By Bruce Sayler
The tears were every bit as hard-earned as was the win streak.
The Butte High girls’ basketball team saw its win streak end at eight games Tuesday night in a 40-37 loss in overtime to Bozeman. The Bulldogs were the ones who forced the overtime with a rally from as far back as 11 points down.
The defeat in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym was Butte High’s first in Eastern AA Conference play this season.
So, while hallways have heard happy sounds of celebration in recent Butte High girls’ basketball games, Tuesday, the scene was accompanied by mourning, sorrow and tears.
It was a game the Bulldogs never led.
“We live and die by the 3s and tonight we weren’t on,” Butte High head coach Maury Cook said. “We weren’t on our game. We weren’t as aggressive tonight in going to the basket as we have been.”
The Bulldogs were 4-for-25 from 3-point range and were outrebounded by a 35-26 margin. Bozeman brought better height, good athleticism and terrific defense to the floor.
“They’re a great team,” Cook said. “Bozeman played us long and it was a defensive battle. Our average is 52 points a game and if we’d hit that tonight, we’d have won by 12 points.”
However, the Hawks won. Two free throws by Ayla Embry with 28 seconds left in the extra frame scored the last points.
Ally Cleverly’s three-point play on a driving layup and foul shot at the 53-second mark had pulled Butte High to within 28-27. The Hawks sat on the ball and Butte High needed to foul to have a chance at it.
Aspen Lovshin committed the infraction that put Embry on the charity stripe.
The Hawks came out again, as they had the whole game, on the Butte High shooters at the arc, determined to not give up a 3-point goal. So, Lovshin drove the key, hoping for contact and a basket-and-one opportunity. Bozeman backed off somewhat as Lovshin tumbled through the key and threw up a shot. It missed and Bozeman 6-foot senior Ava Westphal snared the rebound and Lovshin fouled her to stop the clock. It was Lovshin’s fifth foul and she exited the game with 12 points.
Westphal missed both shots with 3 seconds left and Haley Herron grabbed the rebound for Butte High. The Hawks’ coverage prevented Herron from getting a good shot off before the buzzer.
Butte High ended the regulation time in a similar way against Bozeman.
The Bulldogs trailed by as much as 11 points — 13-2 after one quarter. It was 19-9 at halftime before Butte High regrouped enough to close the gap to 25-19 through three quarters. The Bulldogs continued to scrap.
Lovshin meshed a pair of freebies with 35 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs had caught up, 32-all.
Bozeman wound the clock down to less than 10 seconds and tried to find an open shot. Butte High wouldn’t let the Hawks have one and time expired without one being launched.
“We rebounded a little better in the second half,” Cook said. “There were a couple of things at the end, offensively, where we maybe weren’t prepared. We’ll work on that.”
Also, the Bulldogs were worn from the game-long comeback in which they couldn’t afford any mistakes, and had to furiously compensate for any that happened.
“We got down and the kids battle back and played tough,” Cook said. “They made it a game for four quarters. We just ran out of gas at the end.
“It was a great effort by everybody.”
Cleverly led the Bulldogs with 13 points and Lovshin had 12. MaKenna Carpenter scored five points, Justise Birkenbuel three, and Herron and Brittney Tierney had two apiece. McCaul McCarthy also played.
Embry finished with 11 points to pace Bozeman, and Westphal pulled down 12 rebounds. Lucy Child and Sophia Robinson scored seven points each for the Hawks.
The win gave Bozeman records of 6-5 for the season and 4-2 in Eastern AA action. Butte High is now 9-3 and 6-1, and will next play on Friday at Billings Senior.
BOZEMAN (6-5, 4-2) — Ayla Embry 3-10 4-5 11, Sophia Robinson 3-7 1-1 7, Addi Ekstrom 0-2 0-0 0, Brooke Harlin 2-4 1-2 5, Ava Westphal 2-4 0-2 4, Lucy Child 3-5 1-2 7, Maya Priebe 1-2 0-0 2, Macy Mayer 1-2 0-0 2, Lillian Gillstrom 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 16-37 8-13 40.
BUTTE HIGH (9-3, 6-1) — Aspen Lovshin 3-16 4-5 12, Makenna Carpenter 2-6 1-2 5, Ally Cleverly 5-17 2-3 13, Haley Herron 1-1 0-0 2, Brittney Tierney 1-4 0-0 2, Justise Birkenbuel 1-1 0-0 3, McCaul McCarthy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-45 7-10 37.
Bozeman 13 6 6 7 8 — 40
Butte High 2 7 10 13 5 — 37
3-point goals — Bozeman 0-8 (Embry 0-4, Harlin 0-2, Child 0-1, Priebe 0-1), Butte 4-25 (Lovshin 2-9, Carpenter 0-2, Cleverly 1-11, Tierney 0-2, Birkenbuel 1-1). Fouled out — Lovshin. Total fouls — Bozeman 13, Butte 13. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Bozeman 35 (Westphal 12), Butte 26 (Herron 8). Blocks — Bozeman 1 (Gillstrom), Butte 1 (Herron). Assists — Bozeman 5 (Embry 3), Butte 4 (Cleverly 3). Steals — Bozeman 8 (Embery 2, Robinson 2), Butte 10 (Lovshin 4, Herron 3, Carpenter 2). Turnovers — Bozeman 16, Butte 12.