Bulldog girls get revenge against Bengals

Bulldog girls get revenge against Bengals
Butte High's McKenzie Tutty drives to the hoop as Helena High's Riley Thennis defends Tuesday night at the Butte Civic Center. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler 

 Head coach Maury Cook and the players could rest easier Tuesday night. The Butte High Bulldogs played, perhaps, their best girls’ basketball game of the season – certainly their most complete – and upended the reigning state champions. 

Butte High bested Helena High 51-46 in the Western AA Conference tilt played in the Butte Civic Center. 

Trisha Ericson canned two 3-point baskets to help ignite a Butte High first quarter that featured five dial-ins from long distance in building a 14-4 lead that did shrink to 17-11 by the first break. Senior guard Grace McGrath dished out seven assists for the game and three Bulldogs scored in double figures – MaKenna Carpenter leading the way with 14 points, Haley Herron tallying 13 and Ericson winding up with 11. 

Herron also took down 10 rebounds and Carpenter backed her up with seven from the other side of the rim.  

Mostly though, Butte High held fort. The Bulldogs answered every run or challenge the Bengals mounted. 

“At the end of the game, our kids went after the boards and held their composure,” Cook said. “They didn’t turn the ball over.” 

They didn’t. The Bulldogs were guilty of only seven turnovers for the game, and only two of them were Helena High steals. The other way, Butte High’s gnattish-cloud defense forced the ginto 17 possession losses of which 10 were steals. 

“I think we won with our defense,” Herron said after mucking though the paint against, as always, it seems, much taller opponents under the basket. “McKayla Kloker is a really good shooter and the game plan was to shut her down. We had to take away their 3s and then, take away their posts.”  

Kloker was held to six points, but aided the Bengal offense with four assists. Caroline Bullock, a 6-foot junior, was a force for Helena High, governing the boards for 17 rebounds, even though she was checked to three points total. Riley Thennis led the team in scoring with 11 points, usually working for them with slashes and contortions through the key. 

“Helena’s a really good team,” Cook said. “And, they’re getting better. This is a tough conference win, which is what we needed to win. At the beginning, we shot the ball well. MaKenna, Grace, Trisha … started us off.” 

The coach noted the Bulldogs have been good starters in most cases. The finishings haven’t always glossed. 

“We got that 10-point lead and I really think that was the difference,” he said. “I’m really happy with the team. Helena came to within three points of us and the girls held their composure. We made them foul us at the end, and we made enough free throws.” 

Followers were holding their breath, though. 

Butte High never trailed. Ericson ripped a 3-pointer through the strings 28 seconds into the game and the Bulldogs led all the way. She hit another before the first quarter was over, and Carpenter also shredded twine with a couple of treys. It was a triple by MacKenzie Tutty at 1:49 of the first that gave the team its 14-4 cushion. 

The Bulldogs were up by 28-23 at halftime, beating back encroachments by Helena High with a Tutty free throw and trey to go to 23-16 from 19-16, and then a Carpenter pullup for the five-point spread at halftime. Herron scored six of Butte High’s nine points in the third quarter, Carpenter downing her third 3-pointer of the game to cap the quarter. 

So, the Bulldogs took a 37-29 advantage into the fourth quarter. 

Helena High’s Abby Marcille flung in a 3-pointer at 2:54 of the last period, reeling Butte High in to within five points, 45-38. Herron took a pass from McGrath for a basket, but the the Bulldogs missed three straight free throws with clincher seemingly elusive. Bullock netted a foul shot for the Bengals. Just under a minute remained. Kylie Lantz pumped in a pullup from the key and the Butte High margin had melted to 45-41 with 40 seconds left. 

Tylar Clary sank a free throw for Butte High as the Bengals were forced to foul. Clary then grabbed onto a loose ball on the Helena end when control of the sphere was lost. The possession saw Kloker foul Carpenter and the Butte High senior caged both freebies. The Bulldogs’ lead was back to 48-41 with 28 seconds on the clock. Ericson converted three free throws in the last 15 seconds for victory assurance. 

“We had to make sure we rebounded tonight because that’s where they killed us last time,” Herron said in reference to a 43-40 loss at Helena High last month. “One thing we had to work on, too, was holding our composure.  Every game we’ve lost, we played with (the opponent) until the end. Tonight, we played a full game.”

“I think this was our best team win of the year.” 

“Haley’s been our rock in the middle,” Cook praised the Bulldogs’ strong-hearted 5-8 senior post. “I thought she and MaKenna rebounded well for us and our guards battled (the Bengals) for the ball.”

“Our kids are getting more confident in our man-to-man defense and I’m really happy with that.” 

The loss dropped Helena High to 5-7 for the season, including 3-5 in conference. 

Tutty contributed eight points to the Butte High effort, and McGrath and McCaul McCarthy had two points each, Clary connected on a foul shot and Kodie Hoagland, Ashley Olson and freshman Emmarie Richards also saw court time in the close game. The Bulldogs are 7-6 for the season, 4-5 in conference going into a Western AA counter at Helena Capital on Saturday. 

HELENA HIGH (5-7, 3-5) — McKayla Kloker 2-10 1-2 6, Riley Thennis 5-12 0-0 11, Kylie Lantz 4-10 0-0 9, Emily Feller 0-4 0-2 0, Caroline Bullock 1-2 1-2 3, Abby Marcille 2-2 0-0 5, Elizabeth Heuiser 2-2 1-2 5, Maloree English 2-7 2-2 7, Mariah English 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 5-10 46.
BUTTE HIGH (7-6, 4-5) — MacKenzie Tutty 2-6 2-4 8, Grace McGrath 1-4 0-0 2, MaKenna Carpenter 4-8 3-4 14, Trisha Ericson 2-6 5-6 11, Haley Herron 6-15 0-2 13, McCaul McCarthy 1-2 0-2 2, Kodie Hoagland 0-2 0-0 0, Tylar Clary 0-0 1-2 1, Ashley Olson 0-0 0-0 0, Emmarie Richards 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 16-46 11-20 51.
Helena            11         12          6            17 —  46
Butte               17        11           9            14  —  51

3-point goals – Helena 5-14 (Kloker 1-3, Thennis 1-4, Lantz 1-3, Feller 0-2, Marcille 1-1, Maloree English 1), Butte 8-25 (Tutty 2-5, Carpenter 3-7, Ericson 2-6, Herron 1-2, McCarthy 0-1, Hoagland 0-2, Richard 0-2). Fouled out – Feller, Thennis). Total fouls – Helena 15, Butte 16. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Helena 45 (Bullock 17, Thennis 5), Butte 34 (Herron 10, Carpenter 7). Blocks – Helena 2 (Heuiser 2), Butte 2 (Carpenter 1, Herron  1). Assists – Helena 6 (Kloker  4), Butte 14 (McGrath 7). Steals – Helena 2 (Lantz 1, Maloree English 1), Butte 10   (Herron 4). Turnovers – Helena 17, Butte 7.

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