By Bruce Sayler
Butte Central senior Kinley Hamilton didn’t say whether she had it particularly in for Hamilton, even though the player and the opposing school shared a name.
Still, Hamilton played her best match as a Maroon in her team’s 25-21, 25-20, 25-17 sweep over the Hamilton Broncs. It was the last-regular season match of the year for the teams, and BC honored its five senior players during a pre-game ceremony. Brenna Foley, Rileigh McGree, Payton Hartwick and Sofee Thatcher were the others recognized before the Southwestern A Conference match.
Kinley Hamilton transferred to Butte Central from Class C Chinook prior to this fall.
She notched five kills and two solo blocks in the victory at the Maroon Activities Center.
“I thought it was my best match, too,” the 5-foot-10 middle blocker said, adding the effort was for her fellow seniors.
“The team has been so loving and this being my first year here, I didn’t expect that,” Hamilton said. ”It was really their (the other seniors’) Senior Night because they’ve always been here. I just came here.”
The others did OK, too.
Foley collected four digs, Hartwick had 12 digs and Thatcher piled three aces, 20 digs, nine kills and a block. McGree remained out of action with an injury.
The Hamilton Broncs owned a win over Butte Central achieved at home earlier in the year. They challenged the Maroons the first two sets Saturday.
The BC girls grabbed a lead in the beginning stages of the first game that grew to 13-7 after Thatcher se3rved an ace and the Broncs committed a hitting error. The Hamilton team, though, began chipping away at the deficit and tied the score at 16-all on a tip by 6-foot sophomore Mya Winkler. The Broncs took two one-point leads, then upped it to a two-point gap after a kill by Layne Kearns. A service error shaved a point off the difference, then Butte Central sophomore Ella Moodry tied the score with a stuff block.
Mollie Drew was at the service line for the Maroons and served out the set. A Bronc’s shot tangled in the net, then Kinsey Hamilton nailed a kill, a hit by Drew found open floor over the net, and BC’s Hamilton and Moodry combined on a set-ending block .
The Broncs charged out to a lead in the second set, improving it to 8-4 when Grace Fussell flattened out a kill. Butte Central took the lead on a five-point surge behind Brooke Badovinac serving. A kill by setter Mia Kelley pulled the Maroons to within 8-7 before Team Hamilton gave up the lead on consecutive hitting errors.
The teams traded leads and created ties to a 20-all knot. After a Bronc’s shot caught in the net, Thatcher served out the set for BC. Kinley Hamilton had a kill and a stuff to go with two more Bronc errors in the run. The stuff finished the set.
The somewhat flat start was a concern for Butte Central head coach Becky Hancock.
“I thought we had more to give,” she said. “I thought we were pretty dang flat in games one and two. We did enough to get by.
“It’s not that we weren’t trying out there, but we were a little slow on defense. We were playing point-for-point with Hamilton, which is not what we want to be doing.”
The Maroons were stronger in the third game. They took the lead 2-1 on an ace by Maycee Anderson and kept it the rest of the match. They got it to 16-9 on a tip by Moodry and made it 19-11 on a Badovinac kill. The Broncs surged a bit and got to within 22-17 of BC on a kill by Elle Gabelhausen. Kinley Hamilton aided Butte Central to match point with a kill and a stuff block for a 24-17 margin. Thatcher aced the final serve.
“In the third game, our serving came together better,” Hancock said. “It was a busy week for the girls with games and activities and we could have a lot excuses. We have to play more consistent. We need to play and not (stand around). It has been a long week and the girls have been on the go all week.
“But, a win’s a win. And, Hamilton is a team that’s going to do it defensively and take it to you. This conference is going to be a battle at the district tournament.”
Kinley Hamilton, a potential college track recruit as a thrower, said Saturday was when she has felt most comfortable on the court with her new team after her family, with roots in Southwestern Montana, moved to Butte.
“It’s been a building process, making all the connections (in the teamwork),” she said. “It’s been coming with time, slowly but surely.”
Anderson served three aces and had 16 digs for Butte Central, Badovinac served an ace and drilled eight kills. Moodry led in blocks with three and Keeley set all 22 assists.
Hamilton Broncs leaders were Winkler with nine kills, Ayda Griffin with two aces, Taryn Searle with 23 assists and libero Jenna Guisinger with 18 digs.
Both teams will next play in the Southwestern A District Tournament next Friday and Saturday in Corvallis, perhaps facing each other in the first round as the third and sixth seeds, Hancock said.
Butte Central def. Hamilton 25-21, 25-20, 25-17
KILLS – Hamilton 26 (Mya Winkler 9, Layne Kearns 8), BC 27 (Sofee Thatcher 9, Brooke Badovinac 8, Kinley Hamilton 5, Ella Moodry 3, Mollie Drew 1, Mia Keeley 1). ASSISTS – Hamilton 24 (Taryn Searle 23), BC 22 (Keeley 22). ACES – Hamilton 4 (Ayda Griffin 2), BC 8 (Maycee Anderson 3, Thatcher 3, Badovinac 1, Keeley). DIGS – Hamilton 72 (Jenna Guisinger 18), BC 71 (Thatcher 20, Anderson 16, Payton Hartwick 12, Keeley 7, Drew 6, Brenna Foley 4, Badovinac 4, Moodry 2). BLOCKS – Hamilton 0, BC 8 (Moodry 3, K. Hamilton 2, Badovinac 1, Drew 1, Thatcher 1).