All eyes will be on the best Class AA boys basketball team in Montana, at least record-wise — Missoula Hellgate — along with AA’s top scorer stat-wise — Hellgate’s Rollie Worster (20.2 per game) and rebounder — Hellgate’s Abe Johnson (8 per game) — at the Western AA Divisional tournament this weekend at Glacier High School.
The Knights rolled through the Western AA 12-game schedule with a perfect mark. Overall, they have the top AA record in the state at 17-1.
Hellgate has a first-round bye for divisional action, which begins a three-day run at 2 p.m. today with three games on tap.
First up is fourth-seed Helena High (6-6 league, 9-9 overall) facing fifth-seed Glacier (3-9, 5-13) at 2 p.m. That winner has a semifinal date with Hellgate on Friday at 5 p.m.
The championship game is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Other first-round action today has third-seed Helena Capital (7-5, 10-6) playing fifth-seed Flathead (2-10, 5-13) at 5 p.m. and ends with second-seed Missoula Sentinel (10-2, 13-5) up against seventh-seed Missoula Big Sky (2-10, 3-15) at 8. The winners of the 5 and 8 p.m. contests advance to the other semifinal on Friday at 8 p.m.
The top-four teams advance to state March 7-9 in Butte.
Last year at the Western AA Divisional, Sentinel defeated Hellgate 59-56 in Helena. In the third/fourth place game, Helena High topped Glacier 42-38 in overtime.
“It’s awesome,” Glacier coach Mark Harkins said of being the divisional host. “It should be a great tournament all the way around. We’re just excited to kick it off.”
And, the home court should be more of a help than a hindrance for Glacier.
“They play hard (at home),” Harkins said.
“They are familiar with everything. It’s definitely an advantage. I do like how our kids play at home.”
Helena High vs. Glacier
Helena High won both regular-season meeting versus the Wolfpack by different outcomes.
Helena High posted a 17-point win — 59-42 — in Helena on Jan. 26. Drew Engellant, a 6-foot-4 junior forward, carried the offensive weight for the Wolfpack in that one with his 15-point performance.
He was the only Glacier player in double-digit scoring.
Connor Murgel paced Helena, and all scorers, with 21 points.
It was a much closer affair the second time around with Helena holding on for a 37-32 win at Glacier on Feb. 15. Glacier, limited to just nine points in the first half, scored 23 after that.
Bret Michaels, 6-3 senior forward, led Glacier with 10 points while Hayden Ferguson had 12 for Helena.
“We played a great defensive game,” Harkins said of the second-matchup with the Bengals. “We struggled offensively that game ... only shot about 24 percent. I hope we can shoot the ball a little better and have a different outcome.”
Engellant leads the team in scoring, averaging 10.7 points per game. He’s fourth in AA in rebounding with 6.6 boards per outing.
Michaels is averaging 8.7 points.
Murgel and Pierce Brown lead the Bengals in scoring, both averaging 11.5 points per game.
“I think our kids match up well with Helena,” Harkins said.
“They are physical, not very tall. We are not very tall. They are incredibly physical. They will push you around.”
Helena Capital vs. Flathead
It’s been two easy wins for Capital over Flathead so far.
The Bruins rolled behind Brady Martin’s 21-point effort in the first meeting in Helena on Jan. 26 with 18 points from 3-point range.
The Bruins led by 14 in the opening quarter and were never challenged in a 74-51 triumph.
Brett Thompson tallied 10 points to lead Flathead.
Then on Feb. 15 at Flathead, Capital coasted to another victory — 69-36.
Bridger Grovom and Garrett Kueber shared scoring duties in a balanced Bruins attack with 13 points each.
Tannen Beyl, 6-1 junior forward, and Gabe Adams, 6-5 sophomore forward/center, were Flathead’s top point getters with seven points each.
Trevor Swanson, 11.8 points per game, is the leading scorer for the Bruins. Adams is Flathead’s leader at 9.4.
Shane Haller is the Bruins leading rebounder at 5.6 per game.
Beyl is averaging the same number of rebounds.