BILLINGS — The Class C boys state championship game has been set between the Scobey Spartans and the Twin Bridges Falcons, thanks to a last-second shot that narrowly missed for Fort Benton.
Twin Bridges won 39-38 in the semifinals Friday.
The result means the Falcons will face Scobey in the state championship game at 7:30 Saturday night at Lockwood High School while Fort Benton will play in the consolation semifinals at 9 a.m. Saturday in Laurel against Belt.
"There's a ton of resiliency on this team," said Twin Bridges coach Josh Keller. "We knew we could put points on the board and I saw it in their eyes, they wanted to win this one."
Points were hard to come by in the first quarter until the final three minutes. After a defensive rebound, Charlie Kruer caught a long pass that he converted with a two-handed dunk. Kruer was not finished making plays, though.
In the final seconds of the first quarter, Kruer made a step-back mid-range jumper that he has used often this season. Twin Bridges led 9-5 after the first quarter, and continued to build on its lead in the second.
"It feels great to get these guys to the state tournament, but give Fort Benton credit — those guys came out and played hard it just kind of fell our way in the end," said Keller.
Tate Smith made a corner 3-pointer to give Twin Bridges a nine-point lead with three minutes left in the second quarter, but Fort Benton did not let up. The Longhorns came up with five steals and trailed 21-16 at halftime.
After trailing since the second possession of the game, Fort Benton’s Devin Bird made a 3-pointer with four minutes left in the third quarter to tie the game. Cody Evans gave Fort Benton its first lead since two-to-zero on the last shot of the third quarter.
Fort Benton led 28-26 after three quarters, and Cody Evans gave the Longhorns their first two-possession lead with six minutes left in the game. After trading baskets for much of the fourth quarter, Fort Benton led 35-34 at the two-minute mark.
Down by two with one minute remaining, Kruer hit a 3-pointer to put Twin Bridges ahead 39-38 with 50 seconds remaining. Fort Benton forced a jump ball and Twin Bridges then missed a free throw.
"We talked about playing as a family and it brings a tear to your eye to see them play that way," said Keller. "But we had too many turnovers, we have to slow down and play solid basketball tomorrow."
After the missed free throw, Fort Benton ran downcourt and turned the ball over. But just after the inbound the Longhorns forced another jump ball, which gave them possession with under 10 seconds left.
But they were unable to complete the comeback.
Kruer finished with a game-high 16 points and Smith added 14 for Twin Bridges. Hayden Diekhans led the way for Fort Benton with 12 points.
"It's about weathering the storm and we did a great job of that tonight," said Charlie Kruer, Twin Bridges forward. "It feels great we really wanted to play since we didn't last year, it feels great."
Scobey 45, Manhattan Christian 39
Scobey reached the championship game last season, but the tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19. After beating Manhattan Christian 45-39, the Spartans will return to the championship game this year with a chance to compete.
Manhattan Christian will play in the consolation semifinal against Froid-Lake on Saturday at 9 a.m.
"It's something you dream of for a long time, it was a terrible feeling (when last year's tournament cancelled)," Scobey's Caden Handran said. "But we had to use it as motivation, at every practice at 6 a.m.."
The first quarter looked more like a 3-point contest than a basketball game, as tight defense from both teams forced outside shots. Fortunately for Manhattan Christian, the outside shots were falling at an efficient rate.
With a 12-8 lead after the first quarter, Scobey showed an inspiring effort defensively and driving to the basket. Parker Cromwell gave Scobey a 13-12 lead with a mid-range floater early in the second quarter, which prompted a Manhattan Christian timeout and a roar from Spartan fans.
"We played a really good team that kept us off-balance in the first half," said Scobey coach Jason Wolfe. "We gained our composure after we fumbled the ball around in the first half and started playing more of our game."
Scobey led 20-16 at halftime, and it could be credited to the defensive effort. Manhattan Christian was held to just four points in the second quarter.
Scobey's lead reached double-digits with two minutes left in the third quarter as it found momentum through defense and transition offense. Manhattan Christian's Seth Amunrud was not ready to concede though.
"Ultimately we got better defensively, they have some great kids who did great attacking the basket," said Wolfe. "We just had to limit them to one shot and make sure they weren't getting any second chance efforts."
Amunrud drove past four Scobey defenders for a layup with one minute remaining in the third quarter, shrinking the lead to nine. But Scobey answered back quickly and led 34-23 after three quarters.
Manhattan Christian began running a full court trap defense in the fourth quarter, which forced two turnovers to bring the Eagles within six points at the five-minute mark. Manhattan Christian fans erupted with cheers after their next possession.
"We're just happy to be where we're at, we got here last year and didn't get to finish it," Wolfe said. "These kids are special and not many people notice, but these kids have never lost a regular season game, it's just a special group of kids."
With three minutes to go, Willem Kimm finished a put-back layup and drew a foul. After he made the free throw, Manhattan Christian trailed by just three with two minutes left in the game.
Scobey was consistent from the free throw line and crashed the boards hard in the fourth quarter, which helped them secure the victory. Scobey shot 75% from the free throw line for the game.
Caden Handran led Scobey with 14 points and five assists and Aidan Fishell added 12 points. Seth Amunrud had 23 points for Manhattan Christian.
"We've been together since kindergarten, so the chemistry is there for sure," said Handran.
Froid-Lake 66, Bridger 41
After losing to Fort Benton in a heartbreaking game on Thursday, Froid-Lake bounced back in the loser-out game against Bridger.
Neither team was able to find rhythm from 3-point range on Friday, but Froid-Lake found its scoring in the paint and at the free-throw line. The Redhawks also won the rebounding battle 38-27.
Javonne Nesbit finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Bode Miller added 12 for Froid-Medicine Lake. Baylor Pospisil led Bridger with a game-high 17 points.
Belt 50, Broadus 33
A dominant second half led Belt past Broadus in convincing fashion.
Belt shot 40% for the game, led by Garrett Metrione, who finished with 18 points. Aidan McDaniel added 14 points and eight rebounds for Belt, while Bridger Vogl had 10 points and six rebounds.
Marcus Mader was the top scorer for Broadus with 11 points. Broadus is done for the season.