By Bill Foley
MISSOULA — Maury Cook struggled to keep his eyes dry as he talked about his Bulldogs Saturday.
Butte High’s girls’ basketball team just saw its ferocious comeback attempt fall short to Kalispell Glacier in a 57-52 battle at Missoula Hellgate High School.
The loss came in a loser-out game of the Western AA Divisional tournament. Glacier advances to the third-place game and a trip to the Class AA State tournament next week in Bozeman.
Butte High closes the season at 8-13, but not before the Bulldogs went out like warriors.
The girls from Butte nearly erased an 11-point fourth quarter lead before the Wolfpack escaped with their third victory over the Bulldogs this season.
“I’m just so proud of them,” Cook said. “We had two huge runs there. We got down early and we battled back. The kids showed a lot of heart. These seniors showed a lot of heart.”
After three quarters, the Bulldogs trailed 40-29. They trailed 44-34 when Aubrey Rademacher hit a bucket with 6 minutes, 10 seconds left.
That’s when things started to get interesting.
MacKenzie Tutty and Haley Herron hit 3-pointers before Tutty turned a pass from Herron into an old-fashioned three-point play, cutting the lead to one point at 44-43.
That got the old gym rocking as the Bulldog faithful chanted “Butte, Butte, Butte.”
Rademacher quieted things briefly by grabbing a rebound after a missed front end of a one and one, and her put back extended the lead to 46-43.
Two free throws by Herron cut the lead to 46-45, and Makenna Carpenter got off a great look from 3-point land with 2:48 left.
Carpenter’s shot, though, bounced in and out, and the lead stayed with Glacier.
Emma Anderson hit two free throws before, Carpenter drove to make it a 48-47 game.
A steal by Tutty set up a 3-point attempt from the corner by Brooke McGrath with 1:59 left in the game. That shot, too, went in and out.
The Bulldogs had one more shot to tie the game, trailing 50-49, but missed the front end of a one and one was boarded by the Wolfpack.
Glacier then put the win away by hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:08.
“Haley, I think that was probably one of the best offensive games she’s had in a long time,” Cook said. “We hit some tough shots. It just wasn’t enough.”
“Glacier is an aggressive team. Hats off to them,” Cook added. “They made their free throws when they needed to. They had just enough in the tank from last night to get the job done.”
Butte High did not lead once.
Anderson opened the game with a bucket, and Butte High quickly answered when Herron fed Trisha Ericson for a bucket to tie the game at 2.
The next time down the court, Rademacher put the Wolfpack up for good. That bucket started a 13-2 run, and Glacier led 15-7 after Ericson drained a baseline 3-pointer late in the first quarter.
Glacier took a 28-18 lead into halftime before taking the 11-point edge into the final eight minutes.
Butte High sure made things interesting over that time, but close wasn’t close enough.
“I hate horseshoes,” Cook said, “because so close doesn’t count.”
Rademacher scoured 19 points to lead four members of the Wolfpack in double figures. Anderson scored 12, and Williams tossed 10. Glacier also got nine points from Kaylee Fritz and two apiece from Sidney Gullick, Ellie Keller and Janessa Henson.
Tutty joined Herron with 14 points, and Carpenter finished with 11 to lead the Bulldogs.
Ericson scored five, Kodie Hoagland and Brooke McGrath each scored three, and McCaul McCarthy tossed in two. Grace McGrath and Tylar Clary also contributed for the Bulldogs.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my kids from top to bottom,” Cook said. “They came together as a team this weekend. They played hard. Every kid that stepped on the floor showed that they have ability and that they can hit shots in big moments.”
Cook talked as his teary-eyed players hugged each other and their loved ones. Ericson, Carpenter, Herron and Grace McGrath got the most attention because they are the four seniors.
Herron played four years of varsity, while the other three contributed for three.
“I’m really excited for the next year to come,” Cook said, “and I’m really thankful for the seniors that we have this year — Makenna, Haley, Grace and Trish. They were a lot of fun.”
KALISPELL GLACIER (11-10) — Kaylee Frityz 2 5-6 9, Kenzie Williams 3 2-2 10, Aubrie Rademacher 7 5-6 19, Ellie Keller 0 2-4 2, Emma Anderson 4 4-4 12, Sulick 0 2-2 2, Aubry Grame 0 1-2 1, Blayke Foppiano 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 21-26 57.
BUTTE HIGH (8-13) — MacKenzie Tutty 4 3-3 14, Grace McGrath 0 0-0 0, Makenna Carpenter 4 2-3 11, Trisha Ericson 2 0-0 5, Haley Herron 4 5-6 14, Kodie Hoagland 1 0-3 3, McCaul McCarthy 1 0-0 2, Brooke McGrath 1 0-1 3, Tylar Clary 0 0-0 0 Totals 17 10-16 52.
Glacier 15 11 14 17 — 57
Butte 7 11 11 23 — 52
3-point goals — Glacier 2 (Williams 2), Butte 8 (Tutty 3, Hoagland, Carpenter, B. McGrath, Ericson, Herron). Fouls — Glacier 18, Butte 24. Fouled out — Herron. Technicals — none.