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Deer Lodge falls in first-round action; Malta, Three Forks advance

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HAMILTON - The Deer Lodge girls' basketball team played some of its best ball of the season in the two weeks prior to reaching the state Class B tournament.

But Thursday afternoon at Dale Berry Court, the Wardens ran into a buzzsaw in the name of Kelly Pankratz and the Malta M-Ettes.

Guided by Pankratz, its senior guard headed to play at Montana-Western next season, Northern B champion Malta dominated on both ends of the floor and posted a 70-38 first-round victory over Deer Lodge.

The Wardens upset District 7-B foe Florence in a Western B challenge game Monday to advance to state. But the top-ranked M-Ettes, who own six Class B titles and nine championship-game appearances, deflated that Deer Lodge momentum early.

After the Wardens closed a first-quarter gap to 11-6 on Katherine Brott's 3-pointer - the Wardens' only trey of the afternoon - Malta closed the period on a 10-2 run, capped by back-to-back 3-balls by Pankratz.

But despite the outcome, Pankratz, who went 7-for-10 from the floor to finish with a game-high 19 points, was less than satisfied with Malta's effort.

"We didn't play all that smart at times and we made some bad passes and bad decisions," she said. "I guess we got our first-game jitters out of the way. But we're a much better team than we showed today."

The M-Ettes will have to be at the top of their game for their Friday semifinal, when they face a Three Forks team that looked nearly unbeatable in scorching Columbus 61-37 in the tourney opener.

Kylee Denham scored 11 for Malta, while junior Amber Harms contributed seven steals on the defensive end.

Senior forward Krystal Burns was one of the few bright spots for the Wardens, scoring 12 points. Danni Johnson came off the bench to tally 10 and lead Deer Lodge in rebounding with six.

Deer Lodge entered having won seven of its last nine, but the Wardens' undoing this day was their inability to take care of the basketball. Malta's defensive pressure resulted in 27 steals and forced Deer Lodge into an unheard of 32 turnovers, much to the dismay of Wardens head coach Glen Green.

"Obviously our execution was off today," said Green, whose Wardens fell to 16-12 and must win a 12:30 p.m. loser-out game Friday with Columbus to remain in contention for hardware. "We were so concentrated on getting over the timeline with their defense all over us that we never got into a rhythm once we go the ball on their end of the court. That was kind of like the way we were playing at the beginning of the season."

Though ahead 53-26 to start the fourth quarter, Malta stretched its lead to 30 points before M-Ettes coach emptied his bench in one fell swoop with a little more than five minutes left.

Coach Green did manage to find nugget of positivity to build on for Friday's win-or-go-home battle.

"When we did execute we got some excellent penetration and turned that into some good shots," he said. "Now we'll just have to forget about today and start fresh tomorrow."

Deer Lodge 8 10 8 12 - 38

Malta 21 20 12 17 - 70

DEER LODGE - Katherine Brott 2-7 0-0 6, Suzy Christnacht 0-0 0-0 0, Haley Owens 2-4 0-1 5, Jackee Beck 2-2 0-0 4, Krystal Burns 6-10 0-0 12, Karissa Dankers 0-0 1-2 1, Courtney Quigley 0-0 0-0 0, Kenya Knutson 0-0 0-0 0, Lisa Clawson 0-0 0-0 0, Sarah O'Hara 0-1 0-0 0, Danni Johnson 5-7 0-2 10. Totals 17-32 1-5 38.

MALTA - Laramie Schwenke 3-9 3-6 9, Kylee Denham 4-10 2-6 11, Amber Harms 2-5 0-0 5, Kelly Pankratz 7-10 2-4 19, Katie Lowney 3-7 0-0 6. Brianna Tatafu 2-3 0-0 5, Jessica Henderson 1-2 0-0 3, Bobbi Knudsen 0-0 1-2 1, Brook Berg 4-8 0-0 8, Caitlin Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Shanay Darrah 0-0 1-2 1, Jessica Henry 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-56 9-20 70.

3-point goals - Deer Lodge 3-10 (Brott 2-6, Owens 1-1), Malta 7-12 (Pankratz 3-4, Tatafu 1-1, Denham 1-2, Harms 1-2, Henderson 1-2). Rebounds - Deer Lodge 21 (Johnson 6), Malta 22 (Schwenke 5). Assists - Deer Lodge 4 (Johnson 2), Malta 13 (Schwenke 5). Blocks - Deer Lodge 2 (Christnacht, Beck). Malta 0. Steals - Deer Lodge 10 (Owens 4, Burns 4), Malta 27 (Harms 7). Turnovers - Deer Lodge 32, Malta 14. Total fouls - Deer Lodge 13, Malta 6. Fouled out - None.

Three Forks 61, Columbus 37

Shayla Mack, head coach of fourth-ranked Three Forks, is a firm believer in beginning the second half with a surge. In their opening-round victory over Columbus, the Wolves took that belief to heart.

Already up by 23 going into halftime, the No. 1 seed from the Southcentral C put on a clinic by scoring the first 16 points of the third quarter in impressive fashion.

"We came out a little sluggish to start the second half in our divisional title game against Big Timber and it cost us," Mack said after the Wolves moved to 22-2. "We knew we needed to come out with some energy in the third quarter and not get complacent."

Senior forward Jessica Overstreet collected nine of her 19 points in that bust which lasted just over four minutes and silenced the once vocal Cougar faithful.

Catherine Roedel scored 10 for Three Forks, which fired up 28 attempts from beyond the arc and connected on seven of them.

Junior Hannah Counter collected 16 points, four rebounds and a steal to pace Columbus, which fell to 20-5.

Columbus 8 7 8 14 - 37

Three Forks 14 12 20 15 - 61

COLUMBUS - Stephanie Faust 1-3 1-2 3, Kaci Noble 1-5 0-0 2, Hannah Counter 5-15 5-5 16, Megan Patterson 5-11 0-0 12, Cassie Carter 0-1 0-0 0, Jaycee Noble 0-4 0-0 0, Kimberly Holten 0-4 0-0 0, Lana Scott 2-5 0-2 4. Totals 14-48 6-9 37.

THREE FORKS - Jessica Overstreet 8-12 2-5 19, Shelby Mack 3-6 0-0 7, Katie Sauvageau 2-4 0-0 5, Carley Buttelman 1-8 0-0 2, Cathernie Roedel 4-6 2-2 10, Allie Sauvageau 0-0 0-0 0, Anna Samson 2-6 1-2 7, Tomi Blakely 2-6 0-0 6, Shelby Vandolah 2-6 1-2 5. Elizabeth Samson 0-0 0-0 0, Mackenzie Espeland 0-1 0-0 0, Cierra Myers 0-0 0-0 0.

3-point goals - Columbus 3-12 (Patterson 2-2, Counter 1-5), Three Forks 7-28 (Blakely 2-5, Samson 2-6, Overstreet 1-3, K. Sauvageau 1-3, Mack 1-4). Rebounds - Columbus 31 (K. Noble 4, Counter 4, Patterson 4), Three Forks 30 (Overstreet 11). Assists - Columbus 4 (Faust, K. Noble, Counter, J. Noble). Blocks - Columbus 0, Thrfee Forks 1 (Overstreet). Steals - Columbus 2 (K. Noble, Counter), Three Forks 8 (Overstreet 2, mack 2, Roedel 2). Turnovers - Columbus 12, Three Forks 3. Total fouls - Columbus 12, Three Forks 15. Fouled out - Overstreet.

Pairings Class B state tournament at Hamilton's Dale Berry Court

Thursday

Three Forks 61, Columbus 37

Malta 70, Deer Lodge 38

Loyola Sacred Heart 42, Conrad 43

Shepherd 65, Big Timber 54

Friday

12:30 p.m. - Columbus (20-5) vs. Deer Lodge (16-12), loser out

2 p.m. - Conrad (20-4) vs. Big Timber (21-3), loser out

6:30 p.m. - Three Forks (22-2) vs. Malta (24-0), semifinal

8 p.m. - Loyola Sacred Heart (24-0) vs. Shepherd (23-2), semifinal

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