MISSOULA — With points at a premium, Amaya LaFranier came up clutch.
The Colstrip senior scored six of her game-high 20 points in overtime as the Fillies outlasted upset-minded Deer Lodge for a 48-43 victory in Thursday’s quarterfinal. They’ll face Townsend in a semifinal 5 p.m. Friday at Dahlberg Arena.
“She’s such an unselfish player, but when she needs to step up, she does,” Colstrip head coach Roxie Wilson said. “They all do. They all have their roles.
“This group, they battle and they know how to win. We had a double overtime in divisionals, so our conditioning pays off, running those extra 10 feet in practice.”
The Fillies outscored the Lady Wardens 12-7 in overtime, with eight of their points coming at the free-throw line, after the teams battled to a 36-36 tie in regulation.
They made 17 of their 31 free-throw attempts, while Deer Lodge made 18 of 37. LaFranier went 10 of 14 at the charity stripe, making 4 of 6 in the extra session.
“I was a little nervous towards the end of the game because we were tied and we gave up the lead before tying it,” LaFranier said. “Going into overtime, I just stayed calm and tried to help my team stay calm so that we wouldn’t panic and just put the game away.”
For a team averaging around 55 points, the Fillies liked their chances in a defensive slugfest. They shot 38.9 percent (14 of 36) from the field and held Deer Lodge to 28.2 percent (11 of 39) with their man-to-man defense; LaFranier recorded a game-high seven steals.
Colstrip took its first lead at 12-10 early in the second quarter and led or were tied until the final minute of the fourth quarter. With 1:02 remaining, Deer Lodge’s Rilee Gray collected an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and fed the ball to Josee Applegate for the go-ahead layup, 36-35.
Deer Lodge got a steal on an inbounds pass but was called for a travel. After a timeout, Colstrip tied the game when Shelby Jordan split a pair of free throws with 16.5 seconds left.
“Once we got into the flow of our game,” Wilson said, “I thought we started doing the things that got us here: defense, matching up well offensively, seeing the open person and driving to the basket.”
Darcy Walker paced Deer Lodge with 10 points and seven steals.
Second-quarter run propels Townsend past Rocky Boy
With 3-point shooting and second-chance opportunities, Townsend blew the game open in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs closed the first half on a 21-3 run and kept the pressure on in the second half to race past Rocky Boy, 65-44, in Thursday’s quarterfinals. They'll play Colstrip in a semifinal 5 p.m. Friday at Dahlberg Arena.
“It was good to get to see some shots fall tonight,” Townsend head coach Dan Hazlett said. “I know we can play defense and rebound night in and night out.”
During the 21-3 run, the Bulldogs tallied three 3-pointers, six second-chance points and four points off of turnovers. Rocky Boy played the entire stretch without 6-foot center Jaylynn Mitchell, who had been clogging up the paint but picked up three fouls in the first quarter.
Townsend’s Abby Leachman scored nine of her game-high 19 points during the run. Trailing 14-13, she hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the stretch and drained another 3-pointer moments later.
“I’ve always been a 3-point shooter, but this year my shots haven’t been falling like that, so I’ve really had to work my inside game a lot,” Leachman said. “They’re finally starting to fall. It felt really good to make that first one, so I just kept firing.”
Teammate Tavia Rooney put back an offensive rebound to give Townsend its first double-digit lead, 26-16. Rocky Boy split free throws, and the Bulldogs closed the half on an 8-0 run with two second-chance baskets and a fast break layup to lead 34-17 at the break.
Townsend finished with a 63-30 edge on the boards, including 30-7 on the offensive glass. Rooney led the way with 22 rebounds to go with her 15 points, six of which came during the second-quarter run.
“Our defensive execution was great,” Hazlett said. “We hounded their guards. We rebounded. We just didn’t give them second-chance points. I think a team like that, they’re amazing at getting their rebounds. Keeping them off the glass was big.”
The Bulldogs started the third quarter on a 13-4 run to take a 47-21 lead. Although Mitchell returned for Rocky Boy, they got easy points in the paint as the Morning Stars were hesitant to challenge drives to the rim.
Mitchell scored 12 of her team-high 14 points in the second half, but they were inconsequential. Townsend led 51-29 after three quarters, and Rocky Boy never got closer than 16 points, 56-40.
Three Forks rallies past Poplar
Not used to playing tight games, Three Forks needed to rally in the final minutes.
The Wolves ramped up their defensive pressure, and junior Kyle Olson provided a much-needed scoring burst to keep alive the undefeated season and championship hopes.
Olson scored the game’s last seven points and had 10 of the Wolves’ final 13 to turn a four-point deficit into a 63-59 win over Poplar on Thursday. Three Forks will play Bigfork in the Class B girls’ state semifinals 3:30 p.m. Friday at Dahlberg Arena.
“There was a mental click, and it’s like, ‘We’re not losing this game,’” Olson said. “I was like, ‘There’s nothing to lose here. Let’s just shoot it.’ Went for it.”
Olson finished with a game-high 34 points, nine steals and seven rebounds. Morgan Allen added 14 points, and Shainy Mack chipped in nine, including a clutch 3-pointer down the stretch.
The Wolves forced Poplar to turn the ball over 29 times, including 12 in the fourth quarter. They shot 64.3 percent in the final frame to outscore the Lady Indians 25-17 after they were held to six points in the third quarter and lost their 32-29 halftime lead.
“Our strength has been pressing and wearing people out at the end of the second half and find out if they’re in shape or not,” said Three Forks head coach Mike Sauvageau. “I think the last four minutes you saw how many times we stole the ball and got the ball.
“I think we wore them down and got some steals. That’s what got us back in the game.”
The Wolves, who had won 20 of their first 23 games by double digits, trailed 44-38 early in the fourth quarter. They converted turnovers into points to tie the game 44-44 but fell down 54-50 on Chloe Shields’ layup with just over two minutes to play.
As the Wolves pushed the pace, Olson hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 54-53, and Mack tied the game 56-56 on a 3-pointer with 1:26 left. Olson answered a Hailey Brunelle 3-pointer with her own to tie the game 59-59 with 50.8 seconds left.
After a timeout, Olson stole the ball near midcourt on an inbounds pass and scored a layup to give Three Forks its first lead, 61-59, since 36-34 early in the third quarter.
Poplar was called for a charge, and Olson split free throws with 10.7 seconds left, came up with a steal out of a timeout and split another pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining. Three Forks stole the ensuing inbounds pass to seal the win.
“We were expecting a hard game, but I didn’t expect it to be that physical and that tempo,” Olson said. “It was a lot faster paced. I thought they were going to get tired, but they stuck with us the whole game and challenged us.”
Imani Bighorn, Poplar’s 6-foot-2 center, caused problems for the Wolves as she scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four steals.
Alleen Russell tallied a team-high 17 points, seven steals and six rebounds, but she turned the ball over 11 times.
“We worked on our press breaker all year, and we didn’t make it through,” Poplar coach Les Bighorn said. “We got a little shaky and didn’t execute our press break.”
The Lady Indians will play St. Labre in a loser-out game 9 a.m. Friday at Dahlberg Arena.
“I’ll tell the girls we have to move on,” Les Bighorn said. “Our goal is three Saturday nights. We hit district on Saturday night, divisional on Saturday night, and we still have time to get our goal, go for the hardware and bring something home. We didn’t come this far for nothing.”
Bigfork rides defense to win over St. Labre
Bigfork rode its aggressive pressure defense to the program’s first-ever win at state since moving to Class B.
The Valkyries, undefeated at the Class B level, kicked off the tournament with a 55-47 win over St. Labre on Thursday. They’ll face undefeated Three Forks in a semifinal 3:30 p.m. Friday at Dahlberg Arena.
“I knew we had it in us,” said Bigfork head coach Jami Grende. “I knew they could do it. This is the year to do it. The girls fought like they’ve done all year. They refuse to lose. They never give up. That’s the uniqueness to this year’s team.”
The Valkyries matched their season average by forcing 31 turnovers against St Labre, which had five of the six tallest players in the game.
They turned that defense into offense, scoring 26 points off of turnovers.
“We just ran around, and they were so big that they didn’t have great ball handlers, so we used that to our advantage to put the pressure on them so they would turn it over,” said Bigfork senior Jaime Berg, a 6-foot Montana Tech commit.
Bigfork’s Abby Ellison and Abigail Lembke each had a game-high five steals. Teammates Rakiah Grende and Ellie Berreth led the scoring with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Berg scored five points, grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked three shots and had three steals. Her play against St. Labre’s tall front court help Bigfork remain close on the boards, 38-36.
Priscilla Flatmouth, 6-foot-1, paced the Lady Braves with 15 points, while 6-foot-1 Kaelene Spang grabbed 11 rebounds. Teegan Ewing, 5-foot-10, scored 14 points, and 5-foot-11 Madison Bighorn added nine points.
“We needed our press to counter balance their size,” Jami Grende said. “Their big girls did a good job down low. We have never been faced with that size before. Even though Jaime Berg normally leads our team in scoring, she did her work pulling down rebounds, and that was a huge battle for her tonight.”
Bigfork built a 27-14 halftime lead behind 15 points off of 18 forced turnovers.
The Lady Braves went on a 6-0 run with easy layups to pull within 29-20 early in the third quarter. Rakiah Grende hit a jumper that put the Valkyries up 31-20 and gave them a double-digit lead they held until K’Ghan Bearcomesout made a 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds.
St. Labre left points on the court, shooting 10 of 17 at the free-throw line and went 7 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
“I thought that we were impatient on our offense,” Jami Grende said. “Probably jitters in the first game at state. We took a few shots we didn’t need to take. We needed to wear them out on the defensive end. We tried wearing them out on the press, but we didn’t do a good job getting them tired defending us. We have to work on that for (Friday).”