It seems like an eternity ago that we were saying that the Butte Central girls’ basketball team hasn’t been to the State tournament in a generation.
This year, the Maroons enter with a senior-laden team that doesn’t know what it’s like to not play at State. BC will aim for its fourth straight trip to the big dance this week when the Maroons host the Southwestern A Divisional tournament at the Maroon Activities Center. (Bracket)
The top two teams advance to the Class A State tournament, which is next week at the Butte Civic Center.
The divisonal tournament starts Thursday, but BC doesn’t play until 12:30 p.m. Friday. That’s because the Maroons (14-4 overall) won the Southwestern A regular-season title with a 9-1 record. The Maroons await the winner of Thursday’s 12:30 p.m. Dillon-Anaconda game.
Hamilton (14-4) placed second in the league with an 8-2 record. The Broncs, who are ranked No 4 in the state, and the No. 2 Maroons split the season series, with each team winning on the other’s home court.
The Broncs, who, like BC, earned a bye, will play Stevensville or Corvallis at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
Stevensville (10-8, 6-4) is the No. 3 seed, Dillon is No. 4 (9-8, 4-6), Anaconda (6-12, 3-7) is No. 5 and Corvallis is No. 6 (1-17, 0-10).
Following is a look at the six teams looking for the two tickets to the Civic Center.
The Maroons, who won it all in 2011, are looking for their third trip to the State championship game. BC won five straight after falling 67-56 Jan. 26 to Hamilton at the MAC. Danee Leary leads the Maroons into action after a season potentially worthy of All-State honors. Leary averages 13.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in BC’s loaded lineup. Mariah Cooney, who has been on fire as of late, averages 9.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Cooney is coming off a career-high 21 points in Anaconda Saturday. Danika Neumann adds 8.4 points to the lineup, while Alysea Pica scores 7.7 and Hannah Stajcar scores 6.8. Annie Ossello has had a strong year, though she’s not the type of player whose assets stand out on the box score. Aleesha LaBreche, Shawnee Hjelt, Chandra McCourdy, Shelby Paffhausen, Teresa Piazzola and Sierra Pica have also contributed for the Maroons.
Without question, the Hamilton player to stop is sophomore Taylor Goligoski, who enters the tournament averaging a conference-best 21.6 points per game. She also grabs 10.5 rebounds. Sami Kratofil adds 7.3 points per game, while Brianna Huggans scores 6.7 and Jaylee Albert tosses in 6.1. Albert also dishes out 4.4 assists per game for the Broncs, who were ranked No. 1 in the state earlier in the season.
There isn’t a question of which Stevensville player to watch, either. Alycia Sims is a 6-foot-4 future University of Montana player. She averages 18.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for a team that surprisingly dropped off from last year. That drop was at least partly because Sims missed five games with an injury. She’s back to full strength now. Kyla Paulsen adds 9.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the Yellowjackets, who likely come to town looking to settle a score with the Maroons and Beavers. Dillon upset the Yellowjackets in the championship game at last year’s divisional tournament, and the Maroons beat Stevi in a challenge game in Anaconda.
The Beavers were a feel-good story and a Cinderella story all rolled into one last year. This year, they’ll have to do it again to move on. Freshman Alex Rouse is the lone Beaver scoring in double digits. She averaged 10.4 points per game in the nine contests she played. Rouse was limited by injury until late in the season. Cierra Lamey adds 8.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game for Dillon, while Courtney Linder, a hero last postseason, scores 7.4 points. She also leads the team with 2.5 assists per game.
The Copperheads are looking to return to state a couple years removed from their dominant run. Courtney Moodry, who missed time with an injury, has regained her form as one of the top players in the conference. She averages 12.8 points per game. Moodry also averages nearly two steals and two assists per game. Taylor Flynn is a force for Anaconda, averaging 7.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.
The Blue Devils enter the tournament still looking for their first win over a conference opponent. Senior Lakyn Connors averages a team-leading 12.2 points per game for Corvallis, which fell 55-29 to BC when it visited the MAC on Feb. 9. Connors also grabs 6.4 rebounds per game.