By Bill Foley
Just when it looked like we were in for a battle at the Maroon Activities Center, Sofee Thatcher said otherwise.
The Butte Central senior hit back-to-back 3-poitners to start a 20-5 Butte Central run, and the Maroons rolled to a 58-41 Senior Night win over Stevensville tonight in a Southwester A game.
“Yeah, I don’t know where that came from,” Thatcher said. “I went from last game going 0 for 3 to hitting back-to-back threes.”
The threes came right after Stevensville’s Claire Hutchison stole the ball and took it the distance to cut Butte Central’s lead to 26-22 just 20 seconds into the second half.
Just 11 seconds after the Hutchison bucket, Thatcher hit a 3-pointer. Just 13 seconds after that, she hit another.
“That was about a nail in the coffin as there could be,” BC coach Meg Murphy said.
Within a blink of an eye, that close game was a 50-28 Maroon lead.
Central led by as much as 56-30 before Stevensville closed the game on an 11-2 run.
The win, which was Central’s fifth straight, came as the Maroons honored Thatcher and fellow seniors Brenna Foley and Payton Hartwick.
Murphy said the emotions of Senior night led to a slow start for the Maroons, who led 12-9 after the first quarter.
Central led 21-20 before junior Brooke Badovinac hit two free throws, Thatcher hit one and sophomore Ella Moodry scored off a Badovinac pass for five quick points to finish the half.
That gave BC a 26-20 advantage. It tightened up unit Thatcher broke it back open.
“We just picked up the intensity a little bit,” Thatcher said of the 26-10 third quarter. “We figured out what we were doing wrong in the press. Meg just congratulated us. She said that’s the first time we did it right the whole season.”
Badovinac finished with her quiet 24 points to lead the Maroons. She scored 13 in the first half and 11 in the second. Thatcher scored 11 of her 17 points in the third quarter.
Murphy said Thatcher was the key to the run in the third quarter.
“That was a big tribute to her,” the coach said. “She got people the ball. She dished. She just had a great game tonight. It’s a great time for her to turn the corner with the tournament coming up.”
Moodry finished with seven points for BC, and sophomore Mollie Drew came off the bench to score four. Foley, Hartwick and Kathryn Lalicker each scored two points.
Renee Creekmore, Maycee Anderson and Tameli Bayorou also contributed for the Maroons.
Hutchison scored 16 points to lead the Yellowjackets, who seem much better than their record (5-11, 3-8) might suggest.
“I’m glad we’re not playing them in the first game,” Murphy said of the district tournament. “They’re playing well.”
Hailey Thomas scored six points, while Dawsyn Brewer, Olivia Gray, Shilo Lampi and Shelby Coleman each scored five points.
Butte Central’s big lead led to a moment of levity late in the fourth quarter.
Deanna Johnson, a longtime friend of Murphy, called the coach for a technical foul with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left. It was something the friends had talked about ahead of time since the game was the last home contest for Murphy, who is retiring a 40-year coaching career.
It was the first time Johnson ever called a technical on Murphy.
“She probably could have T’d me up a lot of times, but she didn’t,” Murphy said. “I said I have been waiting 25 years for this.”
While they did not know what was up, Murphy’s Maroons joked with her about getting a technical in her last game.
“I don’t get many T’s, and they all joked about it that I need to get one tonight,” Murphy said. “Whatever those girls wanted, I said, ‘I’ll get it.’ I think the Stevensville girls thought it was funnier than my girls.”
Despite the laughs and the emotions, Murphy said she is thrilled with where her team is. The Maroons 11-6 overall and 8-3 in conference play.
BC can finish second but no worse than third in the regular season. The Southwestern A District tournament begins next week in Dillon.
“I’m proud of where we’re at,” Murphy said. “We’ve got to do a better job of boarding. That’s our biggest flaw right now. If we can figure it out before next weekend, I think we’re as good as anybody.”
Central closes the regular season Saturday in Hamilton. That is part of a girls-boys doubleheader.
STEVENSVILLE (5-11, 3-8) — Hailey Thomas 1 4-4 6,Kelti Wandler 0 0-0 0, Dawsyn Brewer 2 0-0 5, Shilo Lampi 1 1-2 5, Claire Hutchison 6 2-3 16, Olivia Gray 2 1-2 5, Lexy Perez 0 0-0 0, Shelby Coleman 2 0-0 5, Olivia Cannon 0 0-0 0, Lucia Collado 0 1-2 1. Totals 14 9-13 41.
BUTTE CENTRAL (11-6, 8-3) — Brenna Foley 1 0-0 2, Payton Hartwick 1 0-0 2, Sofee Thatcher 6 3-5 17, Brooke Badovinac 7 8-8 24, Ella Moodry 2 3-7 7, Kathryn Lalicker 1 0-0 2, Mollie Drew 0 0-0 0, Maycee Anderson 0 0-0 0, Tameli Bayorou 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 16-22 58.
Stevensville 9 11 10 11 — 41
Butte Central 12 14 26 6 — 58
3-point goals — Stevi 4 ( Hutchison 2, Brewer 1, Coleman 1), BC 4 (Thatcher 2, Badovinac 2). Fouls — Stevi 16, BC 14. Fouled out — none. Technical — Meg Murphy.