Bengals top Bulldog girls at West AAs

By Bruce Sayler

Helena High was the bigger team and the Bengals impressed that on Butte High while dealing the Bulldogs a 42-37 loss on Thursday evening in the opening round of the Western AA Divisional high school girls’ basketball tournament at the Butte Civic Center.
“It was superphysical,” Butte High head coach Bryan Arntson said, “and we haven’t found that toughness yet to adjust if that’s the way the game is going to be played. Plus, we have to come up with a couple of other things.”
Helena High used its height and muscle while pushing into Friday’s semifinal round. The Bengals are set to play Missoula Hellgate in the 8 p.m. nightcap. Butte High falls into the loser-out round where it will play Glacier High of Kalispell in a 2 p.m. elimination contest.
The Bengals led all the way. A short jumper by 6-foot senior Kylee Gardipee made it a 2-0 start. Butte High got a free throw from Selene Morrell in answer before Helena High sent on an 8-0 run capped by Avery Kraft’s six straight points. She hooped three on a basket-and-one and three more on a make from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs closed to within 10-7 as Emma Johnson stuck in a rebound basket, Cadence Graham sank two free throws and Brityn Stewart tallied inside off a Graham pass. Each team netted a foul shot before the buzzer, ending with the Bengals leading 11-8.
At halftime, it was 18-14 with Kraft looping home a long 3-ball at the horn.
Helena High cultivated dominance in the third frame as 5-10 sophomore McKenna Pipinich and sophomore Cassidy Smith each drilled a 3-pointer, and junior Addi Roush caged two more.
Two Graham 3-pointers and two Grahm free throws provided the bulk of Butte High’s scoring as the Bengals enjoyed a 35-23 command heading for the last quarter.
The Bulldogs rallied. Helena High led by 41-25 when a Graham floater launched a 12-1 run to pull Butte High to within 42-37 with 44 seconds left on the clock. Neither team scored again, though. The Bengals missed four charity tosses as Stewart and Addie Hiatt both fouled out for the Bulldogs. Butte High was unable to get a clear shot against the Helena High defense and the last miss was rebounded by Bengal Ashley Koenig as time expired.
“They did a good job defensively,” Arntson said of the Bengals. “We got into some early foul trouble and the kids who came in did a good job of facing the adversity,
“As a team, the kids did a good job getting back into it. I probably should’ve called a timeout at the end to explain some things but we were in the thick of the battle.”
The teams split their two regular-season games, each winning at home.
“They have some strong kids,” Arntson said. “They’re good players and they took away some things we usually do well. They did a good job of using their advantage in size.
“We have to do some things to get confidence in more kids to score.”
Graham scored 18 points to lead Butte High. Stewart had six, Morrell four, Johnson three and Taylor Drakos, Franki Salusso and Ashlinn Mullaney put in two points apiece. Hiatt, Dylann Bartoletti and Catherine Sholey also played extensively.
“Now, we get ready to go win tomorrow and give ourselves a chance (to stay in contention for a statre tournament berth),” Arntson said.
Kraft paced a balanced Bengal attack with nine points. Madi Todorovich and Pipinich each scored eight. Pipinich also had eight rebounds.
BUTTE HIGH (8-11) – Dylann Bartoletti 0-2 0-0 0, Cadence Graham 6-15 4-6 18, Brityn Stewart 3-6 0-0 6, Taylor Drakos 1-3 0-0 2, Selene Morrell 1-6 2-4 4, Addie Hiatt 0-2 0-0 0, Franki Salusso 0-2 2-2 2, Ashlinn Mullaney 1-2 0-0 2, Catherine Sholey 0-0 0-0 0, Emma Johnson 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 13-41 9-14 37.
HELENA HIGH (14-5) – Ashley Koenig 0-3 0-0 0, Madi Todorovich 2-9 3-10 8, Avery Kraft 3-13 1-3 9, Grace Murgel 0-2 0-0 0, Kylee Gardipee 2-6 1-2 5, Addie Roush 2-3 0-0 6, McKenna Pipinich 2-6 3-4 8, Cassidy Smith 2-4 1-1 6, Evelynn Nielson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-46 9-20 42.
Butte 8 6 9 14 – 37
Helena 11 7 17 7 – 42
3-point goals – Butte 2-10 (Bartoletti 0-1, Graham 2-4, Morrell 0-4, Hiatt 0-1), Helena 7-16 (Todorovich 1-2, Kraft 2-4, Murgel 0-1, Roush 2-2, Pipinich 1-4, Smith 1-3). Fouled out – Stewart, Hiatt. Total fouls – Butte 20, Helena 16. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Butte 30 (Morrell 6, Hiatt 6), Helena 27 (Pipinich 8). Blocks – Butte 2 (Johnson 2), Helena 2 (Gardipee 2). Assists – Butte 2 (Salusso 2), Helena 1 (Pipinich). Steals – Butte 2 (Graham 1, Stewart 1), Helena 6 (Todorovich 3). Turnovers – Butte 13, Helena 6.