GBB Central Hamilton 4 (copy)

Butte Central's Emma Keeley goes for a layup while being guarded by Hamilton's Lauren Ryter in the Southwest A Championship game.

An underdog all season, Butte Central has a chance to shrug off the label this weekend and do some damage at the Class A state tournament in Great Falls.

That's not to say it's going to be easy. The Maroons open with Eastern A top seed Billings Central, who stands at 17-4 on the year. Butte Central is 11-13.

It's been an up-and-down season for the Maroons, who started off the year with a 47 point loss to Columbia Falls. But Meg Murphy was able to rally her team, which finished with a 6-4 record in regular season conference play.

The Maroons then had a strong run to the Southwest A title game, which they won 43-40 over Hamilton. Central then had a bit of a rough time in the Western A divisional, but was able to win the games they needed to in order to get to the state tournament.

Defense has been the Maroons calling card throughout the year and it's what pushed them to nearly all of their wins. Central allowed just 42.7 points per game and 40.9 in Southwest A play.

Scoring has, at times, been a bit of an issue for Butte Central but strong defensive possessions has helped them overcome the droughts. Tricia Joyce leads Central in scoring at 12 points per game and is a deadly shooter from beyond the arc.

She hit 46-of-112 3-point attempts (41.1 percent) during the regular season and had an incredible game against Ronan in the first round of the Western A tournament where she hit seven. That tied a school record and five of them came in the second quarter, including a buzzer beater ahead of halftime.

Joyce is a threat from just about anywhere on the floor and has hit near-NBA distance shots more than once over the past few seasons. She's also one of just three seniors on a squad that is made up nearly entirely of freshman and sophomores.

Freshman Sofee Thatcher has been one of the critical pieces for the Maroons on both sides of the ball and scores 6.8 points per game. Thatcher's a well-rounded player and averages 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

There were some youthful mistakes (including 59 turnovers) but overall Thatcher plays like a much older athlete and has a chance to be one of the best players in a family full of them.

Central doesn't have a ton of height, but post presence Emma Keeley, a junior, has been consistent and is second on the team in scoring with 8.3 per contest. Amira Bolton, Shea Davis, Maddie Kump and Bella Sorini are all important role players for Murphy, who also threw in some younger players as the season went along.

Depending on if the result of the game against Billings Central, Butte Central will play either Browning or Hardin in the semifinals or a loser-out game. The semifinal would be at 5 p.m. on Friday, while the loser-out game would be at 10:30 a.m.

Jordan Hansen covers prep and Frontier Conference sports for the Montana Standard. Shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com or give him a shout on Twitter @jordyhansen.

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