GREAT FALLS -- On Saturday, the Augusta girls claimed their second consecutive District 10C basketball title in a 63-49 win over Valier. Back-to-back league titles are impressive but even more so when you consider where the team was a few years ago.
“Augusta athletes went to Simms when I was in junior high and then we fought to get it back,” said senior Olivia Isakson. “And everyone told us that if we weren't in Simms, we weren't going to win. And here we are with two championships because we were determined to prove them wrong and we worked hard and we got to our goal.”
It took 39 years for Augusta to advance to the Northern C divisional tournament for the first time. And now the Elks are back for a return trip a year later.
Isakson and her fellow seniors were the catalysts, along with second-year head coach Kezia Allen, a former star at University of Providence who used to coach the Augusta boys. They’ve seen the lean years, the steady improvement and are now seeing success that results from hard work.
“This is the team that I had from eighth grade and that's where it all started at,” Isakson said. “We decided we like winning. We built this program and we've dedicated hours and so the back-to-back feeling is exactly how I wanted to end my senior year.”
Allen had watched Isakson for years before making a return to the bench last season. Isakson leads her team in nearly every statistical category
“Olivia is a rock star. She’s our senior, she can shoot outside, she’s a driver, she's can post up. She's really tough defensively,” Allen said. “She's been an all-around good basketball player since she was a freshman. I knew if I was going to be able to coach her, that I had big goals for her, and I was going to get her to excel at the highest level. And she's absolutely stepped up and I've challenged her a lot and she's taken that challenge very seriously. And she's done a great job.”
Now Isakson and the Elks turn their attention to the Northern C. Augusta went 0-2 a year ago and admittedly wasn't quite ready for the big stage. But that experience is fresh in the Elks' minds, as they face a first-round matchup against District 8C power Belt on Wednesday.
“There was a lot of jitters last year. And quite frankly, we didn't really know what to expect,” Allen said. “Now they've been to the gym, they've been to the atmosphere, they know what to expect. So, they know what kind of intensity, especially defensively, we have to bring in order to be able to compete at the divisional level.”
For Isakson, it’s a matter of pride and ending her basketball career on a high note. She has signed on to play volleyball at MSU-Northern in the fall, so this is her last hurrah on the basketball courts.
“We know that the pressure is off,” Isakson said. “We just want to play ball and I just wanted to play as long as I can. So that's what we're working for.”
Augusta opens the Northern C tournament on Wednesday against defending Class C co-state champion Belt at 10:30 a.m. A District 10C girls team hasn’t advanced to the state tournament since Cascade in 2015.