Bulldog girls surge past Belgrade for hoops win

By Bruce Sayler

The middle of the game belonged to the Belgrade girls. The beginning and end, however, were owned by Butte High.
An 11-5 surge in the last four minutes pushed the Bulldogs to a 54-49 win in the Class AA non-conference game played at the Butte Civic Center. It was Butte High’s second victory in as many games this season and came in its home opener.
A jumper from just inside the perimeter by Taylor Drakos gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 edge 11 seconds into the contest. Four points each from Dylann Bartoletti and Brityn Stewart opened a 10-2 margin and it was 10-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Belgrade worked the Bulldogs over on the inside and Leila Mamangun went outside for a 3-pointer that sent the Panthers ahead for the first time, 15-13 with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left in the half. Powerful post Hayli Milliron dominated the paint for eight more points before halftime and wound up the game with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Belgrade’s lead at intermission was 22-18.
However, the Panthers’ advantage never reached double figures and Butte High battled back. Dakos put her team ahead, 45-44, with another long shot from just inside the 3-point stripe. Stewart added a runner and, after a free throw by Belgrade’s Ella Seaman, knocked down a foul shot between two each by Drakos and Cadence Graham and Butte High was in control, 52-45.
The rough-and-tumble clash saw 48 fouls called and 34 turnovers committed. It came after an intense 50-48 win by Butte High in the boys’ game that opened the doubleheader.
“I thought we were pretty passive to start the game,” Bryan Arntson, head coach of the Bulldogs, said. “We played tentative and with not a lot of confidence. We want (the players) to start believing in themselves like we (coaches) believe in them.
“I felt, at the beginning, we settled for early jump shots instead of working for better shots. When we did start attacking the rim, we started to roll.”
The Bulldogs faced a decisive height disadvantage and some shooting woes in unfamiliar surroundings. Arntson said Graham, a shooting star and sophomore guard, was also battling sickness and played “a little bit banged up.” She was uncharacteristically cold from the field, but contributed as a ball distributor and defender.
“We got beat up in the paint pretty bad,” Arntson said, alluding to a 38-27 disadvantage on the boards, caused mostly by the play of Milliron, who fouled out with 1:11 left in the game. “We’re going to be at the disadvantage like that most nights. So, we have to learn to play better team defense.”
Stewart led Butte High with 17 points and Ashlinn Mullaney had 10, nine in the second half. Mullaney had a team-high six rebounds.
“Ashlinn stepped up in the second half,” Arntson said. “Cadence will be her own worst critic. She’ll put in the work to get over this. You can’t get her out of the gym.”
The Bulldogs opened with a win at Bozeman High, then added the Friday night victory. The season is young, like the team. Both are progressing.
“These early games are great learning experiences for us,” Arntson said. “We have a lot of kids right now stepping on to the varsity floor for the first time. A good thing about these early games is in getting all these game reps. They’re great.
“Now, we need to turn up the competition at practice. We have to work on situational defense, and on free throw shooting.”
The Bulldogs were 20-for-29 from the foul line Friday.
Drakos finished with nine points and Graham with eight to back Stewart and Maloney in the team scoring totals. Bartoletti and Franki Salusso scored four points apiece, Catherine Sholey tallied two, and Jaycee Cleveland and Gracie Ferriter also played.
Milliron’s 15 points led Belgrade, and Mamangun finished with 13. The Panthers are 0-2 for the season.
Butte High will play Dillon on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Civic Center as part of a twin bill with the boys’ teams. Then, the crosstown rivalry Butte Central-Butte High doubleheader will take place next Friday, also in the Civic Center.
BELGRADE (0-2) – Isabelle Blossom 2-6 2-2 7, Madi Simon 1-5 1-2 3, Abby Weber 1-5 1-1 3, Leila Mamangun 5-9 0-1 13, Hayli Milliron 5-10 5-11 15, Sarah Reichert 1-6 2-3 4, Ella Seaman 0-0 1-2 1, Sarah Gillihan 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 16-44 13-23 49.
BUTTE HIGH (2-0) – Cadence Graham 0-10 8-12 8, Dylann Bartoletti 1-3 2-2 4, Brityn Stewart 7-15 2-4 17, Ashlinn Mullaney 3-7 4-7 10, Taylor Drakos 3-5 2-2 9, Catherine Sholey 1-1 0-0 2, Franki Salusso 1-2 2-2 4, Jaycee Cleveland 0-0 0-0 0, Gracie Ferriter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-43 20-29 54l
Belgrade 6 16 15 12 – 49
Butte High 10 8 13 23 – 54
3-point goals – Belgrade 4-12 (Blossom 1-4, Weber 0-2, Mamangun 3-5, Gillihan 0-1), Butte High 2-12 (Graham 0-7, Bartoletti 0-2, Stewart 1-1, Drakos 1-2). Fouled out – Weber, Milliron. Total fouls – Belgrade 28, Butte High 20. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Belgrade 38 (Milliron 16), Butte High 27 (Mullaney 6). Blocks – Belgrade 1 (Simon), Butte High 2 (Graham 1, Stewart 1). Assists – Belgrade 10 (Blossom 5), Butte High 9 (Graham 4). Steals – Belgrade 2 (Weber 1, Simon 1), Butte High 8 (Bartoletti 3). Turnovers – Belgrade 21, Butte High 13.