The last two Class 2 state champions will play Friday for the District 11 championship, just like most people predicted.
But Billings and Crane took unpredictable paths Wednesday night to get to the finals, as each survived upset bids from rivals in the district semifinals at Spokane High School.
Friday’s game, scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip at Spokane, is a rematch of Billings’ 84-53 homecoming win Jan. 11.
“It’s going to be a good chance for us. We’ll go look at some adjustments and see what we can do differently offensively to get the tempo in our favor,” Crane coach Dale Lamberth said. “Because they got us into their tempo, at their homecoming, and whooped our behinds.”
Tempo was nearly nonexistent in as bizarre a fourth quarter as there is likely to be this postseason in Crane’s win over Marionville in the evening’s second semifinal.
The Pirates (19-5) scored on the first possession of the final period to go up 33-32 — and neither team scored again the rest of the way.
Crane finished the quarter with more turnovers (seven) than shot attempts (five) and went 0-for-4 at the free-throw line. Marionville was 0-for-11 from the floor, when one make would have given the Comets the lead.
Marionville’s offensive futility came after it had ended the third period on a 9-0 run to go up 32-31.
Asked what he was thinking as the final eight minutes unfolded, Lamberth could only laugh.
“I was thinking ‘OK, as long as we don’t let them score, we’re good,’ ” Lamberth said. “It’s always going to be a great game when Crane and Marionville play. It was almost like a championship atmosphere tonight, and everyone wants a chance for something like that.”
Jordan Bowling led Crane with 13 points and 14 rebounds, scoring all his points in the first half. He was the only Pirate in double figures.
Marionville (13-12) got 12 points and six rebounds from Nate Hill and 11 points and six boards from Ryan White. Take away a third quarter in which the Comets were 6 of 11 from the field, and Marionville shot less than 16 percent (6-for-38) from the floor.
For Billings, its 63-57 win over Spokane was a near-repeat of last season’s overtime win over the Owls in the district semifinals.
The defending Class 2 champions (21-4) led the entire game until Christian Brown’s 3-pointer gave Spokane a 54-53 lead with 3:03 left.
But Brady Chastain answered with a pull-up 3-pointer on Billings’ next possession, and the Wildcats outscored Spokane 10-3 to end the game.
“The situation didn’t faze Brady,” Billings coach Kendall Tilley said. “He’ll come down and bury a team. He does it in practice all the time.”
Chastain finished with 19 points, including four 3-pointers. Fellow senior Austin Essick led the way with 25 points and 12 rebounds, scoring 14 points in the last 12 minutes.
“We knew we could take care of business,” Essick said. “Just knowing what we did last year to win games (in the postseason) carried over to this year. We knew we could come back if we took care of what we needed to.”
Eric Bowman led Spokane (11-15) with 22 points and five rebounds, hitting five of the Owls’ 10 3-pointers.