Valkryies come up just short

Mar. 9—BUTTE — The quest of the Bigfork Valkyries got away right at the end Saturday, when Carol Old Bull put back an offensive rebound to give Billings Central a 39-38 lead with 2:15 left.

The final was 41-38, Central; the Rams picked up their seventh State A girls basketball crown, and first outright championship since 2012.

The Valkyries were seeking to become the first basketball team to win a championship at one classification — they went 24-0 last season in Class B — and them move up and win another. They came up just short.

"We had a chance," Vals coach Cortnee Gunlock said. "And that's all you want, is to have a chance.

"I'm proud of them. We were rotating five, six, seven girls at the most, and that's tough, and they gutted it out for three days. I'm really proud of them for that."

Things looked good in the second quarter when Paeten Gunlock hit two 3-pointers and Ava Davey hit another for a 23-17 lead.

Central (23-2) called time and closed the gap to 27-25 at half with an Annika Stergar three.

The second half was a battle, with seven lead changes. Down 36-34, the Vals got back in front when Davey scored twice, once off a dish from Braeden Gunlock, and then off a steal and layup.

It was 38-36, Bigfork, with 5:43 left. The Vals didn't score again — notably, they didn't even attempt a free throw — while missing their last nine shots from the floor. It ended with Davey getting a solid look from the arc at the buzzer, after Central missed two free throws with 7.9 seconds left. It was just short.

"I think it was an excessively physical game," Cortnee Gunlock, who is mom to Braeden and Paeten, said. "And we had some opportunities and we just didn't make the shots."

Eventually Central's Kam Reinker found Ryen Hadley underneath for a basket with a minute left.

That would do it, though the Valkyries scrambled to the very end.

Davey, whose last-second layup against Miles City on Friday lifted the Vals into the title game, had 12 points. Braeden Gunlock had 11 points, including an 8 of 10 performance at the line.

Reinker led the Rams with 12 points; Old Bull had 12 rebounds to go with six points.

Bigfork ended up 22-2 — an amazing season that ended with the program's third straight state tournament trophy, and third overall.

I knew we wouldn't have the depth of some teams, and I think that was pretty apparent at times," Cortnee Gunlock said. "We just had to run with what we had, and continue to work hard and they gave me everything this year."

Bigfork 11 16 6 5 — 38

BC Rams 11 14 8 8 — 41

BIGFORK — Ava Davey 4-10 3-4 12, Afton Lambrecht 2-4 0-0 4, Callie Gembala 0-4 2-2 2, Braeden Gunlock 1-6 8-10 11, Paeten Gunlock 3-10 0-0 9, Keni Wade 0-2 0-0 0, Haley Schara 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 10-37 13-16 38.

BILLINGS CENTRAL — Kam Reinker 4-12 3-3 12, Ryen Hadley 3-12 0-0 8, Coral Old Bull 3-9 0-1 6, Annika Stergar 2-6 0-2 6, GG Hastings 2-5 0-0 5, Amaya Laorash 0-0 0-0 0, Lyssa Peterson 1-1 2-3 4. Totals 15-45 5-9 41.

3-point goals — Bigfork 5-16 (P.Gunlock 3-8, B. Gunlock 1-2, Davey 1-5, Lambrecht 0-1), BC Rams 6-14 (Stergar 2-4, Hadley 2-5, Hastings 1-2, Reinker 1-3). Rebounds — Bigfork 24 (Gembala 7), BC Rams 27 (Old Bull 12). Fouls — Bigfork 11, BC Rams 17. Turnovers — Bigfork 19, BC Rams 15.