Few wins are harder battled for than what the Butte Central and Stevensville girls tussled to achieve Thursday night.
It was a Southwestern A Conference opener for high school girls’ basketball and the Maroons eked out a 66-60 double-overtime victory on their home Maroon Activities Center floor.
Senior Danika Neumann’s six straight free throws at the end, two on a Stevensville technical foul, and then a foul shot made by junior reserve Shelby Paffhausen finally clinched the BC victory after nearly 2 ½ hours of play.
The count for the night included seven players fouling out, 51 fouls called and 65 turnovers committed to go with the 126 points scored. Sixty-nine free throws were attempted.
Four Butte Central starters filled their foul quotas while Stevensville lost three total, though 6-foot-4 standout Alycia Sims didn’t exit with her fifth until the very, very end — three seconds left in the second overtime.
“I’d been saying since the beginning of the season our young kids were going to have to step up sometime,” Meg Murphy, head coach of the Maroons, said after what could turn out to have been a very important game so early in the season. “I was happy with them tonight. I was really pleased with them when we put Chandra McCurdy in for defensive reasons, how she performed.”
The BC girls were forced to win it with leader Danee Leary on the bench due to fouls. She exited with 26 points and 12 rebounds halfway through the first extra frame.
“Mariah (Cooney) and Danika took leadership roles,” Murphy said. “And, Sims is as a good player as there is out there — she really is a game-changer — and I thought Annie Ossello did a good job on her defensively as can be done.”
Sims, headed for the Montana Lady Griz basketball program on a basketball scholarship next year, finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two blocks and Ossello made her earn them all.
“Stevensville is just such a good team,” Murphy said. “I didn’t think our overall defense was where it needed to be but I thought we played hard and battled back well. I think both teams learned a lot from this game and I think this will be a continued battle between us.”
Butte Central was dominant on the backboards with 40 rebounds to the Yellowjackets’ 26.
The coach noted the teams will meet in Stevensville later in the season and the Yellowjackets should have another star player, Kyla Paulsen, back from knee injury by then. Kayla Peterson played well for Stevensville on Tuesday with a 26-point performance before fouling out early in the first OT.
Neumann actually made eight free throws after missing two during the two overtimes. Her misses came with 22 seconds left in the first OT and Butte Central holding a 55-54 edge. However, three seconds later, she was awarded two more and calmly netted both, giving the Maroons a three-point lead.
Sims wiped it out with a 3-point basket seven seconds before the buzzer.
The BC team was unable to come up with an answering shot and the second overtime period arrived. The first extra frame was brought on when a 50-all tie was forged by Carly Sebastian as she dropped in a floater off a drive to the key four seconds in front of the end of regulation time.
The Yellowjackets took the first lead in the second overtime as 5-3 senior Bailey Vercruyssen scored off a Sebastian pass. Alysea Pica tied the score for Butte Central on a drive. Sims meshed a free throw, costing the Maroons Ossello’s presence as she was charged with the foul, her fifth, with 1:31 left in the stanza. Neumann then made two freebies for a one-point edge.
Stevensville was tagged with a technical foul when a player wearing a number different from that entered into the official game back tried to substitute into the contest. Neumann converted both free throws with 15 seconds left and BC then had a 63-60 edge.
Butte Central kept possession on the call and the Yellowjackets sent Neumann to the foul line again. She netted both shots, again. A scramble later saw Sims foul out and Paffhausen put in one of two chances from the charity stripe, wrapping up the game and the Maroons’ win.
It kept BC undefeated at 3-0. Neumann finished with 12 points, and Pica and Cooney with 10 apiece to back Leary’s production.
Hannah Stajcar had five points, Ossello two and Paffhausen one. Aleesha LaBreche and Shawnee Hjelt also helped out with quality minutes on the court.
Butte Central will play Anaconda in the MAC on Saturday in its next competition. The loss put Stevensville at 2-1. Vercruyssen finished with 10 points, giving the Yellowjackets three double-figure scorers.
STEVENSVILLE (2-1, 0-1) — Bailey Vercruyssen 3-6 3-9 10, Carly Vercruyssen 0-4 0-2 0, Carly Sebastian 2-2 2-6 6, Alycia Sims 4-7 4-7 13, Kayla Peterson 9-15 8-10 26, Courtney Tvedt 1-2 2-2 5, Lizzy Whitesell 0-0 0-0 0, Katie Malachinski 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-39 19-36 60.
BUTTE CENTRAL(3-0, 1-0) — Hannah Stajcar 2-6 0-0 5, Danee Leary 8-20 6-11 26, Alysea Pica 4-11 2-2 10, Annie Ossello 1-3 0-2 2, Mariah Cooney 5-7 0-2 10, Danika Neumann 1-4 10-12 12, Aleesha LaBreche 0-0 0-0 0, Chandra McCurdy 0-0 0-0 0, Shelby Paffhausen 0-0 1-4 1, Shawnee Hjelt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-51 19-33 66.
Stevensville 7 12 14 17 7 3 — 60
Butte Central 10 9 10 21 7 9 — 66
3-point goals — Stevi 3-7 (B. Vercruyssen 1-2, Sebastian 0-1, Sims 1-2, Peterson 0-1, Tvedt 1-1), BC 5-21 (Stajcar 1-4, Leary 4-13, Pica 0-2, Neumann 0-2). Fouled out — C. Vercruyssen, Peterson, Sims, Stajcar, Leary, Pica, Ossello. Total fouls — Stevi 24, BC 27. Technical — Stevensville (different number for player in game book from what being worn) Rebounds — Stevi 26 (Sebastian 6, Peterson 6), BC 40 (Leary 12, Cooney 9). Blocks — Stevi 2 (Sims 2), BC 1 (Cooney). Assists — Stevi 5 (B. Vercruyssen 3), BC 7 (Leary 3). Steals — Stevi 14 (Sebastian 4), BC 8 (Neumann 3). Turnovers — Stevi 35, BC 30.
Photos by Bret Graden. To buy high-quality copies of these photos or others by Graden, go to gradenphotography.com.