What I’ll be watching: Top teams square off in cross-class matchups

The Hardin Bulldogs rolled past Shepherd on Thursday night. (MTN Sports Photo)

As we hit the second weekend of 2019, high school basketball teams are entering the meat of their schedules. Multiple cross-class matchups stand out on this week’s docket, as some of the top teams in their respective classifications square off. Rivalries also renew this weekend with a handful of crosstown battles set to take place.

Class AA

Boys

  • Great Falls High and Great Falls CMR will meet on Thursday night in the year’s first edition of the crosstown rivalry. Great Falls High is looking to rebound after suffering its first loss in Helena last Saturday. CMR, too, has one loss so far, as the rivals will fight for positioning in the competitive Eastern AA. Great Falls High and Great Falls CMR are currently ranked Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in the Class AA boys basketball coaches poll.
  • Another top-five tilt in Class AA features No. 3 Billings Skyview visiting No. 2 Bozeman on Saturday. Bozeman is 5-1 so far with its only loss coming to top-ranked Missoula Hellgate. Skyview has not lost since its season opener at Missoula Sentinel. This game, too, has big implications for seeding at the Eastern AA divisional later this season.

Girls

  • Kalispell Flathead and Kalispell Glacier will also have a crosstown battle this weekend, facing off at Glacier on Friday night. Glacier comes in ranked No. 4 in the Class AA girls basketball coaches poll, while Flathead sits at 4-3 with wins over both Great Falls teams. Glacier can solidify its positioning behind Helena High and Helena Capital in the Western AA with a good showing on Friday night.
  • The Great Falls High Bison are coming off their first win of the season, a seven-point victory over crosstown rival Great Falls CMR. The Bison will host Butte on Saturday looking to start a winning streak. Butte’s girls have shown some inconsistency early in the season, but the Bulldogs sit just outside the top five in the rankings. Butte can continue its ascent in the Eastern AA with a road win.

Class A

Boys

  • The Western A will be as competitive as ever this year, as it boasts tremendous depth. Two of those teams are Browning and Whitefish, who have both had their ups and downs this year and meet again on Saturday. Whitefish holds an impressive win over Hamilton early in the season, but Hamilton blasted the Bulldogs last weekend. Browning lost by 11 to Butte Central early on but has beaten conference opponents Polson and Whitefish already. The addition of Heart Butte transfer Rylee Spoonhunter and senior forward Tyree Whitcomb has given Browning an explosive one-two punch.
  • Hardin and Lewistown were pegged as two of the top contenders for the Class A title this season. So far, both the Bulldogs and Eagles have lost to Billings Central for their only losses of the season. In the hyper-competitive Eastern A, these two teams will battle for positioning throughout the regular season and will hope to find themselves at the State A tournament again in March.

Girls

  • Glendive has been a bit of a surprise out of the Eastern A, as the Red Devils have a pair of narrow losses to 2018 Class A runner-up Hardin and Class B contender Wolf Point. Laurel’s girls, too, have been impressive to this point, as the Locomotives have yet to lose to a Class A opponent. Saturday’s game in Glendive will be a litmus test for both sides to see where they stand in the conference.
  • The Browning girls have yet to lose to a Class A opponent this season, and every one of the Indians’ victories has come by more than 15 points. But Browning will have its biggest test of the season on Thursday night as it travels to unbeaten defending champion Havre. The Blue Ponies’ only game decided by less than 10 points was a four-point win over Billings Central at home to open the season.

Class B

Boys

  • Huntley Project’s boys have been improving since a few early season slip-ups. The Red Devils have won three of their past four games, but they’ll face unbeaten Colstrip on the road on Saturday night. Colstrip has been as hot as any team in Class B recently. This is a potential preview of a Southern B tournament game, as Colstrip sits atop District 3B and Huntley Project sits second in District 4B.
  • One of the more entertaining cross-class games takes place Thursday night when Hardin visits Lodge Grass. Hardin is the defending Class A champion, while Lodge Grass has plenty of new faces after last year’s fourth-place finish at the State B tournament. Lodge Grass has been putting up ridiculous point totals this season, scoring at least 75 points in seven of its nine games. The Indians will need that offense to show up, as Hardin has not allowed a single opponent to score 60 points this season.

Girls

  • The Florence girls have lost just one game to a Class B opponent so far – a six-point overtime loss to Malta on the season’s opening weekend. The Falcons have another challenge ahead, as they travel to Bigfork on Saturday to take on the Valkyries. Bigfork has struggled at times this season but has an opportunity to assert itself among the Western B’s top teams with a win at home against Florence.
  • Malta stands as the only Class B team to beat Florence this season. The M-ettes have battled inconsistency this season, but the Northern B looks to be extremely competitive. Malta will have a chance to solidify its contender status in the Northern B on Saturday with a win over visiting Shelby. Shelby lost a pair of close games in December but has been rolling along recently, picking up wins over Fairfield and Browning. Shelby is trying to throw its hat in the ring as an early season contender in the Northern B alongside Malta, Harlem, Wolf Point and Cut Bank.

Class C

Boys

  • Another cross-class matchup features one of Class B’s top teams, Three Forks, traveling to Manhattan Christian, a perennial contender in Class C. Both Three Forks and Manhattan Christian were at their respective state tournaments last season and return talented, experienced rosters capable of getting back. Manhattan Christian has not really been tested all season but will need to be at the top of its game to take down Three Forks. The Wolves, on the other hand, will need to find a way to slow down Manhattan Christian’s explosive offense if they want to win.
  • The Plentywood boys have been a huge surprise out of the Eastern C, as the Wildcats are still unbeaten. Plentywood’s most recent win, a two-point overtime win against Culbertson, was its only game decided by less than 15 points. Plentywood can put the rest of the division on notice on Saturday as it hosts an experienced Fairview team. Fairview, however, is looking for its own signature win, as it was beat down by Scobey in early December.

Girls

  • Another surprise out of the Eastern C has been the performance of the Scobey girls. The Spartans own impressive victories over Class B Glasgow and 2018 state tournament contender Plentywood. But Scobey will face its toughest game of the season as it travels to Wolf Point on Friday. The unbeaten Wolves are among the favorites in Class B but haven’t been nearly as dominant as expected in the early portion of their schedule.
  • District 14C has two of the best girls teams in the Western C in Charlo and Arlee. The Vikings will host the Scarlets on Friday evening as the two vie for conference supremacy early in the season. Charlo has yet to lose this season and is doing an exceptional job on the defensive end of the floor. The Vikings’ opponents are scoring just 25 points per game. Arlee has lost to just one Class C team this season – defending champion Box Elder. The Scarlets will need to find a way to score against Charlo, but Arlee has poured in more than 60 points in four of its past five games. Friday night’s winner will have the inside track to the District 14C regular-season title.
Alec Bofinger

Alec Bofinger

Scroll to top
Skip to content