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No seniors, no problem for undefeated, top-ranked Dillon girls

Posted at 3:42 PM, Jan 25, 2023

DILLON — Dillon's fifth-year head girls basketball coach John Hansen recognizes that, roster-wise, he is in an "interesting situation" this season.

"No seniors this year," said Hansen shortly after the Beavers posted a 61-35 non-conference home win over Livingston to improve their overall record to 13-0.

"You're not really sure if you get in a close-game situation who's going to step up," Hansen continued. "But our girls have a lot of varsity experience, were able to rotate in a lot last year. And I've just been so proud of them in late-game situations."

Coming off an appearance at last year's State A semifinals — and an eventual fourth-place finish — Dillon headed into this season with a varsity roster comprised solely of a mix of juniors, sophomores and one freshman.

The only returning starter from last year? Junior Halle Fitzgerald — the younger sister of Montana Western star Brynley Fitzgerald — who recognized that she and the rest of the roster were going to need to step up to fill the void left by five graduated players.

"We've been playing together since we were in third grade," Fitzgerald said of her and Dillon's new starting five. "Going into this season, I knew that I had to kind of step up into that leadership position. And us starting five and the bench have all stepped into that too."

The Beavers have embraced that challenge of stepping up, and the end result has been an undefeated start to the season and a No. 1 position in the latest MTN Sports power rankings. For this young team vying to claim hardware in Bozeman come March, it's no seniors, no problem.

"It feels awesome, just knowing we're working hard every day," said junior Sydney Petersen. "We're pushing closer and closer to our goal and pushing each other in practices. And each game is just a test of our competitiveness and our skills as a team."

Outside of a three -point Southwest A win over Frenchtown and a four-point victory over Hamilton, all of Dillon's wins have been lopsided affairs.

But for all of the players who were part of last season's state team — a campaign that saw the Beavers fall 48-39 to eventual Class A champion Havre in the semis — this red-hot regular season is ultimately just a tune-up for what Dillon hopes is another deep postseason run.

"It was a dream to get (to state)," said Petersen. "And I know this entire team wants to take it one step further and get to that championship and bring that banner home. So lot's of motivation there."

Said Fitzgerald: "Ever since we lost that game every single teammate we've just been thinking about it and we just want to come back this year and hopefully get a banner. And that just starts with winning every game."

At 13 wins and counting, the Beavers are certainly on the right track.