HELENA — Once again, it was the Jamie Pickens-Kamden Hilborn Show as the two Helena High girls basketball players led the undefeated and No. 1 ranked Bengals to a 43-39 win over once-beaten Glacier.
Helena's victory in their conference lid-lifter in The Jungle moved last year's winners of the state championship game to 6-0, and 1-0 Western AA action. Glacier slips to 4-2, 0-1.
With the game on the line in the final two minutes, and the home team clinging to a tenuous 2-point lead, 34-32, Pickens and Hilborn combined to seal the deal.
Pickens drained her second bomb from 3-point land, for a 5-point cushion at 37-32. After Glacier scored, Hilborn drove the lane for a left-handed lay-up, making it 39-36. Then a jumper from the top of the key by Pickens made it 41-36, which turned out to be the deciding basket.
But Glacier was from done. Alivia Atlee, who 30 minutes earlier scored the first points of the night, made an old-fashioned 3-point play, and the visitors closed to 41-39 with 41 seconds left.
Then came the clincher.
The Wolfpack stole the ball and made long pass on a fast break, and when the Glacier player drove for the hoop, Hilborn sped down in front of her and established her defensive position. She took the painful charge — which sent her flying backwards several feet — but proceeded to make both ends of the 1-and-1 with 19 seconds on the clock, and for all intents and purposes the game was over.
"I told my coaches, it seems like every time we need a big play, our point guard (Hilborn) is there when we need it," Helena coach Eric Peterson said. "And as for Pickens, we're lucky to have her. She keeps improving, tonight we moved her out to the perimeter more; I'm just glad she's a Bengal."
The 6-foot-2 junior post finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, for her fifth double-double of the young season. She also had four blocked shots. Hilborn scored 12 points with five boards. She pirated a team-high four steals, and shared the assist lead of two dishes with Pickens.
The Wolfpack led 14-13 after a furious first quarter, and inched ahead 19-17 by halftime as both offenses sputtered in the second period. Anna Schrade, a 5-10 senior, sparked the visitors second quarter, with five points in the final 30 seconds of the first half for the two-point cushion heading into the locker room.
Schrade paced Glacier with 17 points, including two treys. Atlee was next with 10 points, and grabbed a game-high 11 boards.
After the intermission, Helena outgunned the Kalispell group 13-7 in the third to go ahead 30-26 heading into the final frame.
"It's always nice to come to Helena, but this is a tough place to play," Wolfpack coach Bill Sullivan said. "We had our chances, we just made too many mistakes — especially in the first half — and it hurt us down the stretch.
"But Helena is a very good team, they create problems all over the court with Hilborn and Pickens. You've gotta bring your A-game to beat them."
Next in the scoring column for HHS was sophomore Abby Marcille with five points.
"I'm glad we had this grind it out win, we've been winning by double digits and we needed a game where fought through adversity, which we did," Peterson said.