By Bill Foley
BELGRADE — Meg Murphy knew it was coming.
The Butte Central girls’ basketball coach figured her star senior guard Kloie Thatcher was well overdue for a huge offensive night.
That night was Tuesday.
Thatcher scored 15 of her season-high 27 points in the second half to lead Butte Central to a 57-51 non-conference win over the Belgrade Panthers at the Belgrade Special Events Center.
“We’ve been talking about this for four weeks, five weeks now,” Murphy said after her Maroons improved to 10-3. “She has got to put up some shots and get to the basket. Tonight she just made her mind up.”
The big game came three days after Thatcher scored two points — but contributed in many other ways — in a home win over Stevensville.
“You hate to see a kid like her not score,” Murphy said of Thatcher, a future Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bear. “She is the most unselfish kid that I’ve coached. She always wants other people to score. She knows she has to get some points or we can’t win.”
Thatcher said she was taking what was there in helping the Maroons complete the season sweep of the Panthers (5-7).
“On Saturday night I knew I wasn’t shooting well, and I love to pass,” Thatcher said. “That’s one of my favorite things to do, and Megan (Michelotti) was open a lot.
“Just creating things is what I like to do when I’m having an off night,” Thatcher continued. “Tonight I guess something else was working. I kind of found a few lanes to drive in, and it was working for me better than the outside.”
The Maroons outscored the Panthers 35-28 in the second half to overcome a 23-22 half deficit.
“We were just kind of out of it. We didn’t know what to do,” Thatcher said. “In the second half we got our stuff into gear and figured out that we probably needed to get going.”
The Maroons received a few big sparks form seniors Olivia Bolton and Michelotti. Bolton hit a corner 3-pointer and scored seven of her 11 points in the second half.
Michelotti, who grabbed 10 rebounds for her third straight double-double, scored six of her 14 points in the third quarter.
Michelotti was a perfect 8 for 8 from the free throw line.
“You’ve got to be pleased with the way she’s playing,” Murphy said of Michelotti. “She’s playing hard.”
Thatcher was 9 for 10 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“Free throws were huge for us tonight,” Murphy said.
Thatcher, Bolton and Michelotti accounted for all but five of the BC points. Murphy, though, said it took more than three players to win.
Kailee Murphy came off the bench to score three, while Tricia Joyce scored two.
Cassidy Strizic started for the Maroons, and Emma Keeley and Allyson Mueller each gave the team some big minutes off the bench.
“Our bench kids came in and did a great job for us,” Meg said. “I was impressed with our kids. That’s a huge win for us.”
Kiah Hoenstein scored 14 points to lead the Panthers. Hannah Gee hit a couple of key 3-pointers in the second half and scored 12 points, while Bailey Christensen tossed in 11.
Gabby Weber scored eight points, including a long, running 3-pointer to beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter.
“This is a tough place to play,” Murphy said. “Belgrade is tough on its home court. Belgrade is a good basketball team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get to state.”
Thatcher said her game might be coming together as it hits the homestretch. Next up is Saturday’s key Southwestern A game at Hamilton.
“Once we all come together to play, it can be scary, I think,” Thatcher said. “Once we all are hitting shots and playing as a team, we play really well.”
BUTTE CENTRAL (10-3) — Kloie Thatcher 8 9-13 27, Olivia Bolton 3 4-4 11, Cassidy Striciz 0 0-0 0, Megan Michelotti 3 8-8 14, Tricia Joyce 1 0-0 2, Kailee Murphy 1 1-4 3, Emma Keeley 0 0-0 0, Allyson Mueller 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 22-29 57.
BELGRADE (5-7) — Kiah Hoenstein 5 1-4 14, Maya Reed 1 0-0 2, Gabby Weber 3 1-2 8, Bailey Christensen 5 1-3 11, Hannah Gee 5 0-0 12, Alexa Deming 1 1-2 4, Ashley Sendon 0 0-0 0, Meashan McGinley 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 4-11 51.
Butte Central 9 13 15 20 — 57
Belgrade 14 9 11 17 — 51
3-point goals — BC 3 (Thatcher 2, Bolton 1), Belgrade 7 (Hohenstein 3, Gee 2, Deming 1, Weber 1). Fouls — BC 11, Belgrade 19. Fouled out — Weber.