MISSOULA — Everyone in Missoula Hellgate's main gymnasium stood still.
Down by three points with fractions of a second remaining, a Hellgate girls' player threw up a shot attempt in the corner, in hopes that it would spur overtime.
It was close. The shot rimmed out and Missoula Big Sky's players screamed in delight as the 33-30 score went final.
"It was close. It was close," Big Sky coach Michela Anderson said of the last-second shot. "I was definitely holding my breath. My kids played well. They never gave up. They just kept working and battling. I can't be more happy. Hellgate's a good basketball team. I think it was just a battle tonight."
On the flip side, the Hellgate boys took home the crosstown title, winning 68-30.
The Big Sky girls' win over Hellgate was the Eagles' first conference win of the season, and just their second overall win of the year.
But they had to work for it. With just under 3 minutes to play, the game was tied at 28 apiece.
Anderson called a timeout.
"I just told them that we need to settle down," she said. "'We need to relax. We need to understand that we are confident free throw shooters. We need to be strong with the basketball, know that they're going to foul us.' Calm down and control the game was my message to those kids."
After getting multiple offensive rebounds, Big Sky reset its offense to get Sydnee Zanto wide open in front of the Eagles' bench. Zanto's shot was perfect, giving Big Sky a 31-28 lead. The Big Sky bench erupted.
The score remained 31-28 until 50.9 seconds remained on the clock. Hellgate's Kylie Lunday grabbed a Knight offensive rebound for a putback. She made the bucket and headed to the free throw line for a shot to tie the game. The score remained 31-30.
With 45.8 seconds left, Alyssa Gentri was fouled and went to the line. She hit her first free throw to move Big Sky's lead to two.
Big Sky sent Hellgate to the line two more times in a two-second span but the Knights came up empty.
Big Sky's TiLynn McGreevey was fouled with 29.3 seconds to go. Like Gentri, she made the first of her two free throws to put Big Sky up by three.
"It was stressed out for sure," Anderson said. "I told them, 'it's OK if they score two. They can't have a three.'"
Hellgate had two good looks at 3-pointers in the final 17 seconds but neither went down.
The closer attempt of the two was the one at the buzzer.
"It's incredible. This could do wonders for us," Anderson said of the win. "A win cures a lot of things and they came to play today. First conference win against a crosstown. It can't get any better."
By the end of the game, Zanto scored 12 points, including two three-pointers to pace the Eagles. Lunday had a game-high 13 points to lead the Knights.
Big Sky hopes to ride its momentum into its next crosstown matchup with No. 1 Missoula Sentinel on Thursday. Hellgate plays Sentinel in its next game on Saturday.
'Complete game' for Hellgate boys
Big Sky's Levi Janacaro may have scored the first points of the boys' game, but for a while, that's all the Eagles could muster.
Hellgate ran rampant, going on a 24-0 run before Big Sky's Brady Tabish hit a free throw in the second quarter.
It wasn't all offense for Hellgate. The Knights' defense was stifling.
"The things that we've been emphasizing defensively, I thought we did a really nice job of," Hellgate's coach Jeff Hays said. "We talked, we communicated, we rotated defensively, we rebounded the basketball to close out possessions. ... I thought we played a very complete basketball game."
By halftime, Hellgate had cruised to a 39-7 lead.
Big Sky hit a scoring spurt in the third quarter, but it was too late. Hellgate's lead was just far too big.
Hellgate's 6-foot-6 sophomore post Abe Johnson paced the Knights with 12 points, while senior forward Kade Lunday and junior guard Dylan Holst each dropped 10 points. Both Bridger Deden and Rollie Worster added nine points to the mix.
"We just had a very good team effort," Hays said. "That's what stood out to me. It wasn't just one or two guys that played really well. We've been fortunate. Everybody has played hard over the course of the season but we haven't always played well on the same night together. (It was) just one of those nights where I thought that we did. It's fun when things go that well."
Big Sky squares up against Sentinel in Round 2 of this week's crosstown battles on Thursday, while Hellgate takes on the Spartans on Saturday.