BUTTE — Senior forward Slade Cobb connected on one of two free throws with 3.3 seconds to play Thursday night, lifting Billings Senior over rival Billings West 53-52 and into Friday's semifinals of the Eastern AA boys basketball divisional tournament being played at Butte High School.
The fourth-seeded Broncs (11-8) will take on top-seeded Great Falls CMR at 6:30 p.m. The fifth-seeded Golden Bears will play a loser-out game at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The free throw by Cobb, who was fouled off the ball, snapped a 52-all tie. West's Jesse Owens' half-court heave in the final seconds was no good.
In other first-day action for the boys, Bozeman downed Billings Skyview, 66-44, while Great Falls fought off Butte, 45-41.
On the girls' side in games played at Montana Tech, second-seeded Billings Senior also advanced to the semis with a 60-35 triumph over Billings Skyview. The Broncs will face Great Falls CMR in the semis at 8 p.m.
The other first-day winners for the girls were Bozeman, which beat Butte 38-23 and CMR, which defeated Great Falls, 42-34.
Top-seeded Billings West, which received a first-round bye, will play Bozeman in Friday's other semifinal.
This was the Senior boys' third victory of the season against West.
"It feels great," Senior coach Drew Haws said of the latest win. "I am extremely happy for the kids. It will be a great atmosphere (Friday) night. To beat West is always one of your goals every year."
Connor Kieckbusch led the Broncs with 19 points. He was followed by teammates Brooks Zimmer (13) and Braxton Haws (10). Cobb finished with seven.
West's Cade Tyson led all scorers with 22 points. He knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 52-all. Jesse Owens tossed in 11 points.
Senior trailed West 30-24 at intermission.
"We just have a resilient bunch of guys," Haws said. "They got down a little bit in the first half, but just keep battling and hit some big shots. We did a really nice job defending against a couple of their guys."
West coach Kelly Darragh noted that Cobb's free-throw attempts were the 25th and 26th of the night for Senior. He said West had only four attempts from the foul line, including two on a technical foul.
"Twenty-six to four is a discrepancy that should not happen," Darragh said.
Bozeman's Mack Anderson led all scorers with 16 points against Skyview. Ryan Lonergan was close behind with 14, followed by Robbie Simpson 12 and Ryan Simpson 10,
Skyview's Zach Schacht scored 10 points.
Bozeman raced ahead 13-6 in the first quarter and was in command 34-18 at halftime.
"Our big thing was getting off to a big start," Bozeman coach Wes Holmquist said. "We did a very good job and were very engaged and focused on both ends of the floor. We got off to a good start and never looked back."
The Hawks will take on Great Falls in Friday's other semifinal.
"The key for that is we have to do a good job guarding their shooters and stopping them from penetration," Holmquist said. "Offensively they move the ball very well.
"It will be a challenge, but gives us an opportunity. It was fun to see them play well tonight."
Skyview will play a loser-out game on Friday at 5 p.m. against Butte.
Eastern AA girls
Kola Bad Bear scored 17 points and Cass Zenner 14 for Senior in the win over Skyview. The Falcons received 13 points from Kenzie Ketchum.
Senior outscored Skyview 31-13 in the middle quarters after leading 13-10 after the first period.
"We weren't pleased with the way we played in the first half," Senior coach Zach Robbins said. "We didn't have energy. We came out sluggish.
"In the second half, the girls picked up the pace and responded well and played hard. "
Senior and CMR split their two meetings during the regular season.
Skyview will play Great Falls in a loser-out game at 5 p.m. Friday.