BILLINGS — The co-op of Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale came up empty in two previous trips to the state championship game. The Mavericks weren’t denied this time.
Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale's pressing defense and up-tempo style forged an eight-point lead after the first quarter and an 18-point advantage at halftime, which led to a 59-26 victory over Twin Bridges and the Class C girls championship Saturday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark.
The Mavericks put a cap on a 26-0 season and got over the hump after second-place finishes in both 2015 and 2021 and a third-place trophy last year. The co-op of Saco and Whitewater won a girls title in 2011, but this is the first crown for the tri-combo of teams and towns that rest on a 46-mile stretch of highway in northeastern Montana.
"To get this one is huge for us," said junior Teagan Erickson after the Mavericks gathered their trophy. "We got second my freshman year and then third my sophomore year, so there was a piece that needed to be filled. We knew we had a good shot and we just put our heart out there and we played as hard as we could, and now we've got it."
Saco-Whitewater-Hinsdale jumped out fast. A Kora LaBrie 3-pointer early in the first quarter put the Mavericks ahead 7-2. Erickson and Paige Wasson hit back-to-back 3s thereafter, and the Mavericks led 17-9.
In the second quarter, Erickson scored inside off a steal to make it 24-11 at the 2:05 mark, then Wasson got five quick points within the last 45 seconds before halftime to go into the break with a 29-11 lead. Erickson and Wasson led the way, just as they had all year, each with 19 points. Erickson also had 11 rebounds. Mattea McColly added 10 points for the Mavericks.
Twin Bridges was making its first appearance in the championship game since 2012. The Falcons, who finished the season 24-3, remain in search of the program’s first title.
Allie Dale's nine points led Twin Bridges. Teammate Emma Konen scored seven. The Falcons, though, made just 1 of 14 3-point tries and turned the ball over 24 times facing the Mavericks' pressing defense, which led to 27 points on the other end. Twin Bridges scored just six points combined in the second and third quarters.
"We like to run a really faced-paced game," Erickson said. "We're tall, athletic and fast, so we like to push the tempo. We throw the press on and it speeds up the game, and our defense leads to our offense.
"This means the world. Our seniors, they've had those years where we got second place and third place. Second place just really motivated us to get back here. The state championship just means so much to us all."