By Bruce Sayler
Southwest Montana’s high school girls’ basketball talent is filling a large vein in the area if Tuesday night’s scene at the Maroon Activities Center (MAC) is any indication. The seniors held a farewell showcase and the underclassmen let it be known they’ll be capable caretakers in future seasons.
The 2019 version of the Southwest Montana All-Stars basketball classic was held at the MAC, moved there for this year’s holding due to the Montana Tech HPER Complex being occupied by the regional science fair.
The Butte flavor was a winning one as the Big Sky All-Stars edged the Treasure State All-Stars 67-62.
“It was fun. It was a lot of fun,” said Butte High junior Haley Herron, one of a number of girls seeing more court time after playing in state tournaments over the recent weekend. “I like playing with the players from all the different schools. And, it was not a high-pressure game.”
“It was good to play with my (Butte High) teammates, too. They’re seniors and I was glad to hang with them.”
Herron scored two points, but also pulled down 10 rebounds. The boardwork has become her forte, even at 5 feet, 8 inches in height. She led her Big Sky in rebounds in the game while battling 6-3 Ennis standout Jourdan Klein and Boulder freshman Rachel Van Blaricom, a former Butte resident who grew tall, too.
Klein came down with 13 rebounds and Van Blaricom with 11.
“I usually go against girls 4 to 5 inches taller than me every night,” Herron said about her board battles with the bigger players in AA and A hoops during the season. “My coaches have helped me in finding position. Usually, though, it’s like ‘go get (the rebounds).’ “
The all-star selection committee members might have been the MVPs of the game as they put together two fairly evenly matched teams. A short-lived 12-point margin was the widest, occurring at 64-52 after Butte High senior Aspen Lovshin scored a drive with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left.
The Big Sky team was headed by Butte representation. The Treasure Staters were built around standouts from Dillon and Anaconda. Twelve high schools from Southwest Montana put players in the game.
Treasure State responded to Lovshin’s layup with a basket by Ashley Pankratz from Jefferson High in Boulder, off a pass from Dillon’s Josey Jones. Isabelle Saltenberger of Anaconda took a pass from Ennis star Whitney McKitrick for another basket and Treasure State was on an 8-0 run. Baskets by Klein and Jones capped it.
However, it narrowed the gap to 64-60 with 1:59 on the clock. Bella Sorini of Butte Central ended the Treasure State streak by netting a free throw with just under a minute left to play. Logan Stetzner of Anaconda scored on a drive for Treasure State for a 65-62 difference and only 45 ticks on the clock.
Treasure State hadn’t fouled much in the game, though, and so had to keep fouling to total enough to cause a bonus free throw situation for Big Sky that would stop the clock for attempts and present a change-of-possession possibility on a miss.
Finally, with only 15 seconds left, Van Blaricom’s foul of Whitehall freshman Brynna Wolfe put a Big Sky player on the foul line. Wolfe calmly sank both shots to guarantee the win.
Big Sky led 14-13 after one quarter and 29-23 at halftime.
After the boys’ 3-point shooting contest at halftime, saw Drummond senior Jonah Parke nick Dan McCloskey of Butte High in a competition that went to extra shots, Big Sky began the second half with a Wolfe 3-pointer.
Still the game stayed close and it took a 3-point basket at the buzzer by Butte Central’s Emma Keeley for Big Sky to have a 49-47 edge going into the last quarter.
Big Sky held a lead the rest of the way. The Big Sky girls were more proficient from 3-point range, hitting 11 of them for the game. Treasure State made three. However, Treasure State bossed on the boards, 65-43 in rebounds.
McCloskey made 11 shots in the 14-shooter first round of the boys’ 3-point contest. Parke and Braden Harrington of Butte Central each meshed 10. McCloskey advanced to the final. Parke and Harrington then both netted seven treys in their tie-breaker, forcing a shot-by-shot contest that saw Parke make his first one and Harrington’s fall off the rim. Parke dueled McCloskey and won by a 13-12 difference in their final round.
The Big Sky girls’ win in the game saw Cleverly, Butte Central’s Tricia Joyce and Wolfe each tally 10 points to share the team lead. Keeley scored nine, Sorini had six, Lovshin, Rilee Gray of Deer Lodge and Clancy Phillips of Twin Bridges each tallied five, Rachael Nicholson of Deer Lodge three, and Sofee Thatcher of Butte Central two. Brittney Tierney of Butte High also contributed.
Treasure State leaders were Klein with 13 points and Jones with 10. Stetzner totaled seven, Arieona Mattson of Anaconda scored six, Saltenberger of Anaconda and McKitrick each tallied five, Van Blaricom and Boulder teammate Ashley Pankratz each had four, and Tylia DeJohn of Dillon, Sara Kielley of Drummond, Emma Grange of Philipsburg and Danna Ochoa of West Yellowstone hooped two points apiece.
Head coaches were Josh Keller of Twin Bridges for Big Sky and Jared Smithson of Ennis for Treasure State. The floor officials, who also volunteered their work, were Paul Hepola, Danny Peoples and Mark Reilly.
TREASURE STATE — Logan Stetzner 3 0-0 7, Isabelle Saltenberger 2 0-0 5, Arieona Mattson 2 2-2 6, Josey Jones 4 1-3 10, Tylia DeJohn 1 0-0 2, Sara Kielley 1 0-0 2, Jourdan Klein 6 1-7 13, Whitney McKitrick 2 1-3 5, Emma Grange 1 0-1 2, Rachel Van Blaricom 1 2-4 4, Ashley Pankratz 2 0-0 4, Danna Ochoa 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 7-20 62.
BIG SKY — Ally Cleverly 4 0-0 10, Brittney Tierney 0 0-0 0, Aspen Lovshin 2 0-0 5, Haley Herron 1 0-0 2, Tricia Joyce 4 1-2 10, Bella Sorini 2 1-2 6, Emma Keeley 4 0-0 9, Sofee Thatcher 1 0-0 2, Rachael Nicholson 1 0-0 3, Rilee Gray 2 0-0 5, Clancy Phillips 2 0-0 5, Brynna Wolfe 3 2-2 10. Totals 26 4-6 67.
Treasure State 13 20 11 15 — 62
Big Sky 14 15 20 18 — 67
3-point goals — Treasure State 3 (Saltenberger 1, Jones 1, Stetzner 1), Big Sky 11 (Cleverly 2, Wolfe 2, Sorini 1, Nicholson 1, Lovshin 1, Gray 1, Phillips 1, Keeley 1, Joyce 1). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Treasure State 7, Big Sky 13. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Treasure State 65 (Klein 12, Van Blaricom 11, Jones 7, McKitrick 7), Big Sky 43 (Herron 10, Wolfe 6). Blocks — Treasure State 3 (Van Blaricom 1, McKitrick 1, Klein 1), Big Sky 2 (Herron 2). Assists — Treasure State 11 (DeJohn 2, Klein 2, Ochoa 2, Jones 2), Big Sky 11 (Thatcher 2, Cleverly 2, Lovshin 2). Steals — Treasure State 5 (McKitrick 2), Big Sky 9 (Cleverly 2, Tierney 2, Sorini 2) Turnovers — Treasure State 9, Big Sky 9.