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HELENA — Only one upset was in the cards for the Helena High boys basketball team at the AA Western Conference divisional tournament.

Second-seeded Missoula Hellgate wouldn't fall victim to the feisty, sixth-seeded Bengals on Friday night at Helena High.

The Knights won the semifinal 58-32 to earn a State tournament berth and head into the championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Helena against top-seeded Missoula Sentinel.

Sentinel needed last-minute heroics to get by Glacier, 46-42, Friday in an earlier game.

"It's a relief to win this game," Sentinel coach Jeff Hays said. "Big Sky pushed us (Thursday) night, and we had to work hard. And it was the same with Helena. It's a great feeling and a great accomplishment to make State. We are going to enjoy it tonight and get ready for a tough Sentinel team."

The Bengals, who knocked of No. 3 Kalispell Flathead on Thursday, go into an elimination game at 10:30 a.m. against crosstown rival Capital.

Both teams need to win that game to earn a State tournament opportunity as a top-four team in the seven-team divisional bracket, and the chance to play for third place this tournament later in the day.

"It's a great opportunity to play a crosstown game with an opportunity to go to State," Helena coach Brandon Day said. "Our guys will come ready to play against a very good Capital team."

Hellgate used its aggressive defense to get the best of Helena. The Bengals didn't find easy shots, and since they've struggled with offensive consistency this season that was something that couldn't happen. They were 3-for-18 shooting.

Helena's top scorers had a rough night. Connor Murgel scored only two points and was 0 for 2 from the field. Alex Johnson was held scoreless with only four shots.

"Hellgate is a really good team," Day said. "Their length and pressure made shots difficult. Our guys came out ready for the game. We just didn't handle their pressure well."

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Grady Koenig was Helena's top scorer with nine points, followed by Hayden Ferguson with six and Aidan Brus with five.

"We had to make sure we were locked in defensively, and we did a good job of that," Hays said. "We had to make sure Murgel didn't score, and Johnson. When we play defense like that, that drivers our offense in transition."

Rollie Worster led the way for the Knights with 18 points and five rebounds. From there the scoring was spread out to 10 other players. Kade Lunday had nine points and Bridger Deden added eight.

Hellgate also faces a crosstown rival on the final day of the tournament. Hays feels both championship teams have had tough games in the tournament and it's going to be a physical challenge to find out what both teams have left.

"There's a lot at play in this game," Hays said. "It's a crosstown game with a divisional championship on the line. And they knocked us off twice. We just have to keep our composure and play good basketball."


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