UPDATE (1/24/15): Lame Deer's Evan Elkshoulder continued his assault on the 30-point club this week. After scoring 35 points on three consecutive nights last week, Elkshoulder went for 39 against Broadus on Thursday, giving him a state-leading six 30-point games.
The list has been updated with Elkshoulder's performances — and all the others who qualified this week. If you notice anyone missing, let us know. Contract info is below.
UPDATE (1/17/15): Shepherd's John Mushaben and Columbus' Tanner Osborne went back-and-forth in a triple overtime thriller on Saturday. In the end, Shepherd won 73-69 behind Mushaben's 31 points. Osborne had 30 for the Cougars, and both he and Mushaben made their first appearances in the 30-point club this season.
Elsewhere, Havre's Dane Warp put up 38 against Rocky Boy on Saturday, his third 30-point game of the season. And Valley Christian's Cameron Ireland went for 42, which ties him for the second-highest scoring game of the year.
Of the eight defending state champions, only two remain undefeated.
And both reside in Class B.
Bigfork’s boys have quietly, at least in these parts, reeled off 31 consecutive wins dating back to last season, when they won the state championship over Columbus. They’re 5-0 this season, beating three Class A opponents.
It’s well documented by now that Fairfield’s girls are basically unbeatable. The Eagles have won 110 consecutive games after rallying for a five-point win against Rocky Boy and trouncing Browning last week.
One streak did end, though. Fairfield had won an astonishing 53 consecutive regular-season games by 10 points or more before that narrow victory over Rocky Boy.
Only two boys basketball teams won consecutive state championships in the past six years. Josh Huestis' Great Falls CMR teams did it in 2009 and 2010, and Malta won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.
(Note: The first copy of this column incorrectly stated that CMR was the last team to win consecutive titles. My apologies to Malta on my oversight.)
Helena Capital, Columbia Falls, Bigfork and Box Elder will try to add to that group this season as they defend their respective titles.
The girls paint a starkly different picture. Three of the defending state champions – Missoula Sentinel, Fairfield and Belt – have won at least three straight. Fairfield has four consecutive Class B titles and six of the last seven.
Havre was the fourth different Class A champion in as many years.
There are some really good basketball players in Montana right now.
An already strong boys class got a boost when Tres Tinkle decided to stay at Missoula Hellgate instead of going to Oregon with his dad. Wayne Tinkle accepted the job at Oregon State this year and eventually signed Tres to his 2015 recruiting class.
The girls class got its boost with the transfer of MorningRose Tobey. The new Billings West guard moved to Billings from Idaho. She signed to play college basketball at Nevada.
To highlight some of the best players in the state, here are my fourth annual preseason all-state teams. These lists have no bearing on the actual all-state teams that are named at the end of the season, but it’s a fun exercise all the same.
Class AA boys
Jared Samuelson, a 6-foot-7 senior-to-be at Billings West, picked up a scholarship offer to play college basketball at the University of Montana.
It’s the first offer from a Division I school for Samuelson, who also currently holds an offer from Division II Montana State Billings.
“I just feel blessed for both of the offers I’ve received,” Samuelson said.
Samuelson’s AAU team, Anthony Davis Select, just wrapped up a tournament in Seattle. They lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion.
Samuelson said he was also contacted by Seattle University, Columbia (N.Y) University and Santa Clara (Calif.) University following that tournament. He’s received phone calls and text messages from Air Force, Boise State, Denver, Idaho, Mary (N.D.), Montana State and Wyoming, as well.
It’s hard to make sense of the NCAA recruiting rules, but basketball coaches are entering into the first of three “evaluation periods” in July.
The first evaluation period is a five-day stretch beginning Wednesday afternoon. Tres Tinkle of Missoula Hellgate, Jared Samuelson of Billings West and Kendal Manuel of Billings Skyview are hoping to catch the attention of more Division I coaches during that time, as we’ve already chronicled.
Another West standout, Danny Betcher, is hoping to build off of earlier contact with the programs at Austin Peay (Tennessee), Portland State, Purdue, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Washington State.
“I just want to keep working hard,” the senior-to-be said. “I’m hoping that colleges will be interested; I’ll do everything I can to make it that way. I’m hoping to have an offer or two on the table by (high school) basketball.”
Betcher plays on the Montana Hoops AAU team, which includes athletes from around the state. Other players on the team are Tyler Thompson of Laurel, Adam Huse of Bozeman, Henry Garrett of Helena, Mark Lebsock of Hellgate and Matt Wyman and Lukas Vining of Great Falls.
It’s already been a whirlwind, headline-worthy spring for the Tinkle family.
They captured another one when ESPN.com released its updated list of 2015 college basketball recruits. Tres Tinkle, who just wrapped up his junior year of high school at Missoula Hellgate, appeared on the list at No. 46.
For a spring that’s already featured its share of accolades for the smooth 6-foot-7 lefty, this might be the biggest one. ESPN is the first major recruiting outlet to place Tinkle in the top 50, making him the highest ranked Montanan since ESPN began ranking recruits in 2007.
Tinkle is the son of former Montana basketball coach Wayne Tinkle. Wayne recently accepted the head coaching position at Oregon State, which has led many to speculate that Tres will don the Beavers’ orange and black when he makes his college decision. But Josh Gershon at scout.com caught up with Tres in May, who then said he still plans on going through the recruiting process.
In the more immediate future, though, is the question of where Tres will finish his high school career. If he elects to finish out at Hellgate, the Knights will likely be the preseason favorite to win the State AA championship.
One down, one to go.
That’s where we stand after Billings West hired Kelly Darragh to replace Doug Robison as the Bears’ boys basketball head coach, leaving Billings Skyview as the only vacant position. Skyview is expected to announce its new head coach in the coming weeks, after Toby Hill resigned earlier in the spring
Personally, I don’t know Darragh, but I do know his name came up early in the process. He appeared to be the frontrunner to get the job all along, despite West reportedly receiving interest from some big names in Montana coaching circles.
Darragh’s hiring makes a ton of sense, though. The West basketball program has had success at all levels the past 10 years under Robison, with Darragh as an assistant, so promoting from within allowed and encouraged continued growth.
By accounts from Darragh’s coaching peers, the players will love playing for him, too, which is as important now as it’s ever been. Fellow Class AA coaches John Cislo at Great Falls CMR and Guy Almquist at Helena Capital, who both know Darragh from before he joined the West staff, went to social media to express their support for Darragh.
Tres Tinkle is at it again. The 6-foot-7 Missoula Hellgate junior is already making waves playing spring basketball.
Tinkle attracted a lot of attention with his play on the AAU circuit last summer, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. On Tuesday, Joel Francisco of ESPN.com recognized Tinkle as the best player at Sunday’s Earl Watson Elite Scouts Camp in Colorado.
“(Tinkle) has a knack of finding ways to score at all three levels,” Francisco wrote, “and his ability to attack the basket is uncanny. He needs to polish his off hand while attacking, but he is a top-50 national recruit.”
That’s high praise for Tinkle, who averaged 21.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.35 blocks per game during the past regular season for Hellgate. Most scouting services have him ranked just outside the top 100 nationally, but he could definitely see those rankings improve with strong showings this summer.
Tinkle has received offers from Boston College, Southern California and Utah, while also drawing interest from California, Gonzaga, Colorado, Arizona State, Oregon State and Davidson according to Francisco’s ESPN.com post. Tinkle said he likely won’t take any visits until the fall, listing unofficial visits to Cal and USC as possibilities.
The Midland Roundtable announced the Montana rosters for the 2014 Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series on Wednesday. The boys and girls games are slated for June 13 and 14.
The rosters have a distinct Class AA flavor. That’s typical, but this year it seems like there are even more AA players than normal. The boys’ breakdown: Six players are from the AA, three from Class A and one from Class B.
Class C is not represented on the boys’ team, which includes Bryden Boehning (Glendive), Oliver Carr (Bozeman), Carson Dummer (Helena Capital), Evan Epperly (Kalispell Glacier), Christian Evans (Bigfork), Kyle Harrington (Capital), Kooper Kidgell (Billings Senior), Jayse McLean (Great Falls CMR), Jared Schultz (Stevensville) and Troy Scott (Dillon).
The girls’ team, which appears to be as talented as any in recent memory, has six AA players, as well. There are two Class A players and one each from the B and C classifications.
Jill Barta (Fairfield), Michaela Dowdy (Capital), Katie Fertterer (Belt), Cassi Hashley (Glacier), Jace Henderson (Senior), Justyn Juhl (Billings Central), Maddie Keast (Missoula Sentinel), Olivia Roberts (Sentinel), Mika Robinson (Billings West) and Vanessa Stavish (Frenchtown) make up the roster.
It’s never too early to start talking about next year.
For some teams, the talk of next year started before they were ready. But it can serve as a great motivating factor. The Box Elder boys basketball team was in the gym shooting the very next day after it was eliminated at the Northern C divisional tournament in 2013.
The Bears, using “unfinished business” as a team motto, went undefeated in the 2013-14 season on their way to the State C championship.
So who are some of the teams that should be excited about the possibilities the 2014-15 season presents? Here are some way-too-early championship predictions for next year:
AA boys: Missoula Hellgate
That was a fun basketball season, huh?
Saturday night did it justice, too, with some great consolation and championship games to close the final chapter of the 2013-14 prep season, culminating with the double-overtime thriller in Bozeman.
It took everything Fairfield had, but the Lady Eagles won their 104th consecutive game and fourth straight State B championship by beating Malta 60-55. Jill Barta had a lot to do with it, scoring 41 points – 21 straight – and grabbing 18 rebounds. She forced the second overtime by hitting a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Check out this Instagram video from Cara Grewell of Barta's shot.
The 2013-14 Montana high school basketball season has drawn to a close, but not without plenty of excitement.
Three girls teams — Missoula Sentinel, Fairfield and Belt — repeated as champions, while three boys teams — Helena Capital, Bigfork and Box Elder — won long-awaited titles.
The Montana High School Association crowned six state champions Saturday and two the weekend before. Here’s a look at those teams by the numbers:
10: Number of losses for the Missoula Sentinel girls during Olivia Roberts’ four-year career.
The three-time defending champion Spartans, who have played in each of the past four state championship games, went 22-1, 22-1, 19-4 and 20-4 during Roberts’ career. Roberts will be playing college basketball at the University of Wyoming next year.
Helena Capital boys 51, Missoula Hellgate 47
Kyle Nickol broke a tie game with two late 3-pointers, and Capital held on to defeat Hellgate 51-47 to win the AA boys championship Saturday night.
The game was a rematch of last year's title game, but this time the Bruins prevailed. Hellgate won last year's championship in overtime.
Nickol's first 3 came from the left wing to put Capital up 39-36 with 3:15 remaining. A minute later he buried a pull-up 3 from the corner from an inbound pass to put the Bruins up six.
Missoula Sentinel goes for its third straight Class AA girls basketball championship on Saturday night, trying to join just two other programs in Montana history to accomplish the feat.
One of those other programs -- Billings West -- will have a say in the matter.
The Spartans (21-1) and Golden Bears (19-3) tip off at 6:30 p.m. at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. And they aren't unfamiliar foes on this stage.
The teams met for the title in 2011, which is the last time the Bears won a championship. It also means the Spartans are appearing in their fourth consecutive title tilt, while the Bears are 4-0 in their last four title games.
Behind Olivia Roberts and Maddie Keast, two players headed to NCAA Division I schools Wyoming and Montana, respectively, the Spartans have long been the favorites to win their third straight championship.
Hellgate boys 57, West 37
The Missoula Hellgate Knights are back in the State AA championship to defend their title. The Knights used a second-half surge to top Billings West 57-37 in the semifinal round.
Tres Tinkle scored 20 points, 16 coming in the first half, but it was the supporting cast that fueled the third-quarter run. Devin Bray hit two 3-pointers and Pat Colberg another to spark the Knights in the second half.
Bray finished with 10 points and six assists.
Danny Betcher and Jared Samuelson combined to score 26 points for West, which only had four players score. The Bears will play Great Falls CMR in a loser-out game at 10:30 a.m.
As the most high-profile player in the state, Tres Tinkle is used to people wanting to watch him play basketball. Many times he wishes he could instead watch his father Wayne as he coaches the men’s team at the University of Montana.
But more often than not, the Tinkles’ games happen simultaneously, and that was the case Thursday night when Tres was playing with Hellgate against Skyview at the State AA tournament in Billings and Wayne was coaching the Griz at the Big Sky Conference tournament in Ogden, Utah.
“I’m always texting my dad before the games saying, ‘Love you, good luck, go get ’em,’” Tres Tinkle said after leading the Knights to a 68-51 first-round victory over Skyview. “It tears us both up that we can’t be there for each other’s support but we’re each other’s No. 1 fan.
“After the games he’s calling me right away and I’m texting him looking for updates. We try our hardest to keep track of each other.”
Wayne Tinkle’s fortune on Thursday wasn’t as good as his son’s: The Grizzlies lost 70-63 to Portland State, which ended their season. Don’t be surprised if Wayne is in attendance for Hellgate’s semifinal game against Billings West.
That's a wrap from an exciting first day of the boys and girls State AA basketball tournaments. There were a lot of close games Thursday, capped by Angelo Villarreal's buzzer-beater to lift Billings West past Helena.
Here's Friday's schedule:
9 a.m. -- Great Falls vs. Bozeman girls, loser-out
10:30 a.m. -- Billings Senior vs. Missoula Big Sky girls, loser-out
Noon -- Great Falls CMR vs. Great Falls High boys, loser-out
Thursday will be a long day at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman. The boys and girls combined State B basketball tournament tips off at 9 a.m. Eight games later, the first-round of the tournament will reach its conclusion.
Just because it’s a long day, though, doesn’t mean it won’t be an awesome day. There are lots of great players and teams at the tournament, so there should be some entertaining games. The first highly anticipated game is the girls’ matchup between Forsyth and Malta at 10:30 a.m.
The Dogies (22-1) won the Southern B divisional championship, while the M-ettes (22-1) suffered their first loss of the season in the Northern B championship against Fairfield.
“I think both of us play kind of the same style,” said Malta coach Nate Hammond. “It might be kind of fun to watch. I definitely think they’re a good team. I think they’re very well coached, too. We’ll have our hands full for sure.”
Fairfield coach Dustin Gordon pointed to the Malta-Forsyth game as the best first-round game on paper, as well. But his Eagles, 23-0 and winners of 101 consecutive games, have a challenging draw themselves when they play Manhattan (21-3) at 3:30 p.m.
At last weekend’s Northern B divisional girls basketball tournament, the Fairfield girls beat Malta 58-45 in the championship game. Jill Barta scored 30 points to help lead the Eagles to their 101st consecutive victory.
It speaks volumes to the 6-foot-3 Gonzaga commit’s dominance that Malta coach Nate Hammond thought his team was effective in slowing Barta down.
“I think we did a pretty good job,” said the first-year Malta coach, who was at Bigfork before taking the M-ettes’ reins. “(Barta) was 11 for 20 from the field. She had eight free throws and 11 field goals. That adds up to 30 points pretty fast.”
The 13-point margin of victory ties for Fairfield’s closest game this season (the other was a 53-40 win over Cut Bank on Jan. 25). Otherwise, the Eagles (23-0) have dominated every opponent they’ve faced.
So it will be a tall task for any team at this weekend’s State B tournament in Bozeman to prevent Fairfield from capturing its fourth consecutive state crown and sixth in seven seasons.