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Eastern A: Havre vs Laurel

Laurel's Aspen Cotter (12) dribbles as Havre's Kaylee Nystrom (15) defends in the fourth quarter of the semifinals of the Eastern A divisional basketball tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Friday, February 23, 2018.

Class A girls basketball

2017-18 top three: 1) Havre, 2) Hardin, 3) Columbia Falls

2018-19 storyline

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Eastern A: Girls Championship

Hardin's Marie Five (43) dribbles as Havre's Kyndall Keller (10) defends in the second quarter of the championship game at the Eastern A divisional basketball tournament at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark on Saturday, February 24, 2018.

After falling in the 2016-17 state semifinals, Havre didn’t lose any of its 24 games last season en route to a state title. All-state and all-conference first team players Marca Herron and Danielle Wallace graduated, as did all-conference second-teamer Kaylee Nystrom and honorable mention Kyley Verploegen. But the Blue Ponies have ample talent returning, namely juniors Kyndall Keller (all-state and all-conference first team) and Kadia Miller (all-conference honorable mention).

For the second straight season, Hardin lost in the state title game, despite leading Havre 18-17 at halftime. Like the Blue Ponies, Hardin graduated a pair of all-state players: Karissa DuShane and Sharmayne Hardy. The Bulldogs don’t have an all-state player who was on last year’s roster, but they inherited all-state wing Sossity Spotted Wolf. The junior transferred from Class B Colstrip. Hardin’s returning starters are junior post Marie Five (all-conference second team), junior guard Ivery Fritzler (honorable mention) and senior post Bergan Real Bird.

The 2016-17 champion Columbia Falls took third last season after suffering a 60-34 first-round loss to vengeance-seeking Hardin. Point guard Dani Douglas and forward Hannah Gedlaman made last year’s all-state team, and they graduated in the spring. This year’s roster has three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen, according to the Hungry Horse News. All-conference second-team point guard Ryley Kehr is now a senior, as is honorable mention post Trista Cowan.

Laurel returns four starters, including senior guard Aspen Cotter (all-state, all-conference first team). The Locomotives have a new coach in Pat Hansen, who is also coaching the boys team this season.

Billings Central returns an all-state/all-conference first-team player (junior Olivia Moten-Schell) and two all-conference honorable mentions (junior Zoie Altolf and sophomore Isabelle Erickson).

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Billings Central vs. Hardin girls basketball game (copy)

Billings Central Ram Olivia Moten-Schell (24) boxes out during a game against Hardin at the Rimrock Auto Arena in MetraPark on January 6, 2018.

Junior Gabby Weber (all-state, all-conference first team) and senior Bailey Christensen (all-conference second team) are back for Belgrade.

One big number

10: The percentage both Browning and Hardin shot from the field against Havre in the first half of last year’s state semifinal and title games. Hardin shot 15.9 percent in the title game, overall.

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Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores_BG

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