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Divisional tournament roundup: Hoopsters take final step to state

February 23, 2011
Northwest Montana A Conference

Divisional tournament roundup: Hoopsters take final step to state

Divisional tournament roundup: Hoopsters take final step to state

By MICHAEL HEINBACH of the Missoulian missoulian.com | Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 11:15 pm |

Hollyn Wittmier of Valley Christian tries to get by Darby defender Julie Abrahamsen on Friday in the District 6-B tourney in Hamilton. Valley Christian won 48-27 to advance to the consolation championship game, earning a trip to the Western B divisional. Photo by DAVID ERICKSON/Ravalli Republic

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After last weekend's Class B and C district basketball tournaments, Class A schools join the postseason party as all three classifications ready themselves for this week's divisional tournaments.

Within the area, there are four boys' and girls' tournaments set, each of which advance two teams to their respective eight-team state tournaments.

The action tips off Wednesday with the girls' portion of the Western B tourney in Pablo and the Western C girls' tourney in Butte. The Western B and C boys' tourneys, as well as the combined Northwestern A in Ronan and the Southwestern A in Hamilton, wait to tip off until Thursday.

All the action concludes Saturday.

Here's an overview of what each tourney has in store for prep basketball fans this week.

Northwestern A

The Columbia Falls boys are arguably the area team with the best shot at taking home a state title. The top-ranked Wildcats, who placed third at state last season, will first put their 17-1 record on the line at divisionals.

Because the league has just five teams, Columbia Falls has to wait to hit the hardwood until Friday's 2 p.m. semifinal, where the Wildcats will meet the winner of Thursday's opener between Libby (9-9) and Ronan (8-10).

Friday's second semifinal is already set. It pits fifth-ranked Polson (13-5) against Whitefish (11-7), which finished third in the NWA.

Senior 6-foot-5 point guard Nick Emerson is Columbia Falls' top scoring threat, averaging 16.5 point per game. Junior forward Austin Barth gives the Wildcats just under 10 points a contest.

Polson, which dealt Columbia Falls its lone defeat with a 59-52 win at home on Feb. 5, boasts a pair of dynamic scorers in senior forwards Louis Mohr (18.8 ppg) and Kyle Bagnell (14.3 ppg).

Whitefish can be dangerous, especially if junior forward Gage Vasquez (16.1 ppg) gets a hot hand.

Columbia Falls also boasts the top seed in the girls' tournament.

The Wildkats (11-7) went unbeaten in league contests to earn a 6 p.m. semifinal date Friday with the winner of Thursday's first-round encounter between Ronan (1-17) and Whitefish (2-16). Friday's other semifinal features Libby (8-10) and Polson (11-7).

Columbia Falls has the league's leading scorer in 6-2 senior Kayla DeWit, who averages 21.1 ppg. Libby's Jaime Gilden is next with a 16.4-point scoring average, while Polson teammates Riley Kenney (13.7 ppg) and Breanne Kelley (12.8 ppg) make the Pirates a team to watch.

Southwestern A

The high-scoring Corvallis boys take a 14-4 record and the No. 1 seed into Dale Berry Court.

The Blue Devils won't suit up until Friday's semifinals, when they play the winner of Thursday's battle between Hamilton (5-13) and Anaconda (3-15).

Stevensville (10-8) and Frenchtown (1-17) face off Thursday with the victor earning a shot at third-ranked Dillon (16-2) in Friday's other semi.

Corvallis is paced by its backcourt tandem of junior Riley Bradshaw and senior Rodee Anderson. Bradshaw led the league in scoring at 26.4 ppg. In the Devils' last three outings - all conference wins - Bradshaw has averaged an even 32 points. Anderson brings a 20.1 per game scoring average to the postseason.

Stevensville's leading scorer is junior guard Josh Schultz at 16.5 points per game. Anaconda receives 15.7 ppg from senior Kyle Moore and Frenchtown's Austin Blank averages 15.6.

The girls' tourney features a pair of ranked frontrunners in No. 3 Anaconda (13-5) and No. 5 Dillon (12-6).

The Copperheads placed third at state last season following back-to-back state titles. They face the winner of an opening-round game between Frenchtown and Hamilton in Friday's semifinals.

Stevensville (13-5), which dealt Anaconda its lone league loss in a 10-point win Dec. 17, takes on Corvallis (2-16) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for the right to meet the Beavers in the semifinals at the same time Friday.

Sophomore center Alycia Sims is the league's top scorer at 18.5 ppg. Sarah Lester of Frenchtown drops in 16.8 a game for Frenchtown, while Alex Brammer of Dillon has a 16.7 scoring average.

Western B

The fourth-ranked Florence boys enter divisional play on a nine-game winning streak since falling at Class A power Corvallis on Jan. 20.

That makes the defending champion Falcons (15-3) the team to beat again this year after they earned a third-place finish at state last season. They take on District 7-B fourth seed Plains (6-15).

The most interesting first-round contest is at 1 p.m., when 10th-ranked Bigfork (15-6) takes on Loyola Sacred Heart (14-6).

Last weekend, the Vikings slipped in the District 7-B semifinals, losing 62-57 to eventual tournament champ Troy before downing Eureka and hammering Plains to win the consolation title. At the 6-B tourney, the Rams dropped a 74-71 double-OT heartbreaker to the Falcons in the title tilt.

Troy (12-9) meets Valley Christian (10-12) and Deer Lodge (13-9) faces Thompson Falls (10-10) in the other first-round games.

Florence senior guard Adam Greger (21.6 ppg), a Montana Tech signee, was the leading scorer in 6-B, followed by Loyola senior guard Everett Johnston (21.4 ppg), who will play at Carroll College next season.

The big guns from District 7-B are senior forward Christian Ker of Bigfork with a 16.3 a game scoring average and Troy junior guard Cory Orr (13.8 ppg). Ker averaged 20 points a game at last week's district tourney.

Third-ranked Bigfork and No. 6 Loyola are the heavy hitters at the girls' tourney, each coming off district regular-season and tournament titles and sporting identical 19-1 records.

The Breakers start the action at Salish Kootenai College on Wednesday at 1 p.m. against Troy, which won for just the second time this season when it beat Thompson Falls 56-54 in overtime of a loser-out game Saturday.

The Vals face District 6-B's fourth seed, Valley Christian (8-14), after Superior (11-10) and St. Ignatius (15-5) play. The late first-round contest pits Plains (14-8) against Deer Lodge (13-7).

Senior guard Alex Anderson (12.7 ppg) and post Ashley Medeiros (11.1 ppg) are the top scorers from 6-B. The 7-B's top threats are Caitlin Charlebois (14.3 ppg) from Bigfork and Kyla Mitchell of St. Ignatius (13.2 ppg) .

Western C

The sixth-ranked Charlo boys fell 59-51 to Arlee in the District 14-C championship game and both enter divisional play at the Maroon Activities Center at 17-3.

Charlo faces Shields Valley on Thursday, while Arlee opens up with Sheridan.

Drummond (16-4), fresh of an eight-point victory over Lincoln in the District 13-C title game, draws a date with Ennis. The Lynx (14-6) tip off with Twin Bridges.

Look for Nate Bignell (17.4 ppg) of Drummond, Chance Rosenbaum (14.7 ppg) of Charlo and Trae Burland (13.2 ppg) of Arlee to get plenty of touches this weekend.

The Drummond girls went 2-0 to win the 13-C championship last week. Their next win will be No. 600 for 33rd-year head coach Mike Bradshaw.

The Trojans face Twin Bridges in a first-round matchup Wednesday at the Butte Civic Center.

Head coach Bret Thompson's Charlo girls (17-2), the District 14-C champs, get the action started with a contest against Shields Valley.

District 13-C runner-up Seeley-Swan (17-3) meets Ennis and Arlee (7-12) takes on Harrison.

Kinley Pope from Charlo (11.7 ppg), Mahalia Hendren (11.1 ppg) from Arlee and Rhianna Pool (9.9 ppg) of Drummond lead the way for their respective teams.

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