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MISSOULA — Missoula Loyola golfer Bucky Crippen is halfway to repeating as the State B boys champion, and he got there in historic fashion.

The senior shot a seven-under 65 on Tuesday at The Ranch Club in Missoula to post the third-best single-round score at the State B tournament since 2003, the furthest back MHSA online records go.

Crippen was the lone golfer to shoot under par on the par-72 course and will take an eight-shot lead into the final round at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday. The Rams head in with a 39-stroke advantage over Conrad in the race for the team title.

“I’ve known I can do this for a while. I just haven’t done it in a tournament,” said Crippen, who topped his best tournament score of 67 and nearly tied his lifetime best of 64. “That’s always the hardest thing is taking your practice rounds and doing the same in the tournament.”

Crippen’s surge started after he carded his lone bogey, which came on the par-4 10th hole following what he called “a bad tee shot.” He responded with birdies on the next two holes and on six of the next seven from holes 11 through 17 as he crushed tee shots with accuracy onto the fairways, found the greens and sank his putts.

Crippen, who's more familiar with the course than his out-of-town competitors, finished with six birdies and one bogey on the back nine for a five-under 31. He had two birdies on the front nine for a two-under 34 but felt he left a few strokes out there by missing birdie putts within 5 feet.

“I didn’t feel too great on the range and the front nine,” Crippen said. “On the back, I had a really bad bogey and just decided to buckle down and really focus on the remaining holes. So, just try to bring that same mentality I had on the last seven holes into tomorrow.”

As for how he does that: “Just act like it’s a new day, a new tournament, start over like everybody’s all square and try to win it again,” Crippen said.

Townsend senior Cody Graveley ended up with the second-best score in the field on day one despite coming in seeded with the No. 3 foursome. He carded a one-over 73, eight strokes off the lead, in his first-ever round at The Ranch Club.

“It’s a fun course,” Graveley said. “It’s difficult, but it’s not scary. It gives you confidence when you hit the fairways because they’re skinny.”

By staying in the fairways and hitting the greens, Graveley shot an even-par 36 on the front nine and a one-over 37 on the back nine. He made three birdies but also had four bogeys.

“I could definitely improve on my putting,” Graveley said. “If I could keep everything else the same, just hitting the fairways, keep hitting the greens, I should improve my score.”

Big Timber’s Blake Finn carded a two-over 74 to finish the round in third place and earn a spot with the lead group on day two alongside Crippen and Graveley. He shot a one-under 35 on the back nine to rebound from a three-over 39 on the front nine, which included hitting two balls into the water on hole seven.

“I made a few putts and felt I drove the ball really well with my driver,” Finn said. “I could work on being a little bit better with my wedges. Just play solid, play the same and keep it in play on seven. I thought I had a good round.”

Loyola’s Sam Miland had the fourth-best score with a 75. Baker’s Konner Flint carded a 76. Thompson Falls’ Ethan Brown finished with a 77.

Loyola leads the team race, tallying a 308. In addition to Crippen's 65 and Miland's 75, Reed Noyd shot an 80 and Joseph Kendrick had an 88.

The Rams hold a 39-stroke advantage over Conrad, which posted a 347. Townsend is third with a 361, while Baker sits in fourth at 365.

Florence’s first

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Florence’s Caden Plasmier highlighted the Falcons’ first-ever state appearance as a team on what was a meaningful day for the program that was started just three years ago.

Plasmier led the Falcons with a 12-over 84 in his first experience golfing in a state tournament and just his second time playing at The Ranch Club. That score was tied for the 11th best in round one.

Plasmier didn’t card a birdie, missing an opportunity on hole nine, but was still happy with his day and hopeful for the second round.

“I was hitting my clubs pretty well,” Plasmier said. “I was getting my strokes down pretty well. Missed some chances for birdie today. But overall, I thought I did OK.

“I’m pretty excited about tomorrow. Just need to get my head in the game and make sure I don’t blow up on any holes.”

Florence sits in 10th place out of 12 teams after the first day, having posted a 391.

Gavin Zaluski shot a 94 for Florence’s second-best score. Jared Thomas was right behind with a 98. JP Briney finished with a 117, including a 22 on hole seven, according to Florence head coach Jason Lehtola.

“We got what we were kind of hoping for out of Caden,” Lehtola said. “The rest of the team, looks like they struggled on some holes. Two years ago, not one of them could break 90 for nine holes. Now we’ve got kids doing good stuff. It’s a success no matter what.”

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at Frank.Gogola@406mtsports.com.

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