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Friday State Tournaments: Rocky Boy gets 4th, Chinook falls

The Havre high girls basketball team is one win away from history after knocking off Laurel in the Class A semifinals Friday.


Colin Thompson

Kyndall Keller drives the ball against a Laurel defender in the semifinals of the Class A state tournament Friday. Havre beat Laurel 52-41 to get back to the championship game.

Updated 10 p.m .: The Chinook Sugarbeeters came up a few minutes short of getting to play for the Class C boys state championship Friday night in Billings. Tied with two-time state champion Arlee 43-43 heading into the fourth quarter, the Beeters lost to the Warriors 72-61 in the semifinals at the Metra. Cord Schneider poured in 29 points in what was Chinook's first loss of the season. The Beeters will play Fairview in a loser-out game Saturday morning.

In Belgrade Friday, the Rocky Boy Stars advanced to the Class B boys consolation game, but fell to Big Timber to finish fourth. In the 53-38 loss to Big Timber, Olin Arkinson scored 10 points for the Stars, who knocked off Northern B champion Poplar Friday morning.

At the State B girls tourney Friday in Belgrade, the Harlem Wildcats were eliminated by Three Forks, 61-40.

GREAT FALLS -- In order to be a championship team, being able to grind out wins is a requirement and Friday against a scrappy Laurel team, the Havre Blue Ponies proved they could do exactly that.

The 52-41 win for Havre wasn't a work of art, but it was the kind of win championship teams are able to get and now, because of it, HHS is one win away from back-to-back state championships, as the Ponies will face Hardin for the Class A state title Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.

“I am just really proud of our kids,” HHS head coach Dustin Kraske said. “That’s a tough game and it was a heck of a win. It took everybody. Whether it was making key free throws, playing defense on their studs or getting rebounds, we had a gameplan coming in and our kids executed it.”

While Havre has been able to pull away from most of its opponents in the second half this season, Laurel wasn't going anywhere. Mya Hansen kept the Locomotives in the game in the first half, thanks to 11 points and two 3-pointers. After Hansen hit from deep the second time, Laurel led 11-10 at the 6:48 mark of the second quarter.

With her team down one, Kyndall Keller, the leading scorer in Class A girls basketball this season, went to work. She hit a runner to put Havre back in the lead, but a 3-ball from Aspen Cotter tied things up again at 14-14. Then, Keller scored the next eight points for Havre, knocking down two treys to give her 14 first-half points. Her offensive spurt also gave the Ponies a 22-16 halftime lead.

"I was nervous taking those shots," Keller said. "But if you don't take shots like that, you aren't going to make them. It was great seeing those go in."

In the third quarter, with the lead trimmed to five points, Havre junior Katie Wirtzberger stepped onto the big stage and hit a mid-range jumper, which was followed by a 3-point make from the corner and suddenly, Havre was in front 27-19 with 5:18 left in the stanza.

"Katie Wirtzberger can play," Kraske said. "Sometimes she keeps that to herself but when she is focused and confident, she is able to do things like that."

A hoop by Lauren Kato pushed the Havre lead to 10 when Hansen put the Locomotives on her back again. After scoring eight straight at one point in the first half, Hansen scored seven straight in the third, getting her team back within three at 29-26. But as they did all night, the Ponies answered with a 7-0 run that included buckets by Sadie Filius and Keller and heading to the fourth, Havre led 36-26.

Over the final eight minutes, the state semifinals became a battle of free throw shooting. Both teams reached the double bonus midway through the period. With some free throws and two buckets from Maeson Cotter, Laurel was down just four 45-41 with 1:20 left.

Yet, Cotter's bucket would be the last point Laurel would score. On the other end, Filius and Walker hit some free throws to ice the 11-point win, which sends Havre back to the state championship game.

"It's an awesome feeling," Keller said. "To get to the championship game two years in a row, it just says a lot about our team and we are excited to have another chance at it."

Despite getting in foul trouble late, Keller had another stellar outing for HHS, scoring 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting. She also added six rebounds and two assists. Miller also toughed out 10 points and five boards. Hansen led Laurel and matched Keller with a game-high 19. Aspen Cotter added eight in the loss.

"Kudos to our kids," Kraske said. "I am really happy for them. They worked hard for this and I think this is a reflection of all that time and effort."

The Ponies will face Hardin for the state title in a rematch of the state championship game from a year ago. With a win, on the exact same floor it beat Hardin on last year, Havre can become the first basketball team in school history to win back-to-back state championships. Tip-off time for the Class A girls championship is set for 6:30 p.m.

Colin Thompson

Havre High freshman Sadie Filius attacks a Laurel defender in the semifinals of the Class A state tournament Friday.

Havre 52, Laurel 41

Laurel 8 8 10 15 - 41

Havre - 10 12 14 16 - 52

Laurel - Mya Hansen 19, Maeson Cotter 9, Aspen Cotter 8, Gracey Willis 2, Morgan Maack 1, Kaitlyn Dawes 2. Totals: 12-37 13-21 41.

Havre - Sam Oliver 2, Kyndall Keller 19, Kylie Walker 3, Loy Waid 2, Kadia Miller 10, Jessa Chvilicek 3, Sadie Filius 6, Katie Wirtzberger 5, Lauren Kato 2. Totals: 14-31 20-33 52.

3-pointers: (Kyndall Keller 2, Katie Wirtzberger 1, Jessa Chvilicek 1, Mya Hansen 3, Aspen Cotter 1. Fouls: Laurel 24, Havre 16. Fouled out -- Hansen.


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