By Tiffany L. Rehbein
It was a classic championship game for one half of play, but the Beaverhead County Beavers of Dillon exploded for 21 third quarter points en route to a 76-42 Central A championship win over the Havre Blue Ponies Saturday at the Special Events Center in Belgrade.
Scott Rice and Nate Baltrusch combined for 17 of the Ponies' first half points. Rice finished with nine in the half, while Baltrusch shot a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from 3-point land to tally eight points in the half.
Down just 27-24 at halftime, senior Landen Grant, who fouled out with :19 remaining in the third quarter, opened the second half with an eight-foot jumper to close the Beaver lead to 27-26 with 6:33 on the clock.
However, the Ponies would come no closer to the lead. Grant finished with four points and six rebounds.
Dillon used an up-tempo offense and hot shooting to increase its lead throughout the game. The Beavers shot 51 percent from the field, while the Blue Ponies struggled, shooting just 29 percent in the game.
Ricky Brown, the Central A's leading scorer coming into the game, scored just eight points, shooting 3-for-11 from the field. Brown also led the division in 3-pointers made. He had two in the contest.
Rice scored a team-high 12 points for Havre in the loss.
Dillon, the State Class A defending champion, put three players in double figures. Tyler Thomas and Richard Griffin scored 17 points apiece while Conrad McDougal added 12 in the victory.
Dillon's bench was even hot from the field, outscoring the traditionally strong Havre bench 23-9 in the effort.
Havre will enter the State Class A tournament in the No. 2 seed with a 13-9 record. The tournament will be held at the MetraPark at Billings Feb. 24-26.
Dillon (16-5) will enter the tournament the No. 1 seed and Butte Central (16-6) will enter as the No. 3 seed. Dillon defeated Livingston and Lewistown to advance to the championship round.
The Maroons defeated Lewistown 69-65 in consolation play Saturday night to advance to the tournament. Last season, the Blue Ponies finished third at the divisional tournament.
The Blue Ponies defeated the Maroons 55-43 in semifinal action Friday night to advance to the championship round.
Brown led the Ponies with 14 points, shooting 50 percent from the field, and popping two 3-pointers. Grant added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Baltrusch chipped in 12 points.
Both teams played equal on paper, the Maroons shot 41 percent from the field while the Ponies shot 44 percent. The Maroons shot 38 percent from 3-point land, while the Ponies shot 33 percent.
However, the biggest difference came from the free throw line where the Ponies shot 25 free shots and made 12.
The Maroons attempted just eight in the game. They connected on three shots.
Three teams, Billings Central, Glendive, and Colstrip, advance from the Eastern Division, while two teams advance from the Western Division to the state tournament.
Havre 42 (1st)
Dillon Tyler Thomas 7 0-1 17; Shane Sutherland 3 0-0 7; James Russel 2 2-2 7; Kellen Hildreth 2 0-0 5; Richard Griffin 8 1-1 17; Nick Taylor 2 0-0 4; Travis Cottom 1 0-0 2; Kevin Hammond 1 0-0 2; Conrad McDougal 4 2-3 12; Brian Throckmorton 1 1-2 3. Totals: 31 6-9.
Havre Ricky Brown 3 0-0 8; Nate Baltrusch 3 1-2 9; Scott Rice 5 2-7 12; Landen Grant 2 0-0 4; Cliff Cooper 2 0-1 4; Chris Young 1 1-2 3; Ryan Fink 0 2-2 2. Totals: 16 6-16.
Total fouls: Dillon 18, Havre 13. Fouled out: Grant. Three-pointers: Thomas 3, Sutherland, Russel, Hildreth, McDougal 2, Baltrusch 2, Brown 2.