By Bill Foley
You’ll have to excuse the Butte High girls’ basketball team if it enjoys a victory even when the Bulldogs weren’t at the top of their game.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Butte High senior Ally Cleverly said after the Bulldogs knocked off winless Billings Skyview 50-23 Friday night at the Butte Civic Center. “It’s just different from the past couple of years.”
The win was the fifth straight for the Bulldogs, who had not even won three straight since the current senior class was playing sixth-grade basketball.
The last time the Bulldogs were on a roll like this was when the Bulldogs won 12 straight games from Jan. 5 through Feb. 16 of 2013.
“I’m proud of the girls because we haven’t had a five-game winning streak in a while,” Butte High fourth-year coach Maury Cook said. “A conference win is a conference win. They’re hard to come by.”
While the scoreboard certainly made it look easy, Cook said the Bulldogs were far from perfect in the win that brought Butte High’s record to 6-2 overall and 3-0 in the Eastern AA.
“Didn’t move the ball as well as we did (Tuesday) against Dillon,” Cook said. “We just weren’t in rhythm.”
Still, the Bulldogs never trailed. Butte High scored the game’s first 13 points and led 18-2 after the first quarter.
Butte High’s scoring slowed down after the fast start, but the Bulldogs led 25-9 at halftime and 35-12 after three quarters.
“Today was weird,” Cleverly said. “Our rhythm was a little off, but we still worked together and grinded out that win.”
The Bulldogs relied on their unselfishness and aggressive defense throughout. Cleverly drove and dished to Makenna Carpenter and Aspen Lovshin for back-to-back 3-poitners as Butte High quickly turned a 2-0 advantage into an 8-0 lead.
Brittney Tierney followed with an old-fashioned three-point play. Then she took a steal for a layup, and the rout was on.
“Everyone on our team can score,” Cleverly said. “If our shot is not there and there’s a wide-open teammate, we can trust our teammate to hit it.”
Tierney, a senior, scored eight of her game-high 12 points in the first quarter. Cleverly followed with 11 points for Butte High, which saw eight players dent the scorebook.
Lovshin and Carpenter each scored seven, Justise Birkenbuel tossed in six, Grace McGrath netted three, and Haley Herron and McCaul McCarthy each scored two.
Trisha Ericson and MacKenzie Tutty also contributed for the Bulldogs.
Butte High’s defense only allowed six Skyview field goals and 13 points from the field. However, Butte High sent the Falcons to the free throw 18 times, where they scored 10 points.
“Frustration fouls put them on the line a lot, and we were fouling in the wrong sports,” Cook said.
Kamille Reynolds scored nine points to lead the Falcons, who fell to 0-9 overall and 0-4 in conference. Kinsey Frost scored seven points, and Brooke Berry tallied five.
Butte High will need to be on top of its game Saturday, and maybe then some. The Bulldogs play host to 8-0 Billings West at 4 p.m. at the Civic Center.
West’s closest game was a 13-point win over Bozeman.
“West is always tough, and coach (Charlie) Johnson does a great job with them,” Cook said of the Golden Bears. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show them where we’re at. We’ve just go to embrace the challenge, come out and leave everything on the floor.”
Cleverly said the Bulldogs are ready to do just that.
“We have to recover really quickly, take some things from this game and move on,” Cleverly said. “They’re first in our conference. They’re undefeated so far. They’re huge. We’ve got to come out with some energy and outrun them.”
BILLINGS SYVIEW (0-9, 0-4) — Brooke Berry 2 0-2 5, Kamille Reynolds 3 3-4 9, Mikayla Sanchez 0 0-0 0, Kinsey Frost 1 5-9 7, Kaitlyn Hensel 0 0-0 0, Hayden Baumberger 0 0-1 0, Laura Keenan 0 0-0 0, Bella Bryan 0 0-0 0, Jessi Henckel 0 0-0 0, Kelbie Letaski 0 2-2 2. Totals 6 10-18 23.
BUTTE HIGH (6-2, 3-0) — Aspen Lovshin 2 2-4 7, Makenna Carpenter 3 0-0 7, Justise Birkenbuel 3 0-0 6, Ally Cleverly 4 2-2 11, Haley Herron 1 0-1 2, Brittney Tierney 5 1-1 12, Trisha Ericson 0 0-0 0, Gracec McGrath 1 0-0 3, McCaul McCarthy 1 0-0 2, MacKenzie Tutty 0 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 5-8 50.
Billings Skyview 2 7 3 11 — 23
Butte High 18 7 10 15 — 50
3-point goals — Skyview 1 (Berry), Butte 5 (Lovshin, Carpenter, Cleverly, Tierney, McGrath). Fouls — Skyview 13, Butte 19. Fouled out — Letasky, Herron. Technicals — none.