Montana’s March Madness

The Flathead Valley is sending top teams to the state basketball tournaments

By Micah Drew
Kennedy Moore of Flathead High School attempts to shoot through Glacier defense pass in the annual Crosstown basketball game at Flathead High School in Kalispell on Jan. 21, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead Bravettes trailed Hellgate 43-45 in the waning seconds of the Western AA Divisional Tournament on Saturday. 

In a final offensive push before the home crowd, the Bravettes passed the ball from the top of the key to the wing, and then back to Avery Chouinard, poised just beyond the three-point line. 

Chouinard noticed the clock, made a split-second decision and put up a shot. 

The buzzer sounded. 

The ball hit the rim. 

Then hit it again. And again. And then it went in. 

The win marked the first divisional title for Flathead since 2001, a season that saw the team go on to win the state title for the second year in a row. Now, the Bravettes are poised to make a run at bringing home the top trophy for the first time in more than two decades. 

It only took two seasons for head coach Sam Tudor to take the Bravettes from a 2-13 record to a third-place trophy at state. This year the goal is nothing short of the title game, and Tudor is working with a team ready to make good on their goal. 

Leading the offensively savvy Bravettes this season is Kennedy Moore, who averaged 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in the regular season. Akilah Kubi and Maddy Moy are fifth and sixth in the state in steals, and, of course, Chouinard is an all-around force, but, as seen last weekend, shines from the three-point line, having made 30 of 98 shots this season, the third highest in the state. 

“This team makes me look like a genius every night,” Tudor told the Beacon during last year’s winning season. “They just feed off of each other and it’s fun to watch that.” 

For sure, a buzzer-beater, divisional-title winning basket is fun to watch, and the state tournament should be just as exciting. The Bravettes will start the tournament in Butte with a first round matchup against fourth-seeded Bozeman. 

Flathead head coach Sam Tudor talks to his team during the half at the annual Crosstown basketball game at Flathead High School in Kalispell on Jan. 21, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

AA Boys

In the Western AA boys divisional tournament, the final took place following the Bravettes’ win, and another Kalispell school, the Glacier Wolfpack this time, took to the court in front of hometown fans. 

Again, there was a a pitched battle of a local team versus the Hellgate Knights, but this time didn’t stretch to the final buzzer. The local crowd inside Flathead’s gym couldn’t urge the Wolfpack to a second hometown victory — instead the Knights overcame an initial 8-2 deficit for a decisive 57-33 victory. 

With the No. 2 seed in the West, Glacier will face off against Billings Skyview in Butte. The Wolfpack has made the state tournament the past two seasons, each time exiting in two straight games. 

Ellie Jordt of the Bigfork Valkyries charges past Troy Lady Trojans defense during a basketball game in Bigfork on Feb. 2, 2023. Bigfork won 98-18. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Class B Girls

The only remaining undefeated Class B team is the consensus No. 1 team in the state, so it was no surprise that Bigfork’s girls breezed through three games of the divisional tournament, putting away Deer Lodge, St. Ignatius and Missoula Loyola 69-13, 69-25, 62-30. 

That didn’t make it any less meaningful when the Valkyries captured their second straight divisional title. Instead, it continued to serve as another notch in their belt of confidence as the team inches closer to their goal of winning the first championship in program history.

The Valkyries (23-0) will face Baker (20-4) in the first round. The assembled field in Great Falls will certainly be Bigfork’s toughest challenge since last year’s tournament — Malta, Big Timber and Huntley Project all claim 21-2 records.

Last year, Bigfork suffered an upset in the first round, but the team persevered through an emotional regrouping and fought their way through the remainder of the tournament to finish third, earning the program’s first ever trophy. 

This year the expectation is nothing less than the championship, the goal the Valkyries have zeroed in on all season.  

“Yes, we’ve been dominating this season, but that doesn’t really mean anything yet,” said sophomore Ava Davey. “We keep our mindset focused nonstop and are focused on our goal for the end of the season.”

Ellie Jordt of the Bigfork Valkyries leaps for the hoop against the Troy Lady Trojans in Bigfork on Feb. 2, 2023. Bigfork won 98-18. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Class B Boys

The Vikings have been a force on the court for years — a legacy that goes back to when now-Bravettes coach Sam Tudor led the program from 2015-2019, securing two titles in three championship game appearances. 

Now the Vikes are back in the state tournament for the second straight year after securing a berth over St. Ignatius in a Monday night challenge game. Last year, Bigfork lost a semifinal game to eventual champion Three Forks. 

This year, the 20-4 Vikings will open the tournament against Red Lodge (18-6) on Thursday with the potential for a divisional rematch against Missoula Loyola in the championship. Like the Valkyries, the state tournament is a chance for Bigfork to bring home another championship trophy before next year’s bump up to Class A competition. 

All MHSA State Basketball Tournament brackets and updates can be found at www.406mtsports.com.