MISSOULA — With its 11-point lead trimmed to one, Three Forks senior Shainy Mack knew she had to get to the rim.
Colstrip had been closing all driving lanes, but Mack slithered her way through three defenders, scored a layup and converted an and-1 to stop the bleeding.
Her basket started an 8-0 run that began to put the game out of reach. It was the lone field goal in the fourth quarter for the Wolves, who overcame recent free throw struggles to hold off the Fillies and win their first state title since 1979 with a 57-48 victory on Saturday at Dahlberg Arena.
“It definitely took guts, and it came from the heart. I think we all have that,” Three Forks junior Kyle Olson said. She and Mack combined for Three Forks’ final 15 points.
The win gives the Wolves their third state title in program history. They won back-to-back titles in 1978 and 1979.
They closed the season with a perfect record at 26-0, needing to grind out three games in three days at the state tournament after breezing through the regular season.
“They don’t know how to lose. They don’t want to lose,” Three Forks head coach Mike Sauvageau said of what makes this year’s team special.
Added Olson: “I think there was always pressure, especially on this last game because we wanted to make it perfect. It’s nice that it really worked out. It’s amazing.”
The Wolves came up clutch at the free-throw line after struggling in the quarterfinals (4 of 19) and semifinals (16 of 39). They made 27 of 36 with the title on the line and were 16 of 19 in the fourth quarter.
Mack went 10 of 14 at the charity stripe, while Olson knocked down 9 of 12. Olson tallied 21 points, 10 steals, three rebounds, two assists and one block. Mack finished with 21 points, five assists, four steals and three rebounds.
Senior Morgan Allen added nine points, seven of which came in the first quarter.
“I think our seniors bring a lot to the court,” Mack said. “We’ve all been together and we’ve all played for so long, and this finally paid off for us working together for four years.”
The Wolves had built their lead as big as 13 points, 39-26 in the third quarter, and it looked like they might repeat the blowout victory they handed Colstrip in the Southern B divisional championship game one week ago, 63-44.
But the Fillies refused go away and found success with second-chance opportunities. They opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run and got within 42-41 when Sossity Spotted Wolf scored on a floater in the lane with 3:52 to play.
Mack answered with her layup, and she and Olson combined to make 6 of their next 7 free-throw attempts to push the lead to 50-41.
Colstrip’s Amaya LaFranier drained a 3-pointer with 70 seconds left, Mack split free throws, and Colstrip’s Kya Egan converted an and-1 to trim Three Forks’ lead to 51-47.
Mack and Olson went 6 for 6 at the free-throw line after that, and the defense locked down to seal the win.
“All weekend, we struggled with free throws,” Mack said. “We knew it was in the back of our mind. We just wanted to try and try and try to do our best at the free-throw line to get it done.”
LaFranier paced Colstrip with 12 points, Shelby Jordan totaled 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlin Gillespie added seven points and 10 rebounds.
Townsend 41, Deer Lodge 37 (OT)
When Townsend needed her most, junior Tavia Rooney came up clutch.
The team’s leading scorer poured in nine of her 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lift Townsend to a 41-37 win against Deer Lodge in Saturday’s third-place game. It’s the Bulldogs’ first time placing at state since 2013, when they finished second.
The win was their second victory of the day. They beat Poplar 43-41 in a morning loser-out game after they lost to Colstrip in Saturday’s semifinal.
“Winning elimination games, that’s a pride thing, that’s a gut-check thing,” said Townsend head coach Dan Hazlett. “They showed resilience. This season was a lot of highs, some lows. In the end, the ‘We-not-me’ attitude was our motto all year long, and that’s what got us through.”
Rooney stuffed the stat sheet with 12 rebounds, five blocks and five steals — all game highs — while Deer Lodge held her scoreless in the second and third quarters with a box-and-one defense.
A 6-foot junior, she averaged 13.5 points, 16.0 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 assists in the four state games at Dahlberg Arena. She said she’s had minor talks with the Lady Griz coaching staff but hasn’t received any offers from them.
“We all wanted to win this game so bad because we’ve wanted to win at state since we were little,” Rooney said. “It’s not really real right now. We’re all excited, not sure what to think. It’s a jumble of emotions.”
Down 31-26 in the fourth quarter, Townsend scored six consecutive points to take a 32-31 lead. Rooney got a steal and fast break layup to pull the Bulldogs within 31-29, and she converted a pair of free throws with 45.5 seconds left to go ahead 32-31.
Deer Lodge’s Josee Applegate split free throws with 23.3 seconds left to tie the game. After two timeouts, Abby Leachman had a chance to win the game for Townsend but missed a 3-point bank attempt as the horn sounded.
Rooney scored the first four points of overtime, converting a pair of free throws and coming up with a steal and layup. Leachman added two free throws to put Townsend up 38-32, and Deer Lodge didn’t get any closer than four points.
The second-half offense was an improved performance from the first half, when the Bulldogs were held to one point in the second quarter and trailed 11-9 at the break.
Townsend focused on better ball movement in the second half, and freshman Charlotte Watson sparked Townsend with eight points in the third quarter to help the Bulldogs go up 24-19.
“She plays aggressive and the right way with no fear,” Hazlett said. “Sometimes you need a player to take over and be aggressive.”
Josee Applegate’s 3-pointer to put the Lady Wardens up 31-26 with 4:53 left in regulation was their last field goal.
Watson fouled out with 13 points and Townsend down 31-30 with 1:42 to play.
“I’m proud of the team and how far we’ve come this season and not giving up after yesterday’s loss,” Watson said.
Townsend 43, Poplar 41
Townsend hit its free throws down the stretch to advance to the third-place game with a 43-41 win over Poplar in Saturday morning’s loser-out game.
Tavia Rooney paced the Bulldogs with 12 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. Abby Leachman added 12 points on four 3-pointers.
Townsend and Poplar entered the fourth quarter tied 31-31. The Bulldogs made seven of nine free-throw attempts to overcome 2-of-13 shooting from the field in the final frame.
Imani Bighorn led Poplar with 13 points, 19 rebounds, four steals, three blocks and three assists. Chloe Shields added 12 points, and Alleen Russell chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Deer Lodge 49, Bigfork 36
Deer Lodge avenged its loss to Bigfork in the divisional championship game with a 49-36 win in Saturday's loser-out contest to advance to the third-place game.