The Butte Central girls’ basketball team found out how good they could be Saturday night, their coach said, pleased and smiling.
The state Class A second-ranked Maroons beat No. 4 Hamilton 44-32 to win the championship of the Southwestern A Divisional tournament completed Saturday night in the Maroon Activities Center.
“I’m proud of them,” BC head coach Meg Murphy said. “A lot of people didn’t know how good they could be, including themselves. Experience is a huge deal when you play in this kind of atmosphere.”
The atmosphere included a packed house, more than 3,400 persons packed into seating and standing room. It was loud and maybe even more interested than interesting.
“It’s the most amazing feeling ever,” said Butte Central’s Danee Leary, one of seven seniors on the squad. “Last year, we had to play a challenge game to get in (the state tournament). Winning ((the divisional championship) on our home floor in our hometown was amazing.”
The Maroons will play at the state tournament in the Butte Civic Center in two weeks. Hamilton faces a challenge from third-place Stevensville for the Southwestern A’s other state berth. The challenge will be held Monday at 7 p.m. in Corvallis.
Leary led BC with 12 points and 10 rebounds despite sitting out part of the second half due to a bump on the head. Murphy said she thought Leary, who appeared wobbly when helped to her feet, hit her head hard on the floor. Leary said she thought she might have caught a knee to the head during a loose ball scramble on the hardwood.
“I was a little nervous with Danee out,’ the coach said. “But it wasn’t going to keep her out.’
Leary, too, said it was going to take something more than a temporary case of dizziness to keep her on the bench.
“I had to come back and play for the trophy,” she said with a smile.
The BC girls never trailed. Mariah Cooney took a Hannah Stajcar pass to the hoop for the first basket of the game and then Taylor Goligoski countered with the first two of her game-high 23 points for Hamilton. Butte Central responded with an 8-0 run.
Stajcar gunned in a 3-point basket and then Leary scored off a pass from Shawnee Hjelt before burying a 3-point shot to complete the spree.
The first quarter ended with the Maroons in control, 15-6.
The Broncs, however, clicked off a spirited run of their own. Alysea Pica had put BC’s lead at 18-9 with a basket about a minute into the second quarter when Hamilton proceeded to reel off nine straight points to tie the score, 18-all.
Goligoski scored the first six points in the surge on a series of jump shots before 5-foot-2 McKayl Rothie drilled a 3-pointer. Pica’s pullup jumper with 1 minute, 14 seconds left in the half gave Butte Central the lead for good. She scored again similarly and the Maroons led by 22-18 at halftime.
The BC girls built on the margin in the second half, though weathering a 5-0 run by Hamilton, late and claimed the Southwestern A crown.
Pica and Cooney scored 10 points each and Butte Central also received eight points from Stajcar, and two each from Danika Neumann and Hjelt. Annie Ossello, Chandra McCurdy, Tayler Templin, Shelby Paffhausen and Aleesha LaBreche also played in the victory. Cooney grabbed 10 rebounds, too.
Kali Hayes, Rothie, Brianna Huggans and Sami Kratofil combined for the Broncs’ nine points not scored by Goligoski.
“We wanted to control the game the whole time,” Leary said. “We knew when we had the lead at halftime we had it won. Everybody on our team knows how to handle the pressure.”
Poise seemed to be an important element in the Maroons’ win, but Murphy said plain old hard play was the biggest reason for the victory.
“That sure helps,” she said. “This is a tested group of seniors and they knew what they wanted. That was for sure.
“I know our kids have a ton of respect for Hamilton. They’re a good team and they beat us last time on our own floor. They’re a good group of kids.”
The Broncs, the tourney top seed, have nine sophomores, one junior and no seniors on their roster.
HAMILTON (15-4) — Taylor Goligoski 8-17 7-7 23, Kali Hayes 1-4 0-0 3, Jaylee Albert 0-5 0-0 0, Brianna Huggans 1-6 0-1 2, Sami Kratofil 0-1 1-3 1, McKayl Rothie 1-3 0-0 3, Ellie Hurlbert 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 11-37 8-11 32.
BUTTE CENTYRAL (15-4) — Hannah Stajcar 2-6 2-4 8, Danee Leary 5-13 0-0 12, Alysea Pica 5-9 0-0 10, Annie Ossello 0-1 0-0 0, Mariah Cooney 4-6 2-4 10, Chandra McCurdy 0-0 0-0 0, Danika Neumann 0-5 2-2 2, Tayler Templin 0-0 0-0 0, Shawnee Hjelt 1-1 0-2 2, Shelby Paffhausen 0-0 0-0 0, Aleesha LaBreche 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-41 6-12 44.
Hamilton 6 12 9 5 — 32
Butte Central 15 7 14 8 — 44
3-point goals — Hamilton 2-18 (Goligoski 0-4, Hayes 1-4, Albert 0-4, Huggans 0-3, Rothie 1-3), Butte Central 4-13 (Stajcar 2-3, Leary 2-5, Pica 0-2, Neumann 0-3). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Hamilton 12, Butte Central 15. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Hamilton 25 (Goligoski 8), Butte Central 29 (Leary 10, Cooney 10). Blocks — Hamilton 1 (Goligoski), Butte Central 2 (Pica 1, Cooney 1). Assists — Hamilton 1 (Huggans), Butte Central 6 (Pica 4) Steals — Hamilton 11 (Albert 4), Butte Central 10 (Stajcar 3, Leary 3). Turnovers — Hamilton 18, Butte Central 16.