Nothing came easily for the Hamilton Broncs Thursday afternoon in their first-round game against Miles City at the State Class A girls’ basketball tournament.
Not field-goal shooting … not rebounding … and certainly not free-throw shooting.
But the Broncs survived sub-par efforts in all three categories to post a 46-42 victory over the Cowgirls to advance to the state semifinals tonight at 6:30 against top-ranked Columbia Falls.
“They’re better than we are,” said Hamilton coach Mark Albert of the Wildkats, who beat the Broncs handily earlier this season. “They’re taller and deeper and they shoot better,” he added. “But we’ve got a couple of good players and I hope we give them a game.”
Those “couple of good players” are junior guards Taylor Goligoski and Jaylee Albert – the coach’s daughter — who each scored 17 points despite poor shooting outings. They combined to hit only 9 of 27 field goal attempts.
The younger Albert was solid from the foul line with 7 of 8, but Goligoski – the 2013 Montana Gatorade Player of the Year – made only 6 of 10 freebies, missing three in the fourth quarter down the stretch.
“Taylor’s better than that,” said her coach.
Hamilton led by only 19-18 at halftime thanks to a 7-0 spurt midway through the second quarter. The Broncs shot only 29 percent from the field and their stars were a combined 5-for-16.
But those players were more effective in the third quarter, sinking all their FG attempts, but they were limited to only three shots by the tough Miles City man-for-man defense. The Cowgirls made just enough plays on offense to draw even at 28-all entering the final quarter.
Miles City took its first lead since the opening minute on a 3-pointer by Tori Swope to open the fourth period, but Hamilton regained the lead and stayed in front despite missing eight foul shots in the final period.
Miles City fans thought their team had tied the score at 43 on a long 3-pointer by Beth Sutter with 30.3 seconds to play, but the basket was nullified by a traveling violation.
Kaylee Albert sank two free throws with 12 seconds left to ice the verdict.
Both coaches were happy with their defenses.
“We’re mirror images, both full man,” said coach Albert. “It was a struggle for both teams.”
“I was proud of the defensive job we did,” said Miles City coach Jacqui Engstrom. “It came down to a few little things, a few layups we missed and a few they made.”
Ashlie Larson led the Cowgirls (12-10) with 10 points. Miles City outrebounded Hamilton 34-27 but committed 13 turnovers, eight more than Hamilton.
Miles City faces Belgrade today at 12:30 in loser-out action.