Broncs turn back Maroons, 58-46, in title game

By Derek Hendrickson

HAMILTON — The Hamilton Lady Broncs led wire to wire and claimed the Class A State Championship that eluded them last season with a 58-46 win over the Butte Central Lady Maroons Saturday night.

The Lady Broncs feature 8 seniors and used that experience to hold off the Lady Maroons, who finally acted their age, especially during the first half when they couldn’t seem to get anything going offensively.

Much like the divisional semifinal, a slow start put Central in an early hole and they were never able to climb back out, trailing by 7 after the first and 16 at halftime.

Both teams were sluggish early as it was apparent that nerves were an issue.  Hamilton led 2-1 for much of the quarter but finally grabbed the momentum when tournament MVP Jaylee Albert connected on back to back threes to push the lead to 8-1 and put the Lady Maroons on their heels.

Central head coach Meg Murphy talked about the Lady Maroons’ game plan and how the Albert threes threw a wrench in the works.

“I didn’t think we were quick enough to stick with them man to man,” she said, “so you always second guess yourself, I thought we would go with what we thought would cause them the most problems.  Of course we couldn’t hit a shot and I thought our youth showed a little bit, we panicked a little bit when they hit the first couple shots.  That’s having some freshman and sophomores on the floor.”

A seven-point run midway through the second pushed the lead to 23-7 but Central seemed to briefly have a chance to head to the locker room with the last points of the half when Kloie Thatcher hit a three, but last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year Taylor Goligoski connected on a last second triple from way downtown that sent the hometown crowd into a frenzy and put the Lady Broncs back up 16.

Hamilton’s defense completely stifled the Lady Maroons in the first half, despite this being the 4th time Central had a chance to match up against it.  Murphy spoke about the big stage possibly aiding the homestanding Lady Broncs.

“Our kids are so use to looking inside out,” she said. “We were hesitant on taking a shot and they stopped (our) penetration a little bit so (we) couldn’t get to the basket and couldn’t get a shot off.”

The Lady Maroons didn’t quit and put together their best quarter of the night in the 3rd.  They would outscore Hamilton 16-7 in the frame and an 11-2 run to end the period had the large contingent of Butte fans believing the improbable run wasn’t quite finished yet.

Murphy talked about the mindset the Lady Maroons came out with the start the second half, saying “we went man to man and cut it to 7, I thought we had a shot, we talked about it at half time, we were going to go man to man, try to cut it to 8 by the end of the third quarter, the kids did what they had and they just kind of ran out of steam.”

Goligoski and Albert immediately extinguished those hopes as the two scored 6 quick points and restored the lead to 13.  The Lady Maroons fought to the end and managed to put up 20 points in the quarter but Hamilton made 17 of 20 free throws in the 2nd half, including 16 of 18 in the 4th to prevent anything resembling a comeback to get started.

Murphy obviously didn’t get the result she was looking for tonight but was more than pleased with her team’s effort.

“I’m so proud of our kids,” she said.  “You can’t say enough about them, they battled, they didn’t quit, they battled.  It’s a big crowd, the atmosphere of it sometimes when you’re young, it shell shocks you, but they came out after halftime and relaxed a little bit and hit some shots.”

The charity stripe was the major stat difference on the score sheet as the Lady Broncs cashed in on 22 of 28 attempts for the game, while Central was only able to muster 1 of 3 and couldn’t overcome the 21 point deficit from the line.

Freshman Kloie Thatcher led the Lady Maroons with 17 points as she aggressively took the ball to the hoop in the 2nd half.  Mollie Peoples and Emily St. John both added 9 to go with 8 from Sierra Pica and 3 from Kate Ossello.

Murphy talked about the difference in aggression her team showed in the final 16 minutes compared to the first 16, saying “had we played with that sense of urgency, we talked about it at halftime, we’ve got to play with a sense of urgency.”

Hamilton had big nights from 3 of their seniors.  Goligoski had 21, Kali Hayes was good for 19, buoyed by an 11 for 11 performance at the line, and Albert had 13 to go with 5 steals at the top of the Hamilton zone.  Goligoski outscored Central in the first half by herself, as she had 11 to the Lady Maroons’ 10.

“Hamilton’s a great basketball team and they’ve been on a roll,” Murphy said. “Albert’s been playing extremely well and Goligoski and Hayes is the one that I think really, I think, ignites their team throughout the season, so it made it hard for us playing defense.  We like to play our big girls together and that could have hurt them but we weren’t quick enough to play big that way.”

The Lady Maroons will now attempt to pull of the same feat the Lady Broncs did the past two seasons as Hamilton avenged a loss to Havre in the State Championship game last year to take the crown this season.

Work on that will likely begin tomorrow as a shooting session was being scheduled by one of the Lady Maroon stars and her father during the teary eyed post game commiserating.

Murphy summed up her thoughts on the season as well as the bright future Central fans have to look forward to.

“I’m just proud of them as a coach,” she said.  “What can you say? You take a bunch of young kids, they battled through every game throughout the season.  They finished up with only 6 losses, which is a huge accomplishment in my eyes.  If you would’ve told me we would only lose 4 games in the regular season I would have told you you were crazy, but that’s just these kids, they’re competitive and you’ll see them come around again and they know how to win now.”

The champion Lady Broncs were responsible for half of the 6 losses Central had on the season, all of which came on Hamilton’s home floor. Two other defeats came in the ultra-competitive Southwestern A that proved to be the top conference this season.  The Lady Maroons were also knocked off by class AA Helena High on the road.

McKayl Rothie 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Goligoski 6-14 7-8 21, Jaylee Albert 4-10 3-5 13, Kali Hayes 3-3 11-11 19, Brianna Huggans 0-1 1-2 1, Kloie Nye 0-2 0-0 0, Carlie Jessop 0-0 0-0 0 Shaylan Mohn 1-1 0-0 2, Jordan Bauder 1-1 0-2 2. Totals 15-32 22-28.
Mollie Peoples 4-12 0-0 9, Sierra Pica 4-7 0-0 8, Emily St. John 3-6 0-0 9, Kate Ossello 1-2 1-3 3, Ryan Trudnowski 0-0 0-0 0, Kloie Thatcher 7-12 0-0 17, Shawnee Hjelt 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Wahl 0-1 0-0 0, Megan Michelotti 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-41 1-3 46.
Hamilton                   8          18        7          25 — 58
Butte Central            1          9          16        20 — 46

3-point goals — Hamilton 6-12 Goligoski 2-4, Albert 2-5, Hayes 2-2, Nye 0-1), BC 7-16 (Thatcher 3-7, St. John 3-4, Peoples 1-5). Rebounds — Hamilton 22 (Albert 6), BC 17 (St. John 5). Assists — Hamilton 8 (Albert 3), BC 8 (Thatcher 3, St. John 3). Steals — Hamilton 10 (Albert 5), BC 4 (Peoples, Pica, St. John, Ossello). Blocks — none. Fouls — Hamilton 9, BC 23. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.