If the Butte Central girls had any tournament nerves Friday afternoon, they hid them pretty well.
Senior Danee Leary scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the way as the Maroons fired on all cylinders, beating Anaconda 53-40 in the semifinals of the Southwestern A Divisional tournament at the Maroon Activities Center.
“We just executed really well,” Leary said after cracking 20 points for the first time since scoring 26 in a Dec. 13 win over Stevensville. “We pushed the ball, and our defense was looking really good. Overall, we played really well.”
The Maroons never trailed in beating Anaconda for the third time this season and the second time in less than a week.
Alysea Pica drove and dished to Leary for an easy bucket to put the Maroons up for good at 6-4 with 3 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
The next time down court, Pica hit Leary again, and Leary tossed in a reverse layup.
“She sees the floor really well,” Leary said of Pica, a fellow senior.
The Maroons led 13-9 after the first quarter and took control with a 15-5 run to open the second quarter. That run started with a Leary bucket off an Annie Ossello pass. The run included a 3-pointer and inside hoop by Leary and two baskets by freshman Shawnee Hjelt.
Central led 31-18 at halftime, and BC head coach Meg Murphy was relieved that her team didn’t struggle in the first game of the tournament.
Last year, BC lost to Cinderella Dillon in the same game, and the Maroons had to battle to back through the back door to State.
“Our kids handled the pressure really well,” Murphy said “They shot the ball really well in the first half.”
Anaconda junior guard Courtney Moodry shoot pretty well, too. Moodry, who missed much of the season with an injury, hit three 3-pointers and kept the Copperheads in the game with a team-leading 14 points.
Taylor Flynn sank a pair of 3-piners and scored eight points. Molly Huber and Khali Knadler each scored six.
“Anaconda played well,” Murphy said. “That’s the best they played.”
However, it wasn’t enough to top the Maroons, who are ranked No. 2 in the state and the top seed in the tournament at 15-4.
Eight different BC players scored with super sixth man Danika Neumann tossing in 12 points. Hannah Stajcar scored seven points while Mariah Cooney and Hjelt each scored four. Pica sand Ossello scored two apiece, and freshman Sierra Pica scored one.
Cooney also grabbed 14 rebounds as Butte Central dominated the boards 41-24.
Chandra McCurdy, Shelby Paffhausen and Aleesha LaBreche also contributed for the Maroons.
“I give my seniors credit, and those young kids came in off the bench and gave us big minutes,” Murphy said. “Our senior leadership stepped up towards the end. They got rattled a little bit, but the then they gained their composure. You expect that from those kids.”
The Maroons will play for the Divisional title at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Unless something shocking happens, the Maroons will play Hamilton (14-4). The Broncs play Corvallis (2-17), which upset Stevensville Thursday, at 6:30 tonight.