March 8-10, 2018
Dahlberg Arena, Missoula
Overview: For the first time in 11 years, someone other than Fairfield or Malta will walk away with the state tournament trophy at the Class B girls basketball tournament in Missoula since neither qualified for state this year. Undefeated Three Forks is the highest returning team, having placed third last season. Along with Colstrip, they’re the only two teams in the bracket who made it to state last year in one of the most wide-open years in recent memory.
Western B: Bigfork is undefeated in the Class B ranks, having lost to only Class A Columbia Falls. The Valkyries last made the tournament in 2016 but have never played in a state title game.
Other qualifier: Deer Lodge is coming off a 41-36 loss to Bigfork in the Western B divisional title game as it makes its first state tournament appearance since 2014. The Wardens are 0-2 in state title games, losing in 1972 and 1973, the first two years of the tournament.
Northern B: Rocky Boy has gone 5-0 in the postseason to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2005, when it was in Class C. The Morning Stars beat defending champ Fairfield in district play and defending runner-up Malta in divisional play.
Other qualifier: Poplar avenged its loss to Wolf Point in the District 2B title game with a win in the divisional challenge game to reach state. After losing 71-70 to Rocky Boy in overtime in the divisional semifinals, the Indians battled back through defending champ Fairfield in the third-place game and challenged Wolf Point to advance. Poplar has yet to play in a state-title game.
Southern B: Three Forks is the only undefeated team to qualify for state and has won 20 of its games by double digits. The Wolves placed third last season, but it’s been 39 years since their last title after they won back-to-back championships in 1978 and 1979.
Other qualifiers: Colstrip has lost just one game to a Class B team, falling to Three Forks in the divisional championship. The Fillies went 0-2 at state last year and haven’t won a state title since taking the Class A crown in 1999. Townsend is back in the state tournament for the first time since 2013, but have the most recent state titles of any in the field, winning in 2004 and 2005. The Bulldogs have only lost this season to Three Forks and Colstrip, the latter in double overtime. St. Labre needed a big rally back through the loser-out rounds at the divisional to make its first state tournament appearance since 2016. St. Labre has played in one state-title game, losing in 1975.
Fun Fact: A team other than Fairfield or Malta will win the Class B girls’ state championship for the first time in over a decade. Missoula Loyola was the last team to win in 2006. Neither of the perennial powers, who’ve combined for the past 11 state titles, is among the eight teams that advanced to state.
Boys Overview: Like the girls, there will be a new champion since last year's champion, the Malta Mustangs, did not qualify for the state tournament. Undefeated Bigfork, Three Forks and Shelby lead the field but the defending runners-up from 2017, Anaconda, made it back into this year's tournament via challenge game. The Coyotes return as last season's third-place finisher.
Western B: Bigfork has been ranked No. 1 in the 406mtsports.com polls for most of the season. In the Vikings 70-58 win over Missoula Loyola during the Western B championship, Anders Epperly and Logan Gilliard scored 18 points apiece.
Other qualifier: Led by the Copperheads' all-time scoring leader Braxton Hill, Anaconda placed third in the West, before beating Missoula Loyola in a challenge game to qualify for state. The Copperheads are the defending runners-up.
Southern B: Three Forks defeated Lodge Grass 69-56 for the Southern B title, behind Micaiah Hauser and Colter Miller, who canned 25 and 24 points, respectively. Miller leads the team with 17 points averaged, but the Wolves will be missing team captain Payden Lynn who broke his foot in the semifinals.
Other qualifiers: Lodge Grass, the South’s No. 2, is spearheaded led by Ethan Dust and Mylon Blacksmith. No. 3 Colstrip suffered their only loss of the year against Three Forks in the first round of the tourney and is paced Isaiah Williams, who averaged 18.8 ppg during the tourney. No. 4 Joliet is led by Taylor Rowlinson who set a school-record with 46 points against St. Labre in the J-Hawks first-round Southern B divisional loss.
Northern B: Shelby garnered the Northern B divisional championship with a 65-55 triumph over Rocky Boy, as Aaron White poured in 29 points, followed by TJ Reynolds with 25. The Coyotes are also coming off an appearance in the 2017 Class B football semifinals.
Other qualifiers: Rocky Boy is paced by Ben Iron Eyes, Kendell Windy Boy and Frankie Bacon and the Stars are making their first return to the state tournament since winning the Class B tournament in 2010, their first year after transitioning from Class C.
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