Butte High girls roll to victory on Senior Night

Butte High girls roll to victory on Senior Night
Butte High's Haley Herron drives for a shot Friday night at the Butte Civic Center. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

For a little more than 7 minutes Friday night, the Butte High girl played their worst basketball of the season.

The Bulldogs, who just came off of an emotional Senior Night ceremony, couldn’t buy a bucket. They missed their first shot possession after possession and didn’t have one second-chance look.

They found themselves in a 7-0 hole to Billings Senior at the Butte Civic Center.

“I think we just felt the pressure like we had to win this game,” said Butte High senior Aspen Lovshin, one of Butte High’s four seniors. “It was our last home game, so we wanted to play good. I think we missed some shots because we were trying to do too much.”

It only took one basket turn things around, and suddenly the Bulldogs played some of their best basketball of the season as they rolled to a 60-38 Eastern AA victory.

The won closed the book on a regular season that saw Butte High finish 14-4 overall and 10-2 in league play.

Butte High will take the No. 2 seed into next week’s Eastern AA Divisional tournament at the CMR Fieldhouse in Great Falls.

“It’s great momentum going into the tournament,” Bulldog coach Maury Cook said of Friday’s win. “They just played a really good game.”

The Bulldogs didn’t score until the clock showed 42 seconds left in the fist quarter. Senior Justise Birkenbuel fed junior Makenna Carpenter with a nice pass for a fast-break bucket.

Lovshin then sank a 3-pointer with a second left to cut the lead to 7-5.

Cook pointed to the defense of senior Brittney Tierney for keeping the deficit manageable before the Bulldog offense finally kicked into gear.

“Out front she really disrupted things,” Cook said. “It kept us in the game early.”

Butte tied the game at 11 midway through the second quarter on two free throws by senior Ally Cleverly. Brianne McCauley of Billings Senior broke the tie with a 3-pointer on the next possession.

Carpenter banked in a 3-pointer to tie the game on the next Butte possession. On the next, Cleverly sank two more free throws to put Butte High on top for good at 16-14 with 3:06 left in the first half.

Butte High led 19-15 at halftime, and Lovshin said the Bulldogs simply relaxed and played their game.

“We started to pull together and play as a team, making the extra pass that we weren’t making in the first quarter,” she said. “After that we thought, ‘It’s just a game, we’ve just got to play it.’”

In the second half, the Bulldogs really took off. Butte High outscored Senior 41-23 after the break.

“That second half, they adjusted into that 1-2-2, and it was lights out,” Cook said. “Al (Cleverly) was in that middle distributing. Everybody was moving, and Aspen came alive there in that second half and took over offensively.”

Lovshin scored 13 of her game-high 18 points in the second half. She hit four 3-poitners on the game.

Cleverly shot 8 for 9 from the free throw line and scored 15 points, while Carpenter came off the bench to toss in 13.

Birkenbuel scored four points for Butte High, which got three points from Tierney and Haley Herron, two from Trisha Ericson and one apiece from McKenzie Tutty and McCaul McCarthy. Grace McGrath also saw time for Butte High.

“They were shooting the ball well, and they were just finding each other,” Cook said.

Jensen Keller scored eight points to lead the Broncs (5-12, 4-7), who play at Bozeman on Saturday. Ellie Ostermiller tossed in seven points, while McCauley and Olivia LeBeau each scored six, Bailey King tossed in five, Lilly Johnson netted four, and Brenna Linse scored two.

Cook pointed to the play of some of his undersized players inside. They more than held their own against King (6-foot-3), Linse (6-0), LaBeau (6-0) and Johnson (6-0).

“Makenna, Haley and Justise, every night they come out and play kids who are 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, and it’s a battle and a grind,” Cook said. “They don’t get a lot of notoriety sometimes, but man, they’re a tough group.”

Cook also pointed out that Cleverly has been sick all week.

“For her to come out and complete tonight like she did was big,” the coach said.

Butte High will open the Divisional tournament at 3:30 p.m. Thursday against the No. 7 seed, which will be Great Falls Russell or Billings Skyview.

The top four teams at the divisional advance to the Class AA State tournament, something the Bulldogs haven’t done since 2013.

BILLINGS SENIOR (5-12, 4-7) — Jensen Keller 3 2-4 8, Bri McCauley 2 1-2 6, Brenna Linse 1 0-0 2, Bailey King 2 1-2 5, Ellie Ostmiller 2 1-2 7, Olivia LeBeau 3 0-0 6, Lily Johnson 2 0-2 4, Solana Riojas 0 0-0 0, Neveah Alden 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 5-12 38.
BUTTE HIGH (14-4, 10-2) — Aspen Lovshin 6 2-4 18, Justise Birkenbuel 1 2-2 4, Ally Cleverly 3 8-9 15, Heley Herron 1 1-1 3, Brittney Tierney 1 0-0 3, Makenna Carpenter 5 1-1 13, MaKenzie Tutty 0 1-2 1, Trish Ericson 1 0-0 2, Grace McGrath 0 0-0 0, McCaul McCarthy 1 0-0 1. Totals 18 16-21 60.
Billings Senior                       7          8          11        12 — 38
Butte High                              5          14        16        25 — 60

3-poitn goals — Senior 3 (Ostmiller 2, McCauley), Butte 8 (Lovshin 4, Carpenter 2, Cleverly, Tierney). Fouls — Senior 21, Butte 14. Fouled out — King.

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