The Jefferson High basketball teams had mixed fortunes last weekend, both splitting their games. While the boys faced the limitations of their height, the girls fell to one of the top teams in the state.

On Friday, the Panthers traveled to Twin Bridges, where the girls had a relatively easy time of it. Rachel Van Blaricom sank the first basket; Sam Zody and Grace Alexander added to the early lead; and Hailee Stiles hit at the first-quarter buzzer to make it 12-3.

In the second, Austie May, Zody and Cia Stuber all scored for a 19-9 halftime margin. Dakota Edmisten started the third with a two and added a three shortly after to put the Panthers up 26-9. Alexander added a pair of two-pointers and a free throw, and the Panthers went into the final eight minutes with a 33-17 lead.

Abbie Youde and MacKenzie Layng scored to start the fourth, Van Blaricom hit a three, and the Panthers coasted to a 49-25 win. Van Blaricom led the scoring with 16, while Edmisten dropped 9 and Zody 8.

Then came the boys’ match, where the Panthers faced a towering Falcon line-up of 6’6”, 6’5”, 6’4”, 6’3” — and five others over six feet. The big guys moved move well and definitely knew how to shoot free throws.

Twin Bridges opened with the first five points, but the Panthers fought back with a steal and assist by Tyler Harrington who fed Trent McMaster. Joe Visser added a three, but the Falcons ran out to a 19-13 lead at the end of one.

The Panthers pulled to within three, 27-24, on a basket by McMaster, and then 31-28 on a basket by Jake Genger. But Twin Bridges held a 39-30 lead at the half.

Jefferson came back in the third. A steal and score by Braden Morris started a Panther run, then Zach Zody did the same, and the Panthers pulled to within one by the end of the period. They tied the score at 52 on a Morris basket and took a 57-55 lead with a little over two minutes left. But the Falcons hit a three and then closed out the game with free throws for a 61-57 win.

Free throws were a major factor in this contest: Twin Bridges hit 26 of 33, while Jefferson was 5 of 9. McMaster led the Panthers with 17 points, while Morris added 11 and Genger 9.

On Saturday, Jefferson hosted Sweet Grass County. In my opinion, the Sweet Grass girls are one of the top two Class B squads in Montana, a very well-balanced team.

Van Blaricom opened the game with a pair of baskets too spark a 4-2 Panther lead. But the Herders came back with a 10-0 run, building a 20-9 margin after one. A three and a free throw by Edmisten narrowed the gap in the second, but the Panthers were held scoreless for the rest of the period and were down 31-15 at halftime.

The Panthers could manage just five points in the third quarter, all by Edmisten. They rebounded in the final period with 12 points, but the Herders put in 19 to take the win, 62-32. Edmisten led the Panthers with 16 points, and Van Blaricom added 8.

The boys had very different results. They jumped to a 22-8 lead in the first period on back-to-back three-pointers by McMaster and Visser and two-pointers by Genger, McMaster and Visser. Harrington swished a three to make it 36-15, and the Panthers held a 39-25 lead at the half.

Sweet Grass County came out in the third with a press and trap defense that caught the Panthers off guard. But Zach Zody hit a three to restart the scoring, and at the end of the period, the Panthers were up 54-37. The baskets kept dropping, and when the Panthers went up 66-45 with 1:38 left, the subs came in. Wade Rykal ended the scoring with 50 seconds left for a 68-48 Panther win. McMaster led both teams with 21 points, Visser added 17, and Harrington 12.    

This week, the Panther boys play at Deer Lodge on Friday; the Deer Lodge girls are in quarantine, so no girls’ games that night. On Saturday, both Panther teams host Broadwater. C boys will start in the north gym at 1:00 p.m., followed by JV boys at 2:30 p.m. C girls play in the south gym at 1 p.m., followed by JV girls. Varsity boys play in the north gym at 4 p.m., with the varsity girls closing the show at 5:45 p.m.

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