A lifetime of bragging rights will hang in the balance Thursday night when the Butte Central and Butte High basketball teams meet in a city championship doubleheader at the Butte Civic Center.
The girls open varsity action at 6 p.m. The boys tipoff at 7:30. Butte Central will be designated the home team, and the Maroons will wear their home white.
Butte Central’s girls enter the game on a roll like never before. Coach Meg Murphy’s Maroons put a 15-0 record on the line when they look for their second consecutive win over the Bulldogs.
BC snapped a three-game losing streak to Butte High with a 56-38 victory when these teams last met 13 months ago.
In that game, then-freshman Kloie Thatcher busted onto the Butte sports scene, scoring 19 points to lead the Maroons to the victory. Mollie Peoples and Sierra Pica each scored 13 points in the win.
Like the Maroons, the Bulldogs enter the game with a roster dominated by underclassmen. Butte Central’s lineup, though, has big-time experience. In 2015, a BC team that didn’t have a single senior on the roster finished runner up at the Class A State tournament in Hamilton.
Peoples, a junior, ranks fifth in the Class A in scoring with 15.4 points per game. She will be facing the Bulldogs for the third time. So will classmate Emily St. John, who averages 12.1 points per game.
Thatcher, despite a couple of scoreless games earlier in the season, averages 10.1 points. Pica a junior, and sophomore Kailee Murphy have also posted double-digit games for the Maroons.
Senior Kate Ossello, junior Taylor Wahl and sophomore Megan Michelotti are key contributors off the bench for the Maroons.
The Bulldogs enter the rivalry game with a 1-14 record. That mark, though, does not show the improvement made by coach Maury Cook’s Bulldogs.
Freshman Ally Cleverly averages 9.7 points per game to lead the Bulldogs. That includes a 14-point performance in Tuesday’s 36-25 loss at Dillon.
Junior Abby Dodge, the only other Bulldog to join Cleverly with a double-digit scoring game this season, averages 6.4 points and a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game.
Juniors Sam Krzan, Madi Yost and Camille McEwen have been key contributors for the Bulldogs. Butte High also gets contributions from sophomores Keely Pochervina, Cameron Cassidy and Kaidy McClafferty and freshmen Brittney Tierney and Aspen Lovshin.
Tierney, however, missed Tuesday’s game with an injury.
If history is any guide, both boys’ teams will get a boost from Thursday’s big game. Both could definitely use the boost as the season turns to the homestretch.
While coach Luke Powers’ Bulldogs (3-12) had a solid week last week with a near upset of Bozeman and an upset of Billings Senior, the Bulldogs struggled and lost 66-38 at Dillon on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs snapped a four-game Butte Central winning streak with a 62-56 double-overtime victory last year.
Juniors Ryson Lovshin and Brock Powell average in double figures to lead the Bulldogs. Lovshin, a point guard, scores 10.9 points per game, while Powell, a post player who saw his string of three straight double-doubles ended in Dillon, averages 10.5
Junior guard Evan Anderson, who averages, 8.1 points per game, has a handful of double-digit games under his belt this season.
Butte High also gets key contributions from seniors Trey Hoagland and Kyle Klapan and junior Travis Williams. Freshman Kash Kelly has played some big minutes for the Bulldogs, who also recently saw 6-foot-10 Butte Central transfer Patrick O’Herron, a senior, become eligible under transfer rules.
Coach Brodie Kelly’s Maroons (8-7) have lost four games, the latest was Saturday’s 69-45 home loss to Dillon.
Junior Nate McGree scored 23 points to lead the Maroons in that loss. McGree ranks seventh in scoring in the Class AA with 17.7 points per game.
Senior Cole Harper adds 11.9 points per game to the BC lineup. Junior Tanner Kump has put up some double-digit games for the Maroons. Promising freshman Cade Holter scored 12 points at Livingston last week.
Juniors Sam Johnston, Riley Richardson and Archie Petritz also contribute to the Maroons, who beat Helena High in their only other meeting with a Class AA team this season.