HELENA — Thursday marked the beginning of the Western AA tournament as teams from Butte to Kalispell vie for a spot in the State AA tournament in Billings.
1W) Helena Capital 57, 8W) Kalispell Flathead 43
After a slow first quarter, the Capital Bruins found their stride in their opener against Kalispell Flathead and advanced to the winner's bracket with a 57-43 win.
The Bruins were focused on maintaining pressure in the paint and it paid dividends as Hayden Opitz scored a game-high 14 points with six rebounds. Though the Bruins were able to seemingly run away in the second and third quarter, the win didn't come without its hiccups as the Braves were able to quash the Bruins' 19 point lead late in the game.
Joston Cripe led the Braves with 11 points.
5W) Helena High 61, 4W) Kalispell Glacier 54
In the first upset of the Western AA divisional tournament, the Helena High Bengals were able to overthrow the Glacier Wolfpack 61-54.
The Bengals came out and looked staunch leading most of the way of the way through the first half to a 30-22 lead. The Bengals carried a nine-point lead into the fourth, before the Wolfpack found some life behind seven straight points from Tyler McDonald to cut the lead to just two, but the Bengals were able to keep their defense alive and muscle their way to a victory.
Kaden Huot led the Bengals with 13 points and four rebounds, while Dylan Christman put up nine points with seven rebounds.
Ty Olsen led the Wolfpack with a game-high 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.
3W) Missoula Big Sky 53, 6W) Missoula Sentinel 33
In the second slate of boys games at the Western AA Divisional tournament, the Missoula Big Sky Eagles hammered their crosstown rival Missoula Sentinel 53-33.
Caden Bateman was the man of the hour for the Eagles with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the effort.
The Eagles carried a 22-12 lead at the half, while Sentinel struggled to get the ball rolling offensively. The Eagles were about as stout defensively as they were offensively holding the Spartans to under 10 points in the first three until the Spartans scored 14 in the final frame.
Joe Weida was the leading point-getter for Sentinel with 14 points while going 8-11 from the free-throw line while tacking on 8 rebounds.
2W) Missoula Hellgate 65, 7W) Butte 55
For the final boys' game of day one, Missoula Hellgate and Butte had quite the battle but the Knights pulled off the win 65-55.
Connor Dick led the Knights in scoring with a whopping 23 points. As for the Bulldogs, Kenley Leary, who nailed a buzzer-beater to end the first half, led his team in points with 17.
The Knights held a 33-28 lead at the half. But the Bulldogs were able to catch them to snag the lead back to end the third 48-47.
But the Bulldogs couldn't keep the momentum going, only scoring seven points to the Knight's 18 in the fourth for a Knights' win.