By Bill Foley
Someday, Butte Central fans will tell their grandchildren about the time they watched Kloie Thatcher pass the ball.
After Saturday’s game at the Maroon Activities Center, Corvallis fans will, too.
The Butte Central senior guard put on an absolute clinic Saturday afternoon to lead the Maroons to a 72-35 Southwestern A victory over Corvallis on Senior Night.
Thatcher dished out 14 assists in the victory, and most of them were of the “Did You See That” variety.
Butte Central coach Meg Murphy said the 14 assist has to be a school record.
“Oh God yeah,” the coach said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a kid pass the ball that many times.”
Murphy said this is only the beginning for Thatcher, who will play her college ball at Rocky Mountain College.
“You’re going to see her in college shine a lot just because she can do it,” Murphy said. “She’ll get people the ball when they need the ball.”
Fellow senior Megan Michelotti was the major beneficiary of those passes. She tossed in a game-high 19 points in the win.
“Ever since we started playing together in sixth grade we’ve just had a connection,” Michelotti said of Thatcher. “She hits me when I’m open.”
Even though Michelotti has played with Thatcher for so long, even she was in awe of what she saw from the future Battlin’ Bear on Saturday.
“Corvallis is a good team, and she makes them look like they don’t know what they’re doing,” Michelotti said. “That’s how good her passes are.”
Fellow guards Tricia Joyce and Olivia Bolton also had some nice assist in the game that just might have been BC’s best performance of the season.
“That’s the best we’ve moved the ball against the zone, and our post players finished inside and got to the basket,” Murphy said.
The Maroons started quickly, apparently having no hangover from the pregame Senior Night ceremony that honored Thatcher, Michelotti, Bolton and Kailee Murphy.
After Corvallis’ Calla Haldorson hit a 3-poitner to put Corvallis up 3-2, Thatcher hit Michelotti on back-to-back beautiful passes to put the Maroons up for good.
“I look at her, she looks at me, and then she passes it,” Michelotti said. “She can hit anything. She’s very unselfish with the ball. The same with Olivia and Goose (Joyce). They’re really good passers, too.”
BC led 17-12 after the first 8 minutes, and the Blue Devils were hanging with the Maroons for a bit in the second quarter.
The lead was 19-14 after Tayler Wright connected on a baseline jumper with 6 minutes, 51 seconds left in the second half. That was the last time the Blue Devils scored until the third quarter.
The Maroons closed out the half with an 18-0 run that ended any victory hopes the Blue Devils (1-9, 5-13) might have had.
BC’s run put the maroons up 37-14 at halftime, and BC took a 59-24 lead into the fourth quarter.
The 40-point mercy rule came into play before the game ended.
BC posted a lopsided victory for the third straight game. The late-season Central started in Livingston last Saturday and continued through Thursday’s blowout victory in Anaconda.
“We’ve been in tight games all season long until the last three games,” Murphy said. “Now, all of a sudden, we’ve been up by 20 in all three games. It’s not because we’re playing bad competition or anything. I think it’s the difference in how hard our kids are playing right now.”
Thatcher posted a double-double by scoring 13 points to go along with those 14 assists. Bolton and Joyce each scored 11 points.
Eleven Butte Central players scored as the Maroons ended the regular season at 7-3 in conference and 14-4 overall.
Cassidy Strizic scored five, Emma Keeley tossed in three, and Murphy, Bella Sorini, Amira Bolton, Tess Riordan and Maddison Kump scored two apiece.
Taylor Harrington, Allyson Mueller and Shea Davis also contributed for the Maroons.
Haldorson scored 10 to lead the Blue Devils. Tayler Wright and Hannah Hutchison each scored six.
Coupled with Dillon’s loss at Hamilton Saturday, the Maroons secured the No. 2 seed at next week’s Southwestern A District Tournament in Hamilton. BC will play in Friday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal.
Murphy, one of the parents on the court for the Senior Night celebration, said her four seniors are special.
“Those seniors, you’ve got to love them,” the coach said. “They’ve been playing hard since they’ve been freshman.
It’s a sad group to see go, but they’re not finished. They know that. They want a trophy as bad as anything.”
CORVALLIS (1-9, 5-13) — Calla Haldorson 3 2-4 10, Hannah Martin 1 2-2 4, Ashlynn Nixon 0 2-2 2, Tayler Wright 2 2-2 6, Lilly Berry 1 0-0 2, Hannah Hutchison 3 0-0 6, Hadli Lords 0 0-0 0, Lainie Albright 1 0-0 3, Jenna Lewis 0 1-2 1, Brooklyn Powell 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 9-10 32.
BUTTE CENTRAL ( 7-3, 14-4) — Kloie Thatcher 4 3-3 13, Olivia Bolton 5 0-1 11, Cassidy Strizic 2 1-2 5, Megan Michelotti 9 1-1 19, Kailee Murphy 0 2-4 2, Tricia Joyce 4 2-2 11, Bella Sorini 0 2-4 2, Emma Keeley 0 3-4 3, Shea Davis 0 0-0 0, Amira Bolton 1 0-0 2, Tess Riordan 1 0-0 2, Madison Kump 0 2-2 2, Taylor Harrington 0 0-0 0, Allyson Mueller 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 16-22 72.
Corvallis 12 2 10 11 — 35
Butte Central 17 20 22 13 — 72
3-point goals — Corvallis 2 (Halderson 2), BC 3 (Thatcher 2, O. Bolton 1, Joyce 1). Fouls — Corvallis 16, BC 12. Fouled out — none.