The Twin Bridges girls’ basketball team faced its toughest challenge of the season, yet punched its ticket to the State Class C Tournament anyway.

Kailee Oliverson scored 21 points and blocked 10 shots, RaeAnn Bendon added 17 and an armload of steals, and the Falcons beat Arlee, 43-39, in the championship game of the Girls’ Western C Divisional Tournament, Saturday night at the Maroon Activities Center.

The Falcons improved to 24-0 on the season and will play for the state title later this week.

“They’re all tough games right now and this was the toughest,” Twin Bridges coach Josh Keller said of the Scarlets. “They did a great job playing the 1-3-1 (defense) and they took all of our options away. They did an unbelievably good job.

“They’ve got great players, they’ve got height, they’ve got great shooters. They’re going to be a great matchup for anybody in the state tournament.”

That goes double.

The Falcons set the tone early in the game with Bendon throwing a monkey wrench into the Scarlets’ offense.

She wasn’t doing Arlee’s defense any favors ether.

Bendon hit three 3-point baskets in the opening frame, helping the Falcons build a small lead.

Twin took an 18-14 lead into halftime but the teams seemed to have changed roles when they came out for the third quarter.

Suddenly it was Arlee that was putting the defensive pressure on Twin Bridges, and the Falcons were struggling to put points on the board.

“They started pulling players out and looping them around to get the 3 so we had to adjust our defense to fit them,” Oliverson explained.

The Falcons were able to make the adjustments, but not before the Scarlets netted the first seven points of the third quarter to take a 21-18 lead. Alyssia Vanderburg led the third-quarter spurt with six of those points.

“In the second half we changed a little bit on defense and extended up into the full-court,” Arlee coach Bill Stockton said. “I think it changed the pace of the game and that helped us open up on offense as well.

Arlee held the lead through the rest of the third quarter, and even opened up a 30-24 advantage when Carly Hergett scored on a layup with 37 seconds to play in the frame.

A 3-pointer by Audrey George made it a three-point game, which made for a dramatic and thrilling fourth quarter.

Bendon put the Falcons back in front with a pair of free throws with 5:07 left to play but Arlee did the same with Hergett sank a two free throws on its next possession.

Oliverson put Twin back in front, 35-34, with 4:27 remaining but Nellie Desjarlaid hit a 3-pointer to give the Scarlets a two-point cushion.

Oliverston tied the score with two free throws, which were part of a 6-0 run that put Twin Bridges ahead for good.

“The key was getting our bunny shots to go in and making free throws,” Oliverson said. “It was going to come down to who made the most free throws.”

Bendon ended the game in typical Bendon-fashion when she stole the ball on Arlee’s final possession, one in which they Scarlets wouldn’t have been able to catch the Falcons.

“Overall I thought we played really well,” Stockton said. “Twin Bridges has two outstanding players, Oliverson and Bendon, and they both showed up tonight. They were the difference-makers.”

Arlee was led by Vanderburg and Desjarlais, who scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Keller said it was good to face adversity as the team moves forward. Every game from here on out is supposed to be tough, which will make the Falcons tougher.

“We had to fight through a little adversity again,” Keller said. “That is awesome to have as we continue to build toward the state tournament. It’s teaching us how to come from behind, how to slow down and execute.

“It’s making us a better and more disciplined team and it’s going to pay off in the long run.”

Seeley Swan 39, Ennis 36

Cera Strumpfer scored 12 points and Alex Bohlman added 11 to lead the Blackhawks to their second win over the Mustangs in the divisional tournament, and the consolation championship.

The game remained close throughout but Seeley Swan came up big on defense when it needed to.

Ennis was led by Jourdain Klein, who scored 10 points, but the Blackhawks did a good job in shutting down Danika Philpott, who was a big force for the Mustangs in last week’s district tournament.

Seeley Swan needed Arlee to win in the championship game to force a challenge game against Twin Bridges but instead saw its season draw to a close when Twin beat Arlee in the finale.

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