Cowgirls open state tournament with tough loss


Making their first appearance in the state tournament since 2009, the Custer County Cowgirls looked like seasoned pros against Hamilton yesterday. But the Cowgirls came up just short, falling 46-42 in the first-round in Great Falls.

“They rose to the occasion,” Cowgirls head coach Jacqui Engstrom said. “They came focused and ready to play, we just came up a couple minutes short. The girls aren’t done yet. They came here to accomplish one goal, and that was a state championship. We’ve adjusted our goals and now we aren’t leaving without some hardware.”

With the loss, the Cowgirls dropped into loser-out action today at 12:30 p.m., against Belgrade. Belgrade was hammered by Columbia Falls 70-29. Also at the State A Tournament, Laurel beat Anaconda 52-38 and Havre beat Frenchtown 60-41.

For the Cowgirls, they played outstanding defense, they just couldn’t get the shots to fall late.

“The girls played tough all game and never gave up,” Engstrom said. “As long as they put 100-percent out there and don’t stop playing, that’s all I can ask. We missed some small assignments and some bunnies and free throws throughout the game and at tournaments, it’s those small things that make or break the games. And especially close ones like ours.”

The Cowgirls (12-10) scored the first two points of the game, but would not lead again until the fourth quarter.

In each of the second, third and fourth quarters, the Cowgirls fell behind by eight points, but rallied each time.

In the second quarter, the Cowgirls ended the half on a 9-2 run to go into halftime trailing 19-18. Early in the third quarter, Hamilton (18-3) scored seven straight points, only to have the Cowgirls end the third quarter on a 10-2 run, the last five from Beth Sutter. Sutter’s two free throws tied the game at 28 going into the fourth quarter.

After Hamilton went 1-2 from the line early in the fourth, Cowgirl freshman Jenna Swope hit a very long three-pointer that gave them a 31-29 lead, their first since leading 2-0.

That lead was short-lived as Hamilton hit a three of their own and then pushed their lead to 40-32 with 2:15 to play.

Cowgirl senior Shaylee Singleton then hit a layup, was fouled and hit the free throw. Hamilton’s Taylor Goligoski, the Montana Player of the Year last year, then hit two free throws and Ashlie Larson answered with a three.

Hamilton then missed a pair of free throws and Makena Ellingson was fouled on a three-pointer. She made two of the three shots, cutting the score to 42-40 with less than a minute to play.

Hamilton again missed two free throws and with 29 seconds left, Sutter hustled the ball up the court and drilled a three that would have given the Cowgirls the lead with less than 30 seconds to play. But she was whistled for traveling.

In the final seconds, Hamilton was 4-6 from the free throw line to edge the Cowgirls out.

“We had some big stops on defense and knocked some big shots down at the right times to give us some momentum,” Engstrom said. “We just ran out of time.”

Defensively, the Cowgirls held Hamilton to 30 percent shooting from the field and they held a 34-27 edge in rebounds. But the Cowgirls could not overcome 13 turnovers and 34 percent shooting. Both teams struggled at the line, each shooting 57 percent.

Larson had 10 points to lead the Cowgirls. Singleton finished with eight and Sutter had seven, both grabbed eight rebounds.

Goligoski, the leading scorer in the state, and Jaylee Albert each scored 17 points.

The Cowgirls will have to avoid overlooking a Belgrade team that was hammered by Columbia Falls in the first round.

“We can’t overlook them. We lose and we’re done, and we know that,” Engstrom said. “One game, one possession at a time. We have to put a lot of pressure on their guards and attack offensively. We have to bring every ounce of energy we brought in the first game.”






Hamilton 46, Miles City 42

Hamilton 9 10 9 18 46 

Miles City 5 13 10 14 42 

Hamilton —Taylor Goligoski 17, Ellie Hurlbert 2, Jaylee Albert 17, Kali Hayes 1, Brianna Huggans.

Miles City — Tori Swope 3, Makena Ellingson 4, Beth Sutter 7, Ashlie Larson 10, Shaylee Singleton 8, Halie Warren 2, Jenna Swope 3, Kadie Heinle 4, Amy Blaquiere 1. Laurel 52, Anaconda 38

Columbia Falls 70, Belgrade 29

Belgrade 6 3 4 16 29 

Columbia Falls 21 16 20 13 70 

Belgrade (9-14) —Alexis Clingingsmith 15, Erin Singleton 6, Tanna Holliday 3, Shaylee Ragar 3, Sadie Reddick 2

Columbia Falls (20-1) — Ciera Finberg 7, Cydney Finberg 12, Ellie Johnson 2, Winter Kemppainen 6, Haley Belgarde 14, Summer Budge 6, Sydney Grilley 7,  Andrea Getts 6, Miranda Livingston 4, Kiara Burlage 2, Allyson Gimbel 4.

Anaconda 5 15 9 9 38 

Laurel 11 13 13 15 52 

Anaconda — Taylor Flynn 9, Lacee Moodry 6, Kiernan Gallagher 8, Courtney Moodry  6, Molly Huber 5, Tyler Baustadt 2, Shea Forsberg 2.

Laurel — Lexi Lewis 17, Allie McGrath 17, Dalayna Christenson 5, Hailey Spitzer 3, Abbie Lohof 10. 

Havre 60, Frenchtown 41

Havre 14 21 12 13 60 

Frenchtown 11 11 6 13 41 

Havre (15-6) — Breck Don 2, Brandy Lambourne 21, Dani Wagner 6, Morgan Mazurkiewicz 4, Lacey Waid 8, Peyton Filius 12, Tori Mazurkiewicz 3, Haley Ohm  4.

Frenchtown (15-7) —Haley Cyr 2, Vanessa Stavish 15, Kayla Blood 7, Brooke Yarnall 2, Krista Hebnes 1, Keegan Wickman 8, Lacey Hochhalter 6.