By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
There were hints of drama in the morning session of the Central A girls basketball tournament, but that's all they were. Nothing more than hints.
As expected, the second-seeded Dillon Beavers and the third-seeded Browning Indians cruised to easy victories to advance to tonight's semifinals.
There were very little offensive fireworks to open the tournament as Dillon used a stingy full-court pressure defense and dominated the boards in a 40-26 win over Livingston.
Both teams took turns chipping paint off the rims early in the game as Dillon missed several point-blank shots and Livingston couldn't get anything going at all. The Beavers grabbed an 8-3 lead after the first quarter, but it could have been much more. It's a trend that head coach Bernie Wasser has become familiar with.
"We've had trouble scoring points all season and we did again tonight," Wasser said. "But our defense carries us when our shots aren't falling."
Dillon's defense got particularly tough when Livingston's Kaitlin Kaiser went down with a knee injury and was not able to return.
"It's tough losing a great player like that," Wasser said. "She's their best ballhandler and was capable of breaking our full-court pressure by himself. We took advantage of it and really cranked up the defensive pressure when she went out."
With Kaiser out, Livingston wilted against the Dillon pressure, committing turnovers on three of the four ensuing possessions, allowing the Beavers to extend the lead.
After watching Livingston lose a top player, Wasser got to experience the feeling himself early in the third quarter as standout forward Tiffany Stoddard twisted a knee and limped off the floor. Stoddard returned to the bench with knee heavily taped, but at that point the Beavers were up 14 points and Stoddard's replacement, Lizzy Castro, was dominating.
The junior forward scored seven of her team-high 11 points in the second half and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.
"Lizzy Castro stepped right in and had a heck of a game," Wasser said. "It's the most aggressive I have ever seen her play. We haven't seen that out of her all year, but I hope we see it more often."
While Castro was giving the Beavers a lift, Livingston still couldn't muster much offensively. Dillon did a solid job of defending 6-3 center Shannon Bosley while forcing the Rangers to play at a much faster tempo than they wanted.
A pair of Robyn Keyes' three-pointers put Livingston over the 20-point barrier. Still neither team shot better than 30 percent from the field with Dillon shooting 29 percent and Livingston an icy 23 percent.
"It was just a case of two teams who are not very strong offensively," Wasser said. "There was a time in the first half when I thought the first team to 10 would win. It wasn't very pretty to watch."
In the other morning session game, Browning's biggest scare came in the game's first minute as all-state center Tamara Guardipee picked up two quick fouls before most people had sat down from the pregame introductions. But even that wasn't enough as Browning prevailed 61-38.
Guardipee played all of one minute and one second, before going to the bench at the 6:59 mark of the first quarter. A place she wouldn't leave for the rest of the half.
With the conference's second leading scorer on the bench, Browning sophomore point guard Jenna Skunkcap took over. At 5-10, she simply shot over, passed over and rebounded over the smaller Butte Central players.
Skunkcap scored eight first-quarter points while setting up easy scores for Erica Edwards and Loris Whiteman with solid passes over the top as Browning took a 15-12 first-quarter lead.
She continued to stay hot in the second quarter, sinking a pair of three-pointers and finding Bobbi Woodworth for easy scores inside. Butte Central hung tough behind the play of senior Jordan Kambich and junior Brenna Manion, who combined to score 10 points as Central trailed 35-26.
Guardipee returned to the floor in the third quarter and made her presence felt immediately. She scored a pair of quick baskets and Browning got three's from Skunkcap and Kendall Edmo to build on the lead.
In the fourth quarter, Guardipee dominated the inside, scoring 10 points, including a pair of baskets on pretty lob passes from Skunkcap.
Overall, Skunkcap came agonizingly close to a triple-double scoring a game high 22 points, pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out nine assists. Guardipee scored all 14 of her points in the second half. Woodworth had a solid game off the bench with six points and eight rebounds.
Butte Central was led by Kambich's 14 points, while Jodi Hogart added nine points in the loss.
The Maroons will face Livingston in loser-out action at 12:30 p.m., while Dillon and Browning will meet in semifinal action at 6:30 p.m.
Wasser wasn't sure about Stoddard's health following the game, but he was sure of her mentality.
"We won't know until tomorrow night, but if she can go, she'll play," Wasser said. "We'd have to lock her in the hotel room to keep her from playing."
As for preparing for Browning, Wasser joked about his game plan.
"Obviously, I'd like to do what Butte Central did and get her two fouls in the first minute of the game," he said. "We certainly don't want to get into a half-court game against them, but one thing I did notice is how many players can shoot for them. They showed that they are more than just one player."
DILLON 40, LIVINGSTON 26
Dillon 8 8 13 11 - 40
Livingston 3 5 6 12 - 26
Dillon - Valory Monaco 4, Kayla Shepherd 5, Tiffany McGinley 6, Kelly Godecke 2, Darcy Hahnkamp 1, Tanya Lalicker 7, Lizzy Castro 11, Tiffany Stoddard 4. Totals: 14 8-17 40.
Livingston - Brianna Ackerman 2, Robyn Keyes 6, Shannon Bosley 9, Sara Meyer 4, Marissa Olson 5. Totals: 9 6-8 26.
Three-point goals: DIL 4-14 (Monaco 1, Shepherd 1, McGinley 2); LIV 2-7 (Keyes 2). Rebounds: DIL 31 (Castro 13); 17 (Bosley 5, M. Olson). Assists: DIL 12 (Godecke 4); LIV 5 (Story 2). Turnovers: DIL 18, LIV 22. Total fouls - Dillon 15, Livingston 13. Fouled out - none.
BROWNING 61, BUTTE CENTRAL 38
Butte Central 12 14 9 3 - 38
Browning 15 20 12 14 - 61
Butte Central - Brenna Marion 5, Jodi Hogart 9, Meghan Walsh 6, Caitlin O'Neill 2, Jordan Kambich 14, Dara Shea 2. Totals: 13 9-14 38.
Browning - Wasewi Shawl 5, Erica Edwards 3, Loris Whiteman 6, Misty Tatsey 2, Bobbi Woodworth 6, Jenna Skunkcap 22, Kendall Edmo 3, Tamara Guardipee 14. Totals: 25 5-6 61.
Three-point goals: BC 3-6 (Hogart 1, Kambich 2), BRO 6-12 (Shawl 1, Skunkcap 4, Edmo 1). Rebounds: BRO 36 (Woodworth 8, Skunkcap 8); BC 24 (Kambich 7, O'Neill 6). Assists: BRO 18 (Skunkcap 9); BC 6 (Kambich 2, Shea 2). Turnovers: BRO 20, BC 23. Total fouls