Laurel took hold of the Eastern A girls basketball divisional challenge game from the start and never let it go.
From Jayde LeFevre's opening two 3-pointers to an 11-point run to close the game, the Lady Locomotives cruised to a 48-26 win over Hardin on Monday at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark and reached the state tournament for the third straight year.
LeFevre had a game-high 16 points and Abbie Lohoff added 10 as the Locomotives (16-6) avenged two earlier losses to the Bulldogs (13-8) with a show of solid fundamental basketball.
"You always have more motivation when someone beats you a first and second time," LeFevre said. "We tried to focus on everything. A lot of my teammates stepped up more than I did. I'm very happy for them."
Although LeFevre needed 20 shots to get her points -- the senior guard was 4 for 20 from the floor -- she contributed in other ways, mainly with a couple key assists and four steals. Meanwhile, the teammates she was happy for were doing a lot of the basics that helped Laurel lead from wire to wire.
Leslie Gappa had eight points, nine rebounds and three assists, and Allie McGrath had three assists as well.
Bailey Love (five rebounds), Dalayna Christenson (four) and Lohoff (four) helped Laurel dominate the paint, leading to a 38-28 rebounding advantage.
The Locomotives had 10 offensive rebounds at the half, which led to 18 second-chance points and a 27-16 lead at the break.
"We put in a lot of effort and we just really believed that we could get it done," Gappa said. "After we lost to Central (in Friday's semifinals) we all believed and wanted to work together and go to state."
Hardin, which began the divisional tournament as the top seed, never could get its pressure defense to pay dividends. A poor shooting percentage -- just 24 percent from the floor -- limited the Bulldogs' chances to get into their full-court press.
Even then, Laurel, the tournament's No. 2 seed, took care of the ball. The Locomotives turned the ball over just 12 times to Hardin's 25.
"We really executed what we were trying to do, both offensively and defensively," said Laurel coach Amber Griffith, whose team had to win two Saturday loser-out contests and then hope for Billings Central to beat Hardin in the championship to earn a challenge game.
"We talked before the game that any 50-50 balls were ours. We were not going to get outplayed tonight and I thought our kids played very, very hard."
Hardin didn't have a player in double figures in what was the Bulldogs' lowest output of the season. Teonna Little Light led the way with nine points and Kanani Birdinground had six.
"We knew we had to limit their shots and slow it down on our end," said Griffth. "We did it perfectly. I'm proud of the kids."
Laurel will face Frenchtown, the No. 1 seed from the Northwestern A, on Thursday in the first round of the state tournament at the Civic Center in Butte.