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020510 florence bball team mg
Florence head coach Sam Baerlocher, center, guided the Falcons to a third-place trophy at the State B boys' basketball tournament. Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

Nearly two weeks have passed since the last five nylon nets were cut down from some of Montana's most storied basketball arenas. Three more rims were assaulted the week before that.

It's been even longer - six weeks - since 45 sweaty, singleted state champions had their arms raised in front of 7,592 fans at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, and even farther down the road - in Hardin - since the state's largest collection of Speedos plunged into the pool for a final swim.

High school basketball, wrestling and swimming netted several trophies for western Montana teams. So without further ado, here's a final spin through the 2009-10 winter sports season.


Of the 24 trophies handed out on the hardwood this season, only four went to teams from the Missoulian's coverage area. And leading the way for that group was the upstart Polson boys' basketball team that finished runner-up at the State A tournament in Butte on March 6.

The Pirates came in with the worst record in the tournament and were the second seed out of the Northwestern A, but won their opening-round game against Billings Central and a semifinal contest with Butte Central, before falling 60-48 to Laurel in the title tilt.

Junior forward Louis Mohr was named tournament MVP for his efforts while leading Polson to the championship game for the first time since 1998. The Pirates finished with a 14-10 record, but at one point in the year they were 7-7. Polson's conference rival Columbia Falls wound up winning the consolation final 51-30 over Billings Central. The Wildcats' only loss at the tourney was a double-overtime thriller to eventual champ Laurel on the first day.

The Florence boys' basketball team picked up its third third-place trophy in school history with a 54-47 victory over Shepherd in the consolation game of the State B tournament in Great Falls. The Falcons (24-2) received 22 points from senior guard Reid Baerlocher in their final game of the '09-10 season. Brandon Lorensen and Quinn Smith helped push Florence into the third-place game with 18 and 13 points, respectively, in earlier action that Saturday morning. The Falcons, who lost to eventual undefeated state champ Rocky Boy in the semis, also finished third in 2005 and 1994.

The Arlee boys' basketball team, which made its first trip to state since 1995, advanced to the consolation final, but the Warriors (25-4) fell 43-41 to Culbertson and just missed bringing back a trophy from the State C tourney in Billings.

The Loyola Sacred Heart girls' basketball team earned a third-place trophy at the State B tournament in Belgrade two weeks ago. It was the only hardware won by a girls' team from the West.

The Breakers (24-2) won three consecutive games after losing to Manhattan Christian in overtime in the opening round. Loyola capped the weekend with a 57-36 win over Columbus in the consolation final. It was the Breakers' first trophy since winning the title in 2006.

Weber State-bound Jordan Pfau led the Breakers with 22 points in the consolation final and Alex Anderson added 14.

Missoula Sentinel advanced to the consolation game at the State AA girls' tourney, but was edged 42-39 by Billings West. The Spartans (20-5) had to win back-to-back elimination games after losing in the opening round. It was their second trophy-round game in three years.


The domination of Kalispell Flathead continued as the Braves won their fifth consecutive Class AA state championship at the All-Class state meet in Billings on Feb. 13.

Flathead finished with two individual state champions, two state runners-up and 274 team points. Senior 140-pounder Shawn Lau earned his third state title, while classmate Caleb Allen-Schmid (160) won his first title for the Braves.

Missoula Sentinel, which was fifth in the team standings, had two individuals earn their first state championships, seniors Tanen Doty (171) and Bentley Alsup (215), while two more were runners-up, seniors Josh Hamilton (160) and Jace Prideaux (189).

The Class A competition was won by Havre for a fourth straight season, but the wrestling co-op of Frenchtown and Alberton earned a third-place trophy after a big push on the last day. There were six individual champions from western Montana in Class A, led by Polson senior Brock Picard (171), who won his third straight crown.

Frenchtown senior Tyler Stedman (119) and Ronan senior Cameron Neiss (130) each won a second state title, while Corvallis sophomore Travis Davis (125), Ronan junior Toby Cheff (189) and Columbia Falls senior Kelly Houle (215) all won for the first time.

Corvallis and Polson both finished in the top five in the team standings as well.

Just one western Montana wrestler won a state title in Class B-C, Arlee junior Cole Rice (140). He was runner-up the year before, but put it all together in the finals at state this season. The Warriors also finished runner-up in a way. Glasgow won its fourth straight team title, while fifth-place Chinook was awarded a trophy for being the best Class C team there, just ahead of Arlee. And speaking of runner-up, Darby junior Dalton Roundy (135), Eureka junior Taylor Vaughn (160) and Noxon junior Adam Moore (171) all reached the finals.


The Missoula Big Sky/Loyola boys' co-op team took second at the All-Class state meet in Hardin on Feb. 13. The team was made up of four swimmers, but fell just one point shy of winning a share of the first-ever Missoula swim title from an area school other than Missoula Hellgate, which has four titles.

Andrew Bovard, Corban Elliot, Kyle Jones and Peter Szekely racked up 172 team points. Great Falls CMR Russell won state with 173 points.

The four swimmers finished no lower than third in all eight events they competed in, including a pair of relay wins in the 400 freestyle and 200 medley.

Bovard, a senior, added a personal-best in the 50 free, streaking to a first-place finish in 21.95 seconds. He also won the 100 butterfly, another event he dominated through the season.

Hellgate senior Matthan Stroethoff finished first in the 100 backstroke to claim the only other Missoula boys' swim title.

On the girls' side, the Missoula Sentinel Spartans finished second in the team standings behind CMR, anchored by first-place finishes in the 400 and 200 freestyle relays. Senior Kasey Robinson swam the final leg in both those relays and added a second-place finish in the 200 free and third in the 500 free.

Missoula Big Sky/Loyola's Brittany Szekely, the older sister of Peter, claimed a three-peat in the 50 freestyle. The speedy senior swam the 50 freestyle in 24.67 to edge out teammate Maddy Arciello (24.87).


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