The Wildkats quest for their second basketball state title in three years continues Thursday as the team begins play at the Class A state tournament in Great Falls.
The top eight teams in the state will battle for the state trophy as action gets underway at 9 a.m. Thursday with the Wildkats (the top seed from the Western Division) taking on the fourth-ranked team from the East, Laurel.
Here’s a look at the teams and Thursday’s first round matchups in this year’s tourney:
Columbia Falls Wildkats
The Wildkats come into Thursday’s matchup with a 23-1 record and riding a 12-game winning streak. Ryley Kehr led the Kats in scoring in the regular season with 15.4 points per game, which was second in all of Class A, and also led the state in steals and was third in assists. Trista Cowan was seventh in the state in scoring at 12.9 points per game and was also second in rebounding, third in blocks and 10th in steals. Sophomore point guard LaKia Hill was tied with teammate Kehr for third in the state in assists at 3.8 per game.
The Locomotives are a strong shooting and ball-handling team that comes into the tournament with a record of 16-6 after going 2-2 at the Eastern Divisional Tournament.
Laurel has the state’s top two free throw shooters in Maeson Cotter (86.7%) and Mya Hansen (82.2%) and shoot a state-high 65 percent from the line as a team.
Hansen is also sixth in the state in scoring at 13.4 points per game, seventh in assists and 10th in three-point shooting.
Havre Blue Ponies
Libby Lady Loggers
Havre is looking to defend its 2018 state title, but the Blue Ponies had their 45-game winning streak broken by Billings Central in the Eastern A Divisional final.
The Blue Ponies are led by the state’s leading scorer in Kyndall Keller at 17.1 points per game and averaged a state-high 61.4 points per game as a team this season.
The Lady Loggers come into the matchup 17-9 after finishing third at the Western A Divisional Tourney. The Lady Loggers are led by senior Jayden Windslow, who was tied for third in the state in scoring at 14.9 points per game.
Browning Lady Indians
Hardin Lady Bulldogs
The Lady Indians come into the state tournament as the second seed from the Western A Division with a season record of 18-6. The Lady Indians only losses of the season came to Columbia Falls (three times), Havre (twice) and Shelby.
Browning is led by Tamika Guardipee, who finished the regular season tied for third in the state in scoring at 14.9 points per game and also third in rebounding at 9.5 per contest. The Lady Indians have the best shooting percentage in the state, leading Class A in 2-point shooting at 47 percent and second in three-point percentage at 29 percent.
Hardin comes into the tournament with a season record of 19-3 and a third-place finish in the East after going 3-1 at the divisional tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs are led by Marie Five’s 11.7 points per game and Ivery Fritzler’s 10.9. Fritzler was second in the state in three-point shooting in the regular season at 42.2 percent.
Billings Central Lady Rams
Butte Central Lady Maroons
Billings Central comes into the state tournament as the top seed from the East with a 17-4 record after defeating Havre in the divisional title game.
The Lady Rams are led by Olivia Moten-Schell, who was ninth in the state in scoring at 12.4 points per game, but also boast three other players averaging more than eight points per contest.
The Lady Maroons are the fourth seed from the West and come into the tournament with a 12-13 record.
Butte Central is led by the 10th leading scorer in the state in Tricia Joyce at 12 points per game.
The Lady Maroons were the top three-point shooting team in the state at 55 percent.