield and Malta have combined to win the past 10 State B girls' basketball titles. The Northern B powers have met for five of them, including last year's that Malta won.

Ronan carries an unblemished 23-0 record into state, which begins Thursday running alongside with the boys' tournament. Now comes the tough part.

"They haven't been blowing teams out like they were last year," said Ronan coach Ron Hanson of usual suspects Malta and Fairfield. "Both of them were really, really good last year but they've got some weaknesses and I think we match up fairly well with both of those teams. Especially if we have Lee."

Lee being Lee Camel, half of Ronan's dynamic senior scoring duo along with cousin Alicia Camel. Both girls averaged 17.7 points per game in the regular season. Lee Camel, though, suffered a foot injury in Ronan's Western B Divisional semifinal win over Bigfork two weeks ago and didn't play in the divisional championship.

She's questionable for state. She would have undoubtedly missed it, Hanson figured, had there not been a week off between divisionals and state in Billings.

That means the Maidens will need Alicia Camel and junior Micalann McCrea (13.2 ppg, 7.5 rebounds per game) to shine even brighter against Red Lodge in the first round.

On the other side of the bracket is that Florence team. The Falcons (16-8) won a challenge game against Bigfork to advance to state where they get Fairfield in the opener.

It's Florence's first state trip since 2013 -- Ronan made it last year -- and coach Duane Zeiler has his girls focused on making the long bus ride worth it.

"We know what they've got. Biggest thing is we can't let my girls think they're not good enough to play with them when we know they are," Zeiler said of playing Fairfield.

Danielle Zahn leads Florence with about 14 points per game.


Loyola Sacred Heart (19-4) had to win its own challenge game to reach the boys' state bracket after falling to Anaconda in the divisional title bout. It was the fourth meeting between the District 6-B programs, all four-point margins or less, and the Rams' second loss to the Copperheads.

It makes Loyola's state path more difficult -- the No. 2 seed Rams open with Cut Bank on Thursday -- but the high-scoring squad is more balanced than ever headed to state. Parker Davis (about 20 ppg) leads four scorers in double figures and Loyola averages nearly 70 points per game.

But it's the defense that'll keep the Rams in it this week, coach Eddie Stack said.

"We've been working on the other end of the ball the last couple weeks and actually played some solid defense at the divisional tournament," Stack said. "Hopefully we can put both sides together and play some nice balanced ball at state."

Loyola, which was state runner-up in 2015 and enjoying a three-year state qualifying streak, is still seeking its first title in program history. Anaconda is searching for its first since 1948.

Choteau won the past two championships but did not qualify out of the North this year.

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