Bulldog girls hold off BC rally

When Hattie Thatcher and Natalee Faupel stole the ball late Thursday night, they did more than force a Butte Central turnover.

The Butte High seniors might have stolen Danika Neumann’s place in Butte sports lore.

Neumann scored 15 of her career-high 20 points in the game’s final 9 minutes, 48 seconds as Butte Centrals girls’ basketball team thrilled a Butte Civic Center crowd of 3,750 with a fierce comeback against its arch-rivals.

Thatcher and Faupel turned the big steals into free throws late, though, and the Bulldogs escaped with a 55-52 win. The victory was Butte High’s second straight over the Maroons, who are the No. 2-ranked team in the Class AA.

“I think our kids dug deep down and showed us things they haven’t shown for a while,” BC coach Meg Murphy said of her team, which trailed by 24 points in the second quarter. “They had a chance to win it, and really that’s all you can ask for.”

The Maroons turned what looked like a laugh-er into a Mining City classic … at least for the spectators.

“It was good for the fans,” Bulldog coach Jeff Arntson said. “We just kind of stopped playing in the second half. You have to give Central credit, though. They shot the ball well and played good defense in the second half.”

The Maroons led 2-0 after Danee Leary hit a one-handed floater with 5:44 left in the first quarter.

Then it was all Bulldogs. Carlee Haeffner tied it with two free throws before Sammy McGree buried a 3-pointer off a Thatcher pass to put the Bulldogs on top.

In all, Butte High (6-2), the No. 5-ranked team in the Class AA, scored 24 straight points, and the Bulldogs built a 30-6 lead after Faupel hit two free throws with 5:34 left in the half.

Neumann scored five straight points — on a three-point play and a jumper — to start a mini run that sent the Maroons into the locker room trailing 34-14.

Alysea Pica scored six of her eight points in the first half of the third quarter as BC cut the lead to 38-26.

The Maroons (7-2) then cut the lead to 42-38 with a 12-0 run that was highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers and a drive for a bucket by Neumann.

“Danika Neumann and Pica,” Murphy said. “Pica really just stepped up a ton. Pica took the team on her shoulders.”

Butte High led 45-40 after three quarters, and two free throws and a jumper by Neumann cut the lead to 45-44.

Hannah Stajcar stole the ball and was fouled with 1:30 left in the game. The officials called an intentional foul, giving the Maroons the ball after Stajcar sank two free throws to put the Maroons up 52-51, their first lead since 2-0.

Then Thatcher returned the favor, stealing the ball and forcing the Maroons to foul her. She hit both ends of a one and one, and the Bulldogs took the lead for good at 53-52. Thatcher added another free throw before Faupel stole the ball and hit one free throw to end the game.

The Maroons had one last chance, inbounding the ball from midcourt with 1 second left. Erika McLeod, though, knocked down the desperation inbound pass.

“We had a lot of things that just kind of went south for us at the end,” Arntson said. “But we made the free throws at the end.”

No Bulldogs scored in double figures, but the team saw nine different players score.

Faupel and McGree each scored nine points, and Mariah Richardson netted eight. Also, Hailey Hoagland and Haeffner scored seven, Thatcher tossed in five, McLeod and Andie Hogan scored four and Ashten McCloskey tossed in two. Maria Michelotti also contributed for the Bulldogs.

Leary scored 10 points for the Maroons. Stajcar scored seven, Mariah Cooney scored six and Annie Ossello scored one.

Chandra McCurdy, Shawnee Hjelt, Aleesha LaBreche and Teresa Piazzola also played for the Maroons, who are back in action with a road conference game Saturday in Corvallis.

Murphy said Thursday’s game will only help her team down the stretch.

“I’m pleased with what they did,” she said. “They played that hard, and that prepares us for conference. We want to get to the state tournament.”

Butte High is off until Jan. 18 when they head to Billings to play Skyview in an Eastern AA game.

BUTTE CENTRAL (7-2) — Hannah Stajcar 2 3-4 7, Danee leary 3 4-5 10, Alysea Pica 4 0-1 8, Annie Ossello 0 1-2 1, Mariah Cooney 3 0-2 6, Danika Neumann 7 3-3 20, Chandra McCurdy 0 0-0 0, Shawnee Hjelt 0 0-0 0, Aleesha LaBreche 0 0-0 0, Teresa Piazzola 0 0-0 0, Shelby Paffhausen 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 11-17 52.
BUTTE HIGH (6-2) — Hailey Hoagland 1 4-4 7, Natalee Faupel 1 6-8 9, Sammy McGree 3 1-2 9, Hattie Thatcher 1 3-6 5, Carlie Haeffner 2 3-3 7, Mariah Richardson 3 0-0 8, Ashten McCloskey 1 0-0 2, Erika McLeod 0 4-4 4, Maria Michelotti 0 0-0 0, Andie Hogan 1 2-2 4. Totals 13 13-19 55.
Central                        2   12   26   12 — 52
Butte                            21  13   11   10 — 55

3-point goals — BC 3 (Neumann 3), Butte 6 (McGree 2, Richardson 2, Hoagland, Faupel). Fouls — BC 22, Butte 17. Fouled out — Pica. Technicals — none.

About the photo: Butte High’s Mariah Richardson defends Butte Central’s Alysea Pica during the first half of Thursday’s game at the Butte Civic Center.