Hamilton will have to make room for a new trophy in the case, the Southwest A Divisional Championship trophy. There’s not another one like it in the case.
“This is the first divisional in school history,” said Hamilton coach Mark Albert. “That was our goal.”
Albert said that not making the trip to state last year didn’t set well with his young team. “They committed themselves to getting there this year.”
The Lady Broncs defeated Anaconda, 59-45, to claim the crown. They will advance to the Class A state tournament, March 13-15, in Great Falls. They will play Miles City at 2 pm on Thursday. Miles City is the No. 2 seed from the eastern conference and has a 12-9 record.
Hamilton’s first half in the championship game was a ‘clinic’ according to Albert. The team executed their plays crisply on offense and played a tight defense that created 17 turnovers in the first half alone. Bri Huggans had three steals in the first quarter alone and either converted the steal to points or passed the ball on for the points. Taylor Goligoski had 18 points in the first half alone, including two treys. She went on to finish with 26 points.
“Taylor had an unbelievable start,” said Albert. “Basically she said get on my back, we’re going to do this.”
But it’s hard to sustain the intensity and pressure for a full 32 minutes according to Albert. Anaconda bounced back in the third quarter and scored 19 points and pushed the Lady Broncs a little. But just as their momentum was building, Hamilton’s McKayl Rothie sent up a three point shot to put an end to that buildup. Hamilton went on to clench the title.
The lone senior on the team, Sami Kratofil summed it up, “It’s just so fun to win. We knew they were going to make a run but we just knew we needed to lay back and just play our game and that’s what we did.”
Anaconda –Gallagher 5, L. Moodry 3, Forsberg 3, Knadler 5, Moodry 16, McNeil 2, Flynn 6, Huber 4, Johnson 1.
Hamilton – Taylor Goligoski 26, Brianna Huggans 7, Sami Kratofil 4, Ellie Hulbert 4, Kali Hayes 5, Jaylee Albert 3, McKayl Rothie 8.
Hamilton had a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed in the conference. They opened their tournament play against Butte Central. Albert said that team had a lot of confidence going into the game. “They are so well coached, young, and at home, we knew it was going to be tough.”
Albert said he just hoped the game wasn’t going to be as close as it turned out to be. The game was close throughout with no more than a six or seven point spread. As the clock ticked down, Butte Central kept the pressure on but free throws proved to be the deciding factor. Goligoski sank both her charity shots with 17 seconds remaining to put Hamilton up by three. Kratofil was fouled with 13 seconds left and sank one of two to give Hamilton the 50-49 victory.
Hamilton 50, Butte Central 49
Butte Central –Paffhausen 7, Pica 10, Trudnowski 6, Piazzola 7, Peoples 7, St. John 5, Ossello 2, McCurdy 5.
Hamilton – Albert 10, Goligoski 16, Huggans 10, Kratofil 13, Hayes 1.
Butte Central handed Stevensville their first loss of the tournament on Thursday. The Lady Yellowjackets stayed with the Maroons for a quarter before Butte Central went on a run. Stevensville lost, 43-24. Carly Vercruyssen and Kayla Peterson each had nine points for Stevi.
Stevensville played Dillon on Saturday morning in loser out action. Coach Joe Nisly said that his team felt confident, as they had just defeated Dillon last week. But their shots didn’t fall through the hoop and the lack of size inside really hurt them. Stevensville lost, 40-18.
Corvallis opened against Anaconda and jumped out to an early lead in the game with a balanced scoring attack. By the end of the first quarter, Corvallis was up, 12-3. Corvallis continued to play scrappy defense and worked the ball around to Chelsi Clarke and Corrine Sanderson who were shooting well. Anaconda tied the game two minutes into the fourth quarter. The young Corvallis team was getting tired and made a few mistakes. Even still, they kept fighting and came back to tie the game two more times before Anaconda went on to win, 50-43. Jane Booth finished with 14 points, Corrine Sanderson with 13 and Clarke with 12.
Corvallis coach Zane Warnken was very proud of the effort his team put in both the tournament and the season. He felt they had worked hard all season and saw a huge improvement in the team.