Butte Central set to host Southwestern A tourney

Butte Central set to host Southwestern A tourney

By Bill Foley

The Southwestern and Northwestern A district tournaments will ring in the post season this week for 24 of Montana’s 44 Class A high school boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

Butte Central will host the Southwestern A boys’ and girls’ combined tournaments at the Maroon Activities Center beginning Thursday. Butte High’s Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gymnasium will be used for a pair of Saturday morning loser-out games. (Boys’ bracket; Girls’ bracket)

The Northwestern A District tournaments begin Thursday in Whitefish. The Central and Eastern Division teams don’t play district tournaments. The 10 schools from those conferences will compete in the Eastern A Divisional tournament, which begins next Wednesday in Billings.

The Maroons jump into the fray Friday night. The BC boys’ and girls’ teams both earned first-round byes, and their first action will be in the semifinals.

The district tournament round, which is in its second year in the Class A, is the first of three steps on the way to the state championship.

The top four teams from each Southwestern A and Northwestern A tournament head to next week’s Western A Divisional tournament in Hamilton. The top four from the Western A tournaments move on to the Class A State tournaments, which are March 7-9 in Great Falls.

The Class A boys’ and girls’ tournaments will be combined for the first time this year. The divisional tournaments have been combined since 2005.

Both BC teams enter the tournaments as the No. 2 seeds. The BC boys tied with Hamilton for the top spot, but the Broncs won the tiebreaker. On both sides, BC will await the winner of a Thursday game between Dillon and Stevensville.

The BC boys will play their semifinal game at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The Maroon girls will play in the semifinals at 8.

A boys’ game between Frenchtown and Corvallis opens play at 3:30 p.m. Dillon will battle Stevensville at 6:30.

On the girls’ side, Hamilton meets Frenchtown at 5, and Dillon plays Stevi at 8.

Following is a look at each team in the tournament.

Hamilton Broncs (15-3, 8-2)

The Broncs are the defending district and divisional champion. A year ago, Hamilton took an undefeated record into the final weekend before place third at state in Bozeman.

Hamilton saw its 10-game winning streak halted with a 50-49 home loss to Dillon on Saturday.

Tanner Goligoski (5-foot-10 senior) averages 20.7 points per game to lead the Broncs into action. He is one of three Hamilton players averaging in double figures.

Hunter Omlid (6-2 senior) adds 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, while Carson Rostad (6-3 junior) contributes with 10.7 points and 8.1 boards. Hamilton also gets 9.8 points per game from Trey Searle (6-3 junior) and 7.6 points per game from Cam Rothie (5-8 senior).

Butte Central Maroons (15-3, 8-2)
The Maroons seek their fifth straight trip to the state tournament.

After starting the season with 13 straight wins, Central struggled defensively down the stretch and dropped three of four games.

BC, though, seemed to right that defensive ship with Saturday’s dominating performance in a 49-23 win over Corvallis.

Braden Harrington (6-1 junior) averaged 12.3 points per game in the regular season to lead the Maroons, whose overall record tied for second best in school history.

Cade Holter (6-foot senior) is the only other BC player to average in double figures in Central’s balanced attack. He averages 11.7 points per game. His average of 3.4 assists per game is tied with point guard Luke Heaphy (5-9 junior) for tops on the team.

Twins Matt and Jared Simkins (6-4 juniors), Aaron Richards (6-4 junior), Dylan Sestrich (6-3 senior), Gator Yelenich (5-10 junior) and Trevor Neumann (5-11 junior) have also been key contributors for BC.

Ryan Wahl (6-foot junior) Thomas McGree (6-foot junior), Egan Lester (5-11 sophomore) Brian Holland (5-11 sophomore) and Patrick Dolan (5-10 senior) have also put in varsity time for the Maroons.

Dillon Beavers (12-6, 7-3)
As one might expect from a team coached by Terry Thomas, the Beavers seem to be peaking at the right time.

Dillon, which split the regular-season series with both teams above it in the standings, closed the regular season by winning four of its last five games, including Saturday’s thriller in Hamilton. The Beavers’ only defeat in that stretch was a two-point home loss to Class AA Bozeman.

Michael Haverfield (6-4 senior) averages 17.7 points to lead Dillon, which missed out on the state tournament last season. That came after the Beavers brought home back-to-back state titles in 2016 and 2017.

Haverfield is the lone Dillon player averaging in double figures scoring. Jace Fitzgerald (6-1 sophomore) averages 3.4 assists per game. Braden Anderson (6-4 junior), Bradley Rakich (6-foot senior), Cole Truman (6-5 sophomore), Justus Peterson (6-4 junior), and Dylan Cervelli (6-3 senior) are also major contributors for the Beavers.

Frenchtown Broncs (11-7, 5-5)
Brothers Cade and Zack Baker (6-foot juniors) lead the Broncs into the tournament.

Cade Baker averages a team-high 12.4 points per game for Frenchtown, which closed the regular season with wins over Stevensville and Florence. Zach Baker scores 8.9 points per game.

Hank Rugg (6-3 junior) averages 7.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while Brandon Finley (6-foot sophomore) adds 6.2 points and 5.7 rebounds to the Frenchtown lineup.

Frenchtown, which was hit hard by graduation following last season, is seeking it second straight trip to the state tournament.

Corvallis Blue Devils (5-13, 2-8)
The Blue Devils enter the tournament losers of eight of their last nine games. That includes Saturday’s 49-23 loss to Butte Central at the MAC.

Both Corvallis conference wins came against Stevensville.

Caleb Warnken (6-2 junior) averages 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils. He is the only Corvallis player who averages in double digits scoring.

Caeson Jessop (5-10 guard) adds 9.1 points per game, while Garrett Brown (6-2 senior) scores 8.4. The Blue Devils also get 6.7 points from Tanner Jessop (5-10 sophomore) and 3.1 assists from Liang Liedle (5-9 senior).

Stevensville Yellowjackets (2-16, 0-10)
The Yellowjackets come to town looking for their first win against a Class A team this season. Both Stevi came against Class B Florence-Carlton.

Logan Roth tosses in 18.3 points per game to pace the Yellowjackets. Colby Meeds scores 13.9 points, and Devlin Sherman adds 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game to the lineup.


Corvallis Blue Devils (12-6, 8-2)

The Blue Deivls closed the regular season by winning eight of their last nine games. That includes Saturday’s 56-43 home win over Butte Central to secure the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Calla Haldorson (5-7 senior) and Hannah Martin (5-8 junior) combined for 28 points in that win. Haldorson averages a team-leading 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

She is one of four players who average at least eight points per game.

Lainie Albright (5-9 senior) scores 8.8 points, Martin averages 8.7, and Isabel Evans (6-3 junior) contributes with 8.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

Butte Central Maroons (7-11, 6-4)
The Maroons have struggled to find the win column over the last three weeks. BC has dropped five if its last six games.

Central’s one win in that stretch, though, was a big one. The Maroons beat the Beavers 43-35 Jan. 31 in Dillon. BC also put up a strong performance last week against Class AA contender Butte High.

As you can see by their conference record, BC pick up wins at the right time to earn the bye. The Maroons also showed they can put together a solid stretch by opening January with five wins in six games.

Tricia Joyce (5-2 senior) leads the Maroons. She is averaging 12.0 points per game. That goes along with 2.9 assists and 2.6 steals per game.

Emma Keeley (5-6 junior) has had a breakout season for the Maroons, too. She is averaging 8.3 points per game. That includes a career-high 24 points in Central’s 52-43 home loss to Hamilton Jan. 26.

Sofee Thatcher (5-6 freshman) contributes with 6.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Bella Sorini (5-9 senior) overcame injury to start her final season in Maroon, and she has appeared to hit her stride late in the season. She scored a total of 15 points in the last two games.

Shea Davis (5-11 senior), Maddi Kump (5-7 sophomore), Amira Bolton (5-7 sophomore), Taylor Harrington (5-10 sophomore), Avery Kelly (5-7 sophomore) and Delaney Hasquet (5-6 sophomore) have been key contributors for the young Maroons.

Payton Hartwick (5-6 freshman), Brenna Foley (5-5 freshman) and Rileigh McGree (5-6 freshman) have also seen varsity time for the host team.

Dillon Beavers (5-13, 5-5)
Dillon won two of its three games since the home loss to Butte Central. That includes a 28-25 win at Hamilton on Saturday and a road loss at Bozeman on Feb. 5.

Josey Jones (5-6 junior) averages 11.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game to lead first-year head coach John Hansen’s Beavers.

Tylia DeJohn (5-2 junior) leads the Dillon defense with 3.4 steals per game. She also scores 7.4 points per game.

Jordyn McKay (5-3 senior), Kylee Pittman (5-7 junior) and Madalen Shipman (5-4 sophomore) are also players to watch for on the Beaver roster.

Hamilton Broncs (10-8, 5-5)
The Broncs had won four straight before Saturday’s Senior Day loss to the Beavers. Hamilton is looking for its fifth trip to state in the last six season.

No player averages in double figures scoring in the Broncs’ balanced offensive attack. Lauren Ryter (6-foot senior) leads the team with 9.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.

Katelyn Dickemore (5-8 sophomore) adds 7.7 points for the Broncs, who also boast threats in Abby Johnson (5-3 junior) and Mariola Tesoro (5-6 sophomore).

Frenchtown Broncs (8-10, 4-6)
Frenchtown looks to break out of a slump as it opens the district tournament. The Broncs have lost six of seven since beating Stevensville 40-32 on Jan. 17.

Kiya Shelton (5-7 junior) averages 9.4 points and 6.1 points per game to lead Frenchtown

In Frenchtown’s first appearance at the MAC this season, Cassidy Bagnell (5-1 freshman) caught a pass form her sister Claire Bagnell (5-5 junior) to bank in a jumper with 10 seconds left to give the Broncs a 33-32 Dec. 14 win over the Maroons.

The older Bagnell averages 7.2 points and 4.6 assists per game.

Stevensville Yellowjackets (5-13, 2-8)
The Yellowjackets closed the regular season with a 46-44 win at Frenchtown Friday night. That victory stopped a seven-game losing streak.

Angel Richards averages 10.7 points and 6.7 rebounds to lead the Yellowjackets, who are coached by former University of Montana standout Alycia Sims.

Miliyah LeCoure scores 6.4 points per game for Stevi, while Kennedy Praast tosses in 6.1.

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