Belgrade’s Bella Anderson followed up a sensational regular season and divisional championship by placing third at the State AA tournament Friday in Great Falls.

The junior lost in the first round to Bozeman’s Hailey Buss 6-2, 6-2, but bounced back with five consolation victories in the consolation bracket to place third. It’s the best-ever finish for a singles player in program history.

“Bella’s ability to refocus after her first round loss to Bozeman’s Hailey Buss was a testament to Bella’s mental strength,” Belgrade coach Justin Arndt said.

Led by Anderson, who finished the season with a 21-2 record, the Panthers placed sixth as a team with 10 points. Bozeman won the championship with 38, while Missoula Hellgate and Helena rounded out the top three with 18 and 17 points, respectively.

Seniors Alexa Dryer and Malia Beauchaine also competed in the tournament. Dryer finished with a 1-2 record, while Beauchaine was 0-2.

Dryer lost in the first round to Great Falls CMR’s Ruby Jennings 6-2, 6-2, and then won a consolation match against Missoula Hellgate’s Sophia Geranios 6-3, 6-3. She was eliminated from the tournament with a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Mission Big Sky’s Logan Roberts.

Beauchaine had the misfortune of drawing Bozeman’s Meg McCarty in the first round and lost 6-0, 6-0. McCarty went on to complete a perfect season, in which she did not lose a single game, to win the championship.

Beauchaine lost out of the tournament to Flathead’s Emma Hawkins 6-3, 6-2.

“Maliah rallied with Meg McCarty in the first round and Alexa powered through her second match to stay in for a third,” said Arndt.

After her first round loss, Anderson cruised to the consolation match with victories against Butte’s Ashlyn Burnett (6-0, 6-1), Missoula Hellgate’s Brooke Best (6-2, 6-4), CMR’s Hannah Bingham (6-0, 6-2), and Helena’s Qayl Kujala (3-6, 6-2, 6-4). She then avenged her loss to Buss with a 7-5, 7-5 victory.

“I was very proud of these three and the larger team who, without them, we would not have been there,” said Arndt.

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