BUTTE — It’s hard to say that a team placing in the top three at state each of the past three seasons was an underdog at divisionals over the weekend, but Butte Central’s path to the Western A title was a tough one.

But, like any seasoned squad, they didn’t care about the path.

“I told our kids — just get to the divisional tournament,” said head coach Meg Murphy. “I knew that we were going to play some good teams. My feeling was, let’s play them early and see where we can go from that.”

Not only did Central play good teams early, they opened up the tournament with a matchup against defending state champion Columbia Falls.

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“It always seems to be us and Columbia Falls against each other, so it was just great to get a win off the bat,” said senior forward Megan Michelotti.

The Maroons trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter, but a hot Tricia Joyce and a crippling full court press stymied the Wildkats, giving Central momentum on Day One.

“It was definitely a confidence-booster agaisnt C-Falls,” senior guard Kloie Thatcher said. “It was nice that we got that first win, and that gave us something going into the next couple of games.”

Adversity was a common theme throughout the divisional. Central led the championship game by 16 points at halftime against top-seeded Browning, before watching nearly all of that cushion slip away. Although the Maroons only made two shots in the entire second half, Kloie Thatcher scored 27 points in the final game to seal the victory.

“Each time Kloie Thatcher steps on the floor, you just know that she’s bringing what she has,” Murphy said. “She makes (her teammates) play that level of basketball.”

For the fourth time in as many tries, Butte Central will look for a top-three finish at state, a rare feat at any level of Montana high school sports.

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