Deep Maroons ready to go

Meg Murphy has a problem most coaches will kill for. She has too many starters and not enough spots to put them.

The coach said it will likely be a game-time decision on which players will start as the Butte Central girls’ basketball team opens the season Friday and Saturday at the BC Tip-Off Tournament at the Maroon Activities Center and the Butte Civic Center.

“We really don’t know,” Murphy said. “We’ve got seven seniors and at least six of them have a ton of playing experience. I think it’s really going to come down to matchups with other teams.”

The Maroons are looking to get back to the Class A State title game for the third straight year. BC won it all in 2011. The Maroons, who went 20-5 last season,  lost to Billings Central in the chipper last March in Butte.

Three starters are back from last year.

Senior Danee Leary is BC’s top returning scorer. She averaged 10.5 points per game during the regular season last year. Leary reached double figures in eight of the 17 regular-season games she played, including 26 points in a January win over Corvallis.

Mariah Cooney, a 6-foot senior, is a returning starter, as is classmate Alysea Pica.

Cooney has been a varsity player since her freshman year, while Leary and Pica are entering their third varsity season.

Experienced seniors Hannah Stajcar, Annie Ossello and Danika Neuman are also in the  mix as potential starters.

Two will start, while the other will contribute off the bench.

“It’s not that they’re not going to play, it’s a matter who starts,” Murphy said. “Those three are battling really hard.”

Murphy said the starters could depend on the matchups against particular opponents, and the 5-10 Ossello gives the Maroons additional height.

Senior Aleesha LaBreche will also see time off the bench, along with juniors Chandra McCurdy and Shelby Paffhausen and freshmen Teresa Piazzola, Sierra Pica and Shawnee Hjelt.

Murphy pointed out that Cooney, Leary and Pica have experience at three State tournaments. Stajcar played varsity as a freshman before missing her sophomore season with a knee injury.

The coach said the development of the younger players could be the key to BC’s success.

“I like our seven seniors,” Murphy said. “I don’t worry about leadership and how much they come out and play hard. I don’t have any questions about it, but our young kids are going to have to step up give us big minutes. Hopefully by February, they’re starting to fit in really well.”

The Maroons play Browning and Laurel in the Tip-Off Tournament. BC then plays a pre-Christmas schedule that includes conference home games against Anaconda and Stevensville a Southwestern A game at Hamilton.

Dillon is the defending divisional champion after a Cinderella run last year at the Divisional tournament in Dillon. The Maroons beat Stevensville in a challenge game to qualify for state.

Murphy said Stevensville is the team to beat in the conference. The Yellowjackets return the 6-3 Alicia Sims, a future Montana Grizzly.

“Stevi, they’re going to be tougher than nails,” Murphy said. “Hopefully we are too.”

The Maroons will host the Southwestern A Divisional tournament Feb. 21-23 at the MAC. The State tournament is the following week at the Butte Civic Center.

Click here for BC’s full schedule.