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State A: Davey lifts Valkyries into title game

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | March 8, 2024 11:05 PM

BUTTE — If the final State A girls basketball semifinal was a slog for the Bigfork Valkyries, well, Ava Davey had just about as fine a 4.9 seconds as you can have.

First the junior guard took a charge, as Miles City drove for what could have been a go-ahead basket or free throws. Then, after a timeout, she took the ensuing inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast for a layup.

Bigfork 34, Miles City 32. The dream still lives. 

The 22-1 Valkyries, State B champions a year ago, will face Billings Central (22-2) for the State A title Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Butte Civic Center. Billings Central knocked off three-time defending champion Havre 56-49 in the early semifinal.

Bigfork 34, Miles City 32

“I was like, it’s now or never,” Davey said of the final two possessions. ”We need to have this now if we’re going to go back-to-back. 

“So I said a little prayer and decided to do what I do best: Play defense. I had four fouls, and I couldn’t get another one.”

The charge came just after Braeden Gunlock hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 32-all, with 20 seconds left. Miles City called time, but the Cowgirls’ possession ended with Heidi Phalen sending Davey to the floor with a forearm. “She got me good,” Davey said. 

The Cowgirls then set up to guard the Gunlock girls — Paeten Gunlock had a team-high 12 points — and perhaps forgot about the Vals’ third Musketeer

“I saw there were two people on Braeden and two on Paeten, or whatever,” Davey said. “So I said, ‘I’m going to have some lane.’ “

Her shot was point-blank, and banked in at the buzzer.

“I wanted to cry,” she said. “I was so happy. We wanted this one so bad.”

It was a fantastic finish to a rough game. Bigfork did shoot 50 percent from the floor after halftime, but couldn’t shake the Cowgirls, who never trailed by more than six.

Down 29-24 early in the fourth quarter, Miles City got a 3-pointer from Alli Glassgock and two free throws from Jillian Kanduch to draw even at the 4:26 mark. Then the Cowgirls led, 32-31, when Kanduch hit a free throw with 45 seconds remaining. Kanduch was a handful, scoring 17 points and grabbing five boards.

Each team hit just three field goals in the first half, after which Bigfork led 12-9.

“For us to go into halftime with 12 points is super, super unusual,” Davey noted. “Kudos to them for their defense.”

Of course Bigfork defended like crazy as well, holding Miles City to one point over a span of 11 first-half minutes. In the end, someone had to take charge — literally, as it turned out. Davey finished with six points.

Miles City    6    3    14    9    -    32

Bigfork    9    3    15    7    -    34

MILES CITY — Heidi Phalen 1-7 1-2 3, Sam Peila 1-6 0-0 2, Alli Glassgock 1-3 0-0 2, Camdyn Waterman 2-2 0-0 4, Jillian Kanduch 5-12 5-6 17, Kinzie Brimmer 0-0 1-2 1, Ramsey Pryor 0-2 0-0 0, Javon Dutton 1-1 0-0 2, Rylee Smith 0-2 0-0 0, McKinley Meidinger 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-35 7-10 32.

BIGFORK — Ava Davey 3-6 0-2 6, Afton Lambrecht 0-1 0-0 0, Callie Gembala 2-5 2-4 6, Braeden Gunlock 2-7 3-4 7, Paeten Gunlock 3-8 5-7 12, Keni Wade 1-4 0-0 3, Haley Schara 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 11-32 10-17 34.

3-point goals — MC 3-8 (Kanduch 2-4, Glasscock 1-2), Bigfork 2-11 (Wade 1-2, P.Gunlock 1-4). Rebounds — MC 23 (Kanduch 5), Bigfork 19 (B.Gunlock 6). Fouls — MC 18, Bigfork 12. Turnovers — MC 19, Bigfork 16.

Billings Central 56, Havre 49

Kam Reinker had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Billings Central, which is back in the championship for a 12th time.

A game with eight lead changes and nine ties turned in the fourth quarter, when Reinker hit two free throws to put her team ahead for good, 41-40.

Thus began a 12-2 Central surge in which Annika Stergar scored twice: Once off a dish from Reinker to make it 46-42 at the 4:50 mark, and again with an old-fashioned three-point play that made it 51-42 with 2:59 remaining.

Amaya Jarvis nailed a very deep three to cut the gap to 51-45, but the Blue Ponies got no closer — even though the Rams missed five free throws in the final minute and change.

Coral Old Bull had a game-high points for Billings Central, and Starger added 13.

Ariana Gary led Havre with 13 points before fouling out. Jarvid had 11 points and 7 rebounds.

The Rams had lost to Havre five straight times at State, including the 2021 and 2022 title games. They have six outright titles, and shared another with Hardin during the 2020 Covid season.

Havre fell to 19-4, and faces Frenchtown in a loser-out game Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Frenchtown ousted Browning Friday, 47-39.

Miles City, also 19-4, will take on Dillon in another loser-out at 10:30, at the Maroon Activity Center.


BC Rams    12    10    17    17    -    56

Havre    12    12    14    11    -    49

BILLINGS CENTRAL — Kam Reinker 4-7 5-8 14, Ryen Hadley 2-8 1-2 6, Coral Old Bull 6-12 3-5 15, Annika Stergar 4-7 3-5 13, GG Hastings 1-3 3-4 5, Lyssa Peterson 0-4 1-2 1, Amaya Lorash 0-0 2-2 2, Grace Jagodzinski 0-0 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Foster 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-41 18-28 56.

HAVRE — Kyanna Jarvis 2-5 0-0 4, Emilee Chambliss 4-9 2-5 10, Tierra Parker 2-3 1-2 6, Amaya Jarvis 3-13 3-4 11, Ariana Gary 3-9 6-8 13, Sierra Parker 0-0 0-0 0, Ela Harord 2-5 0-0 5, Katie Tilleman 0-1 0-0 0, Kenzie Kallenberger 0-0 0-0 0, Shae Reber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-45 12-19 49.

3-point goals — BC Rams 4-17 (Stergar 2-4, Reinker 1-2, Hadley 1-6), Havre 5-18 (Jarvis 2-8, T. Parker 1-2, Harbor 1-3, Gary 1-3). Rebounds — BC Rams 28 (Reinker 14), Havre 23 (Jarvis 7). Fouls — BC Rams 17, Havre 21. Fouled out — Gary. Turnovers — BC Rams 15, Havre 18.

Frenchtown 47, Browning 39

The Lady Indians found themselves in a defensive battle, and Frenchtown shot it just a shade better while outscoring Browning 30-18 over the middle two quarters.

Mason Quinn’s 24 points included a 12-for-13 performance at the foul line for the Broncs (the teams combined for 45 free throws). Madi Kaufman added 13 points.

Jerel White Grass and Shaylee Heavy Runner scored seven points each to lead Browning, which ended up 15-9.

Browning    8    12    6    13    -    39

Frenchtown    3    18    12    14    -    47

BROWNING — Natalee St. Goddard 0-1 1-2 1, Sugar Spoonhunter 2-7 0-0 6, Amari Calf Robe 1-3 4-4 6, Jerel White Grass 1-5 4-6 7, Kalcie Connelly 2-6 0-0 5, Teslin Trombley 1-4 1-2 3, Shaylee Heavy Runner 2-6 2-2 7, Tashlyn Lazy Boy 0-1 0-0 0, Peyton Eagle Feathers 0-0 0-0 0, Brooke Blue 0-0 1-2 1, Oceanna Arnoux 0-0 0-0 0, Josey Michael 0-0 3-4 3. Totals 9-33 16-22 39.

FRENCHTOWN — Mason Quinn 5-12 12-13 24, Madi Kaufman 4-17 3-6 13, Heather Haskins 1-5 0-0 3, Maya Skinner 0-1 0-0 0, Sadie Smith 2-5 2-2 6, Haylee Kaufman 0-1 0-0 0, Bailey Hansen 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Lucier 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 12-42 18-23 36.

3-point goals — Browning 5-17 (Spoonhunter 2-4, White Grass 1-2, Connelly 1-1, Heavy Runner 1-4), Frenchtown 5-23 (Quinn 2-4, Kaufman 2-12, Haskins 1-5). Rebounds — Browning 22 (St. Goddard 5), Frenchtown 36 (Quinnn 9, Smith 9). Fouls — Browning 23, Frenchtown 22. Fouled out — Quinn, Smith. 

Dillon 57, Lockwood 47

Kenleigh Graham and Halle Fitzgerald scored 17 points each for the Beavers, who outscored Lockwood 42-25 in the second half.

Graham also snared 12 rebounds; Kylie Konen added another 13 points for Dillon.

Dani Jordan scored a game-high 18 for the Lions, who bowed out of their first state tournament with a 15-9 record. Lockwood, on the southeast tip of Billings, officially opened its high school in 2020.

Tailey Harris added 13 points and 11 boards.