State A boys: Butte Central reaches 1st title game since 2008, Hardin makes 3rd straight

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Hardin vs. Livingston

Hardin’s Trae Hugs raises his arms after the Bulldogs beat Livingston in the the Class A state semifinals at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark on Friday.

BILLINGS — Butte Central rallied past Browning to reach its first Class A state boys basketball title game since 2008.

The No. 2-ranked Maroons overcame an early nine-point deficit and won 66-50 Friday night at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.

Matt Simkins led Central with 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Jared Simkins had 12 points and nine boards, Braden Harrington scored 14 points and Trevor Neuman added 10.

Browning’s Riley Spoonmaker scored a game-high 24 points, and Blayne DeRoche added 10 points and eight boards.

The Maroons (20-4) will face Hardin in the title game Saturday night back at Metra.

This story will be updated.

Hardin 73, Livingston 41

For the third straight year, the Bulldogs advanced to the Class A boys basketball state championship game.

Top-ranked Hardin handled Livingston in the first semifinal game Friday at Metra. The Bulldogs (23-0) will try to bury last year’s title game loss to Billings Central and win their second championship in three seasons. They beat the Rams for the 2017-18 state title.

“We did want Central,” said Hardin coach Andrew Round Face. “But it didn’t work out that way, so we’ll take whoever’s next.”

Senior Sage McMinn completed an and-one early in the second quarter to cut Livingston’s deficit to 16-14. Peyton Good Luck answered with two straight buckets. Fellow senior Famous Lefthand followed with two more. Senior Kidd Little Light split free throws and hit a 3. Lefthand and Good Luck each made another shot.

McMinn scored Livingston’s only points during that stretch, a 16-2 run that gave the Bulldogs a 32-16 halftime lead.

A 26-15 third quarter all but sealed the win for Hardin, which will face No. 2 Butte Central or Browning in the title game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday back at Metra.

“I had a bad first quarter, and then I came back in and just wanted to prove to myself that I could do better and help my team out,” Good Luck said. “I knew we were gonna make a run.”

The Bulldogs went 4-0 against Livingston this season. The first three ended 61-60 (on a Lefthand buzzer-beater), 70-60 and 67-33 at the Eastern A Divisional tournament.

Lefthand led all players with 18 points (8 of 17 from the field) and five assists, senior Cayden Redfield had 16 points (7 of 9) and a game-best 11 rebounds and Good Luck scored 11 points (5 of 6).

“This is pretty much the same team I have from last year,” Round Face said. “We’re still extremely confident on everything. We know what it takes to get there.”

Senior Brendon Johnson led Livingston with 14 points (5 of 12), junior Tristan Stenseth had 10 (8 of 10 from the free-throw line) and McMinn finished with nine points (3 of 9 on field goals) and eight boards.

Johnson, who averaged a Class A-best 26.7 points per game through the regular season, has scored 18 points combined in his last two games against the Bulldogs.

“We wanted them to beat us with their other four players. Brendon can beat anybody,” Round Face said. “Our goal was only to hold him beneath his average. There’s a reason he’s the point leader in the state. He can flat-out shoot. We had to get him out of rhythm.”

The Rangers (17-7) will face another Eastern A team, Laurel, in a loser-out, winner-to-state game at 9 a.m. Saturday at Billings Skyview.

Laurel 55, Billings Central 47

Laurel eliminated defending state champion Billings Central in a loser-out game on Friday at Metra.

The Locomotives (14-11) trailed 13-10 after one quarter but outscored their Eastern A rival 16-9 in the second quarter and 29-24 in the second half.

Wylee Schnetter led Laurel with 12 points (3 of 5 from the field, 6 of 6 from the free-throw line), fellow junior Nick Pasquarello scored 11 (4 of 8 from the field), junior Colter Bales had 10 points (3 of 9) and eight rebounds and junior Eli Aby recorded eight points (3 of 7) and a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Locos shot 15 of 17 from the free-throw line, while the Rams finished 10 of 18.

Laurel will play a loser-out, winner-to-third-place game at 9 a.m. Saturday at Billings Skyview against Livingston.

Central senior Gabriel Penha Dos Santos scored a game-high 14 points (5 of 8). The No. 5-ranked Rams finished 13-10.

Frenchtown 51, Polson 47

Fourth-ranked Frenchtown held off Polson in the consolation bracket Friday morning at Metra.

Zack Baker led the Broncs with 15 points, while Cade Baker and Brandon Finley each scored 10. Finley also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.

Polson’s Colton Graham led all players with 20 points and tallied seven boards.

Frenchtown (19-5) will face Browning in a loser-out, winner-to-third-place game at 9 a.m. Saturday back at Metra. 

Polson finished its season with a 13-11 record.

Email Victor Flores at and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores_BG

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