HELENA -- The Western AA No. 2 Helena High Bengals defeated No. 3 Capital in the second semifinal game of the AA Western Conference divisional tournament in the Bears’ Den Friday night, 50-35.
The Bengals advance to the division title game in their home Jungle at 8 p.m. Saturday, where they'll take on No. 1 Missoula Sentinel. The game will be rematch of last year’s state chipper, which HHS won.
Capital will play Flathead at 10:30 a.m. in the consolation semis in the Bears' Den.
Helena improves to 18-2 after Friday’s victory, while the Bruins slip to 16-4. The Bengals now lead the season series 2-1.
"Kamden Hilborn came ready to play," said HHS coach Eric Peterson, referring to his senior guard's game-high performances of 19 points and four steals. "It's her last game in this gym and with Jamie (Pickens) on the bench with three fouls, I thought she put on a show.
"We started out kind of frantic, so at halftime we didn't draw up much; just got the girls to take a few deep breaths and it helped calm us down in the second half."
Helena led wire to wire, with a 15-4 advantage after the first quarter, a 21-16 lead at the break, and a 33-27 edge going into the fourth.
After Pickens garnered her third foul late in the opening period, the state’s leading scorer and rebounder sat on the bench until after halftime.
Capital made a run in the second period and closed to within three, 17-14, on a three-point field goal by Emily Kidder. But then HHS went on an 8-2 run to go up 25-16 early in the third.
CHS then produced a 6-0 run, culminated by a 3-pointer by Sydney Sheridan, closing to within 25-22. But again, Helena answered back outscoring the Bruins 8-5 the rest of the period, and eventually won going away.
After Hilborn, Emily Feller netted 12 points, ahead of Paige Aasved and Pickens at eight points each. Helena held a 45-35 margin in field goal percentage, and had 10 fewer turnovers, 20-10, than their counterparts.
Capital outrebounded HHS 28-24, led by Katie Culver’s five boards. Pickens posted a game-high seven rebounds in her three periods.
For Capital, Sydney Sheridan was high with nine points, followed by Megan Lindo's six counters.
"I'm proud of the girls, they played very hard - both teams - and we competed well and put ourselves in a position several times to take the lead,” Bruins coach Bill Pilgeram said. “But we just couldn't get enough runs, and had it to Helena they made some big plays in the fourth.
“It was another great game between two very good girls basketball teams.”