Entering the Eastern AA Divisional as the No. 7 seed, Belgrade nearly upset No. 2 Billings West in a first round game Thursday. But four late turnovers proved costly as the upset bid was thwarted.
Led by three players who scored 16 points, Billings West held on for a 59-51 victory. Then Belgrade’s season came to an end Friday with 68-49 defeat to Great Falls CMR at Great Falls High School.
“Not sure the scoreboard can define how competitive this game was and how well our kids played even in defeat,” Panthers head coach Luke Powers said. “Billings west was a team that had beaten us by over 40 and 30 points the previous two times we played them.”
The Panthers (3-17) got within 52-51 with on a bucket by Rylan McCollim with 1:58 remaining but failed to score again. Twice Belgrade had possession with an opportunity to take the lead but committed a turnover.
Billings West extended its lead to 54-51 with 44 seconds remaining and then immediately stretched it to five, 56-51, after Belgrade committed another turnover with 40 seconds to go. The Golden Bears, who went on to beat No. 1 Bozeman 54-48 in the championship game, closed out the game with three free throws, including two on a technical foul.
AJ Moser, Billy Carlson and Cash Rice each scored 16 points for Billings West, while Tre’Vion Randle had 16 for the Panthers.
“Very proud of the kids' effort against Billings West who I think is the best team in the state,” said Powers.
Friday, Belgrade led Rustlers 14-13 after the first quarter, but was outscored 40-21 between the second and third quarters.
“CMR played well and forced us into too many bad spots which led to multiple turnovers,” said Powers. “I'd be lying if I said that the previous night’s emotional loss against Billings west didn't play into how this early game went. The effort was still there, we just didn't quite have the energy to fully compete in this game.”
Great Falls CMR had three players in double figures with Hunter McMann and River Wasson each tallying 15, and Trigg Mapes finishing with 14.
Kade Schlauch scored a game-high 26 for the Panthers, including seven 3’s, while Randle finished with 12 points.
“So darn proud our improvement this season as a program and really looking forward to this program’s bright future,” said Powers.