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GREAT FALLS - Florence and Rocky Boy became semifinalists for the State B boys' basketball title Thursday, which is fitting for the two top-ranked teams who have one loss between them.

But their wins were far from easy.

Florence birthday boy Quinn Smith had to pour in 10 fourth-quarter points to help the No. 2 Falcons rally past Columbus 41-39 in the second game at Four Seasons Arena. Before that, reserve post Loren Standing Rock's buzzer-beating layup lifted No. 1 Rocky Boy over Shepherd, 60-59.

Rocky Boy, 24-0 in its first year up from Class C, will battle the 23-1 Falcons at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, in front of what will be a pro-Stars crowd.

Shepherd (19-6) and Columbus (17-9) fell into the 12:30 p.m. loser-out game.

Florence 41, Columbus 39

The Falcons are making a habit of these second-half comebacks - they rallied from 18 down to beat Loyola Sacred Heart last week - and the undersized Cougars were the latest victim.

Columbus led for much of the game, getting a put-back from Tyler Roller to go ahead 10-9 late in the first quarter, and riding four 3-pointers from Patrick Blenkner to a 22-15 halftime lead.

Florence began the third quarter by going inside to the 6-foot-8 Smith, and the junior promptly lost the ball. But he loomed large later in the half - along with a refocused zone defense.

"We just extended our zone," said Florence coach Sam Baerlocher. "It was hard to stay up with them out there, with our big players against their smaller ones.

"We knew it was going to be 40 points - that the first one to get to 40 was probably going to win it."

That was Florence, partly because Columbus missed eight of its first nine shots of the fourth quarter, along with committing four turnovers.

Smith, who turned 17 on Thursday, did most of the rest, scoring twice to cut the gap to 32-31 early in the quarter, then putting the Falcons up for good at 35-34 off a feed from Brandon Lorensen, with 4:20 remaining.

"That was the plan from the start," said Smith, the only Falcon in double figures with 11. "Pound it inside. I guess the fourth quarter is when we finally started doing what we were told."

The game limped to a conclusion. Smith hit two free throws to make it 37-34 with 2:55 left, but the Falcons' Adam Greger missed twice from close range.

The Cougars couldn't capitalize. Reid Baerlocher hit two free throws for a 39-34 Falcon lead with under a minute left.

A put-back from the Cougars' Roller - he had nine rebounds among Florence's tall timber - cut the deficit to 39-36, and a Baerlocher free throw miss gave the Cougars a chance to tie in the final 30 seconds.

A defensive lapse left Blenkner wide open, but he missed twice from beyond the arc, and Sam Faust missed another trey. Finally, Baerlocher's two free throws with six seconds left iced it, making it 41-36.

It was the lowest point total of the season for the Falcons, who take a 23-1 record into the semis.

Next is Rocky Boy, with its pressure defense and big front line.

"It's on our guards," Sam Baerlocher said. "We have to handle their pressure."

Alex Mitchell had eight points and nine boards for Florence. Lorensen had eight points.

Florence 9 6 12 14 - 41

Columbus 12 10 10 7 - 39

FLORENCE - Chris Benson 1-1 1-2 3, Alex Mitchell 4-7 0-1 8, Quinn Smith 4-8 3-4 11, Reid Baerlocher 1-7 4-5 6, Brandon Lorensen 3-7 1-1 8, Ross Mangun 0-0 0-0 0, Adam Greger 2-5 1-1 5, Kenny Collins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-35 10-14 41.

COLUMBUS - Jayson Robbins 0-5 2-2 2, Patrick Blenkner 4-12 0-0 12, Austin Dayton 7-13 0-1 14, Sam Faust 3-11 0-0 7, Tim Yeager 0-3 0-0 0, Seth Russell 0-2 0-0 0, Tyler Roller 2-5 0-1 4. Totals 16-51 2-4 39.

3-point goals - Florence 1-4 (Lorensen 1-3, Baerlocher 0-1), Columbus 5-21 (Blenkner 4-11, Faust 1-7, Robbins 0-1, Russell 0-2). Rebounds - Florence 32 (Mitchell 9), Columbus 28 (Roller 9). Total fouls - Florence 7, Columbus 17. Fouled out - Yeager. Assists - Florence 6 (Lorensen 3), Columbus 8 (3 with 2). Blocks - Florence 4 (Mitchell 2, Smith, Greger), Columbus 1 (Dayton). Steals - Florence 4 (Lorensen 3), Columbus 6 (Robbins 4). Turnovers - Florence 15, Columbus 11.

Rocky Boy 60, Shepherd 59

Shepherd nearly pulled off another rally, roaring back from a 53-43 deficit in the final 3:02.

The Mustangs tied the game at 56-all on a free throw from Zach Edwards with 27 seconds left, led 57-56 on another freebie by Jake Mushaben at the 24-second mark, and went up 59-58 on Mushaben's put-back with 13 seconds remaining.

Rocky Boy called time out and had guard Lindsey Eagleman drive and dish to Standing Rock, whose shot rolled in as the buzzer sounded.

Standing Rock had five points, including two big free throws to put Rocky Boy up 58-57 with 20 seconds remaining. He was in for 6-7 Eric Schildt, who fouled out with four points.

Lee Hanson scored 19 points and snared seven rebounds for Shepherd before he fouled out.

Leisen Oats had 14 points for Rocky Boy, to go with nine steals. Eagleman added 13 and Jerod Parker 10 for the Stars.

Shepherd 17 4 14 24 - 59

Rocky Boy 18 7 17 18 - 60

SHEPHERD - Lee Hanson 7-9 4-6 19, Tanner Johnson 3-6 0-0 9, Austin Harper 2-5 1-2 6, Zach Edwards 2-5 2-3 6, Jake Mushaben 2-7 1-3 5, Kyler Houston 2-5 3-4 8, Austin Bies 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Mader 2-4 0-0 6. Totals 20-41 11-18 59.

ROCKY BOY - Garrett Lafromboise 3-6 1-2 7, Jerod Parker 3-10 2-3 10, Eric Schildt 2-10 0-0 4, Leisen Oats 4-11 5-8 14, Lindsey Eagleman 5-8 1-2 13, JC Hawk 1-1 5-7 7, Loren Standing Rock 1-2 3-4 5. Totals 19-48 17-26 60.

3-point goals - Shepherd 8-17 (Johnson 3-4, Mader 2-3, Hanson 1-1, Harper 1-2, Houston 1-4, Mushaben 0-2, Edwards 0-1), Rocky Boy 5-13 (Eagleman 2-2, Parker 2-7, Oats 1-4). Rebounds - Shepherd 30 (Harper 8), Rocky Boy 31 (Lafromboise 7). Total fouls - Shepherd 20, Rocky Boy 14. Fouled out - Harper, Hanson, Schildt. Assists - Shepherd 12 (Harper 4), Rocky Boy 8 (Eagleman 3). Blocks - Shepherd 3 (Harper 2, Hanson), Rocky Boy 1 (Parker). Steals - Shepherd 8 (Edwards 8), Rocky Boy 17 (Oats 9). Turnovers - Shepherd 21, Rocky Boy 15.

 

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