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The Corvallis girls basketball team placed second at the Montana High School Association Western Class A divisional tournament in Hamilton, Saturday, and will compete at the state tournament for the first time in school history.

Senior Emme Warnken, a key player on the team, said it is a great honor to represent Corvallis and play at state.

“We’ve all worked hard for it,” Warnken said. “This year we’ve grown together and helped each other. This past week we meshed and worked really well together.”

Warnken, who played with the other seniors on the team her freshman year, was out of the country for two years, and returned to play strong with teammates her senior year.

“We are friends besides just players,” she said. “We have so much fun in practice but we also know how to focus.”

At the Western Class A tournament Columbia Falls placed 1st, Corvallis 2nd, Butte Central 3rd and Hamilton 4th.

The Montana High School Association Class A Girls’ Basketball tournament will be held March 2-4 at the Butte Civic Center. The Corvallis Girls will play against Belgrade for game three of the tournament at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. The loser of that game will play at 2 p.m., on Friday and the winner of that game will play at 8 p.m., on Friday.

Warnken said she is optimistic about playing Belgrade.

“We watched some film on them, they like to push the ball and they are fast,” she said. “We have to make sure to block and get rebounds. I think it will be a good game and that we can beat them.”

Warnken said she is eager, not nervous, to play in the Butte Civic Center,

“It doesn’t matter where we play. We’re a team focused on the ball,” she said.

Head Coach Andy Knapp said he is confident.

“I’d say we’re playing good basketball,” he said. “The girls have the energy and attitude they need for success for state.”

Knapp said everyone loved the first 14 minutes of the championship game on Saturday and the Corvallis girls’ loss to Columbia Falls was not just due to height. 

“The Columbia Falls girls truly are that good and they’ve consistently played well every time we’ve seen them,” he said. “The first time we played them we got within 20 points. Some of it is size and some is talent. They shoot the ball well, on defense they make us scramble and they’re just that good.”

Knapp said Corvallis is ready to play Belgrade.

“Belgrade is a team that came on the end of the season like we did,” he said. “They have a little freshman that shot well and the team is getting it done. We look forward to playing them and the chance to play central teams. We’re playing good team ball right now. We’ve had individuals step up we are playing really good team ball.”

Assistant coaches are Dave Bradshaw, Heather Berry and Zane Warnken.

Principal Jason Wirt confirmed this is the first time Corvallis girls will compete at state.

“As far as I’m aware,” he said. “I dug into this and girls’ basketball was sanctioned as a sport by the Montana High School Association in 1972. Back before it was sanctioned there were some successes.”

Wirt said he is proud of the team.

“The whole community is extremely proud of all them not just the seniors,” he said. “They deserve the success. For me, watching this team all year I wasn’t surprised. Going to state was a realistic goal and expected.”

Wirt said Corvallis had played Dillon and Frenchtown (higher ranked teams going into divisional competition) with success during the season. He said he was not surprised at the Corvallis victories during playoff games.

“They deserve this,” he said. “They practiced hard and built a strong team. They are a good group with great kids and they will be great representatives of our school.” 

Athletic Director Tyson Tucker said the team has worked hard.

“Our coaches have done a great job with our team this year and everything came together for us at the divisional tournament,” Tucker said. “Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going and we can bring a trophy home from the state tournament.”

The team leaves for Butte on Wednesday.

The MHSA Class A Girls’ Basketball tournament will be held March 2-4 at the Butte Civic Center, 1340 Harrison Ave. The Hamilton Lady Broncs will play against Hardin, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 2.

In other girls basketball action, Florence will play against Fairfield at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 9, in the Class B state tournament March 9-11 in Metra Park in Billings.

In boys basketball action, Hamilton will play against Laurel at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 9, in the Class A Boys state tournament March 9-11 in the Butte Civic Center.