Butte girls rally past Wolfpack at State AA

GREAT FALLS – Butte High’s girls don’t have the tallest roster in the state, but the Bulldogs stood tall over the Glacier Wolfpack Thursday 47-40 in the opening game of the Girls’ State Class AA Basketball tournament at Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.

The Bulldogs overcame an 11-10 first-quarter deficit by turning up the defense and holding Glacier scoreless for a five-minute stretch in the second quarter.

“Our defense won this one for us,” said Butte High head coach Jeff Arntson. “Glacier scores 52 points per game and we knew we were going to have to keep that number down. The kids worked hard and played well.”

While the Bulldog defense stood fast, Butte High’s offense started coming around in the second period after a cool start. Natalee Faupel led the ’Dogs with a 19-point effort, while Sammy McGree chipped in with 17 more.

Glacier took the early lead as a 3-pointer from Rachel Chery put the ’Pack up 9-4 midway through the first period. The Butte defense, however, fueled the Bulldog offense. McGree stole an errant pass and took in the length of the court for a layup to pull the Bulldogs within two, and early in the second period Maria Michelotti came off the bench to grab a steal which she fed to McGree, whose 3-pointer tied the game at 13-all.

Butte scored the next six points and eased into the locker room with a 24-17 lead at intermission.

Glacier wasn’t through, though, as 6-foot-1 post Cassidy Hashley knocked down 15 of her game-best 21 points in the second half, keeping the Wolfpack in the game.

“We knew we couldn’t stop (Hashley), but we thought we could slow her down,” Arntson said. “Twenty-one points wasn’t what we had in mind, though.”

Kirstyn Haugenoe netted a 3-pointer with 3:10 left in the third period, giving Glacier a 28-27 advantage, but it was short-lived as McGree swished the second of her three 3-pointers to put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

“We came back with some tougher defense in the second quarter,” Faupel explained. “We got some steals and the shots fell for us.”

Faupel, who recently signed to play for Chris Mouat’s Skylights at MSU-Northern, added 10 rebounds and a pair of assists to her totals, while Hattie Thatcher tallied eight assists from the point, while she grabbed a pair of steals as well. Thatcher, who stands just 5-4, also notched a blocked shot, based mainly on hustle.

Hailey Hoagland hit for five points, while snagging three rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. Carlie Haeffner scored two points to go with her four rebounds and three steals, while Erika McLeod scored two. Mariah Richardson added quality time off the bench for the Bulldogs.

“Glacier’s a good team,” Arntson said. “We thought we could run a little on them, but they played well in transition against us in the third quarter. We took a timeout and adjusted our defense and we were OK.”

Butte High shot just 7 of 13 from the stripe, but a few of the points came in the stretch and helped seal the win, which sets up a 6:30 p.m. semifinal matchup with Missoula Sentinel on Friday. The Spartans outlasted Billings West 39-33 Thursday afternoon.