By Bruce Sayler
Butte Central got what it expected and what it needed Thursday — but not necessarily what the Maroons wanted. They got a tough game in girls’ basketball. They still got a win, 50-41 over Dillon in Southwestern A Conference high schools hoops play at the Maroon Activities Center.
The victory ran Butte Central’s record to an unbeaten 15-0 this season. Recent cruises by Butte Central did not seem to be all that impressive to the visiting Beavers, always intense rivals for the Maroons.
“We knew that we were going to be pushed,” Butte Central head coach Meg Murphy said. “We knew that all week coming in. Give Gabe (Walker, Dillon’s head coach) a week to prepare and we knew it would be tough from the get-go. He’s a good coach and given that much time with X’s and O’s and good players, yeah, it would be tough.”
Surviving the challenge with a win should be beneficial for Butte Central as the postseason looms. The tempo change Dillon managed, though, perhaps, worried the Maroons most in the intensity shown.
“(Walker) did exactly what he wanted,” Murphy said, agreeing a competitive game was probably good for the Maroons, who had been winning by large margins. “He slowed us down.”
Butte Central has been a slow starter in some recent contests, only to catch fire and char its opponents to a crisp as the games progressed. This time, the Maroons roared ahead early, then had to weather a Dillon comeback.
Maroon guard Emily St. John scored the first seven points of the game on two drives to the hoop and a 3-point basket before the Beavers collected themselves. Rachael Nye put Dillon on the scoreboard with her first of three 3-pointers before Sierra Pica downed a free throw for Butte Central, making the difference 8-3 with 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first quarter. Dillon then ran off six straight points. Bailey Berriochoa tallied the last four as the Beavers gained a 9-8 edge. The Maroons took the lead back late as the quarter ended in a 12-11 score.
Butte Central went ahead for good in the second frame, but still had its hands full. The Beavers led by 15-12 after baskets by Brynley Fitzgerald and Paige Rouse to begin the second quarter. Butte Central then went on a balanced 13-5 run the rest of the frame for a 25-20 advantage at halftime.
“Our guards are not slow-down people,” Murphy said. “We talked about it at halftime. Then we came out in the third quarter and pushed the ball and things started to happen.”
The Maroons ran off the first eight points of the second half for a 33-20 bulge, its largest lead of the game. Peoples, Pica and St. John executed the scoring, but it was a team-wide surge.
Dillon bounced back and cut the lead to six points, 35-29, with a Nye trey at 1:06 left of the third frame. Kloie Thatcher scored for Butte Central on a pull-up and the Maroons took a 37-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
Butte Central faltered a bit in the fourth. A couple of bad passes were picked by Dillon defenders and a couple of examples of poor shot selection, for the situation, missed. The Beavers capitalized some, but not to the extent they needed for a rally.
The Maroons were unable to expand their lead much and wound up with the nine-point gap.
“Our youth showed,” Murphy said of the fourth-quarter shakes. “We have to learn to not be bombing 3’s against their zone when we have a lead.”
Two drives by Thatcher from out in front of the key were important hoops for the Maroons as they controlled their lead.
“Kloie beats herself up a little bit if she misses shots,” Murphy said. “But, she called two plays in a row for herself, knowing she could beat the girl guarding her. People don’t know how huge it was for her to do.”
St. John took game-scoring honors with 15 points, Pica scored 14 in a strong inside effort and Peoples finished with 13.
“Sierra Pica had a great game,” Murphy said. “She kept us going with her inside game. We didn’t look inside enough to her in the first half. We missed her and Kailee (Murphy) a few times. A couple of times our kids tried to pass it in there, but you can’t throw it through people.”
Thatcher finished with six points and Murphy tallied two. Murphy led all in rebounds with seven. Kate Ossello, Taylor Wahl, Megan Michelotti and Caleigh Mullaney all provided appreciated minutes for the Maroons.
“Especially on defense,” coach Murphy pointed out, “the bench played well. I told our kids we’re only as good as our bench. If they don’t give us the minutes we need, we can’t win. Their efforts are huge for us.”
Berriochoa led Dillon with 13 points and Fitzgerald scored 11. Nye had nine points, Paige Rouse five and the good Butte Central defensive effort limited Dillon standout Alex Rouse to three points. Kylie Christiansen, Kathleen Tatarka and Kyndall Petersen also played. The Beavers held a slight 21-20 edge over Butte Central in rebounds and might have been the first opponent to out-steal the Maroons, 8-5, this season.
The loss put Dillon’s records at 7-6 overall, 3-2 in conference play. The Maroons are 15-0 and 7-0.
“This is a huge win for us because it most likely puts them with Columbia Falls on the other side of the bracket from us for divisionals,” coach Murphy said. “We have to take advantage of everything we can get.”
The Maroons will play Class AA Butte High Thursday night in the Civic Center for the city championship in their next action.
DILLON (7-6, 3-2) — Alex Rouse 1-5 0-0 3, Kylie Christiansen 0-0 0-0 0, Rachael Nye 3-4 0-0 9, Bailey Berriochoa 3-6 7-8 13, Brynley Fitzgerald 5-8 1-2 11, Paige Rouse 2-3 0-0 5, Kathleen Tatarka 0-0 0-0 0, Kyndall Petersen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-31 8-10 41.
BUTTE CENTRAL (15-0, 7-0) — Kloie Thatcher 3-7 0-1 6, Mollie Peoples 4-11 4-4 13, Kailee Murphy 1-5 0-0 2, Emily St. John 5-8 3-4 15, Sierra Pica 6-6 2-4 14, Kate Ossello 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Wahl 0-1 0-0 0, Megan Michelotti 0-0 0-0 0, Caleigh Mullaney 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 19-38 9-15 50.
Dillon 11 9 9 12 — 41
Butte Central 12 13 12 13 — 50
3-point goals — Dillon 5-17 (A. Rouse 1-5, Nye 3-9, Berriochoa 0-1, P. Rouse 1-2), Butte Central 3-10 (Thatcher 0-3, Peoples 1-5, St. John 2-2). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Dillon 10, Butte Central 14. Technical — Dillon (wrong jersey number in game scorebook). Rebounds — Dillon 21 (Christiansen 5, Fitzgerald 5), Butte Central 20 (Murphy 7). Blocks — Dillon 2 (A. Rouse 1, Berriochoa 1), Butte Central 0. Assists — Dillon 9 (Berriochoa 4), Butte Central 10 (St. John 5). Steals — Dillon 8 (Berriochoa 4), Dillon 5 (St. John 1, Thatcher 1, Pica 1, Peoples 1, Ossello 1). Turnovers — Dillon 17, Butte Central 14.