HAMILTON – Only the home team had to fight off a tough challenge in the first round of the Western A boys divisional tournament. The other three winners dominated their openers. Browning, Butte Central and Dillon looked great. Hamilton, though, needed a strong finish.
Browning blitzed Frenchtown from the opening tip in the bracket’s opening game. The Northwest A champion led 21-5 at the end of one quarter and 39-17 at halftime against the Southwest A’s No. 4 seed. Browning stayed on the gas in the second half, outscoring the Broncs 17-4 in the third quarter. The lead reached 40 in the fourth quarter to start a running clock, and the Indians won 67-30.
Tyree Whitcomb dominated for the Indians with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds and seven assists. Ethan Running Crane hit all five 3-pointers he attempted to score 15 points. Cade Baker was the only Frenchtown player in double figures with 12 points.
The second game looked very similar. This time it was Southwest A No. 2 seed, Butte Central, doing the dominating. The Maroons used a stifling defense to take control early against Northwest A No. 3-seed Libby. The Maroons led 18-4 after one quarter and 32-7 at halftime. Their blowout also reached 40 points early in the fourth quarter, starting a running clock, and Butte Central cruised to a 66-29 victory.
Dylan Sestrich was hot from the beginning, scoring 15 points. Cade Holter added 12 points. But his tenacious defense against Libby top-scorer Ryggs Johnston was even more impressive. Johnston finished with 14 points, but he rarely even had the ball in the first half because of Holter’s pressure.
The third first-round matchup on Thursday evening provided more of the same. Southwest A No. 3-seed Dillon left little doubt which conference had the upper hand against Northwest A No. 2-seed Polson. The Beavers only led 16-11 after one quarter, but they outscored the Pirates 45-11 over the second and third quarters. Dillon also reached a 40-point lead and a running clock in the fourth quarter, and the game ended with an 81-34 victory for the Beavers.
Michael Haverfield led the onslaught with 18 points for the Beavers. Justus Peterson chipped in 15. Dylan Cervelli scored 12. Polson’s Ryker Wenderoth scored 12, the only Pirate to reach double figures.
The only competitive game came last in the first round. Southwest A champ Hamilton had all it could handle from Northwest A No. 4-seed Whitefish, which split its two meetings with the Broncs in the regular season. The Broncs jumped out to an 18-10 lead after one quarter, but Whitefish came alive in the second, taking a 29-26 lead into halftime. The Bulldogs still led by three, 47-44, going into the final quarter. But then Hamilton took complete control, outscoring Whitefish 18-4 over the final eight minutes and pulling away to a 62-51 victory.
Browning and Butte Central will square off in the first semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Then Hamilton and Dillon collide again at 8 p.m. The two Southwest A rivals split their two regular-season matchups.
In loser-out games earlier on Friday, Frenchtown will battle Libby at 12:30 p.m. and Whitefish will take on Polson at 2 p.m.