Bri Huggans of Hamilton makes a move to the basket as Carly Vercruyssen of Stevensville defends her. Jean Schurman photo
The Battle of the Bitterroot was in Stevensville on Thursday night where the Hamilton Lady Broncs and the Lady Yellowjackets matched up against each other. The two battled with Hamilton maintaining the lead most of the game but by no more than a couple of points the entire game. A last second lay in by Hamilton’s Bri Huggans gave the Lady Broncs the lead and the 52-51 win as the final buzzer sounded.
Hamilton had a five point lead at the end of the first half but then the ‘Jackets went to town. Kyla Paulsen hit a long try for the lead but Makayl Rothie came right back with a trey of her own to take the lead back. Rothie finished with three treys and nine points.
“Makayl, in particular had a great game,” said Hamilton coach Mark Albert. “She’s our leading three point shooter in terms of percentage.”
The two teams battled back and forth and by the end of the third quarter, Hamilton had a one-point lead. Stevensville’s Alycia Sims, who sprained her ankle a week ago, was suited up and playing but just not at 100 percent. Paulsen is still not quite up to speed after knee surgery last fall. Thursday, Kayla Peterson became the latest Lady ‘Jacket to sustain an injury. She rolled her ankle and sat out most of the second quarter. She was also in foul trouble with three fouls. She picked up her fourth foul just a couple of minutes into the third quarter and sat the bench again.
The lead switched back and forth throughout the fourth quarter and with little more than a minute remaining, Hamilton took a five-point lead when Taylor Goligoski hit a field goal. But senior guard Bailey Vercruyssen hit a three pointer to bring the Lady ‘Jackets within two points.
“I was proud of our kids,” said Albert. “I was proud of Stevensville. That was good basketball. Win or lose, I was thrilled for how well they played. Alycia presents so many challenges and she had a great game. We had two of the best players in the state going at it.”
The two, Sims and Goligoski, matched up against each other some of the time but the 6’3” Sims held Goligoski to only five points in the second half. Goligoski finished with 17 points.
Stevensville took the lead after a melee under the ‘Jacket basket. They took three different shots before Sims finally scored. She was fouled and the extra free throw gave Stevensville the one point lead. Sims finished with 31 points. Hamilton raced down and took a shot. Stevensville got the rebound and it looked as if they would win. However the ball went out of bounds and Hamilton had the ball under their own basket with three seconds remaining.
“That last play wasn’t how we drew it up,” said Albert. “But because we’ve played a lot of ball, Bri made a basketball play at the end. She read the defense. We knew we were going to go Taylor (Goligoski). They were closed her up and Bri made the corner and got the lay up.”
Hamilton 52, Stevensville 51
Hamilton – Taylor Goligoski 17, Jaylee Albert 10, Makayl Rothie 9, Bri Huggans 8, Sami Kratofil 4, Cali Hayes 4.
Stevensville – Alycia Sims 31, Bailey Vercruyssen 8, Kyla Paulsen 7, Kayla Peterson 2, Madison Boesch 2, Carly Vercruyssen 1.
Hamilton traveled to Dillon on Saturday for another tough conference game. Albert said that although he was nervous about the Stevensville game, he was more nervous thinking about the Dillon game. He didn’t have to worry.
After trailing by three at the end of the first quarter, the Lady Broncs came back to win, 43-38. Goligoski had 14 points to lead all players. Hamilton improved to 3-1 in conference and jumped to second place.
Hamilton 43, Dillon 38
Hamilton – Goligoski 14, Hayes 6, Albert 6, Huggans 9, Kratofil 8.
Dillon – Moore 8, Linder 7, Schurg 5, Meine 4, Hayden 3, Lamey 2, Nye 9.
Stevensville fell to Class AA Missoula Hellgate, 54-32, on Friday night. Peterson had 15 points to pace the Lady ‘Jackets. Sims didn’t play.