By Bill Foley
When Whitefish junior Jadi Walburn banked in a 3-poitner early in the third quarter, Butte Central girls’ basketball coach Meg Murphy knew her team might be in trouble. (Stats)
She was right.
The shot came as the Bulldogs opened the second half with a 16-5 run to take control, and Whitefish beat the Maroons 63-44 in a loser-out game of the Western A Divisional tournament at the Maroon Activities Center. ()
Whitefish advances to a loser-out game on Saturday morning and a shot at qualifying for the Class A State tournament. BC closes the season at 11-6.
The lucky basket — Walburn clearly did not call “bank” — came right after 6-foot post player Brook Smith opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer.
Right then, Murphy knew it wasn’t BC’s day.
“It wasn’t our weekend,” the coach said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well. That happens.”
The Maroons shot just 12 for 45 from the field, a clip of 27 percent. On the flip side, the Bulldogs connected on 25 of 47 shots, which is 53 percent.
“Nothing went in,” Murphy said. “You’d think at least in your home gym you might make a bucket. But that’s just the nature of the beast. You have to have a little bit of luck at tournaments, I truly believe it. You have to have a little bit of juju on your side.”
The juju solely belonged to the Bulldogs on this day.
Senior Gracie Smyley opened the game with a long 2-point jump shot to start things.
BC quickly answered when junior Sofee Thatcher sank a 3-pointer off a pass form senior Delaney Hasquet. Hasquet then started BC’s remarkable free throw shooting day by burying to tosses for a 5-3 lead.
On a day when the Maroons could not buy a bucket, they shot 15 for 16 from the free throw line.
Whitefish got a pair of free tosses from feisty 5-1 senior guard Ashton Ramsey before Smith hit a jumper to put the Bulldogs up for good at 6-4.
The Bulldogs led 13-9 after the first quarter (though the stat sheet incorrectly says 13-11). Whitefish opened a nine-point lead at 22-13 when Mikenna Ells took a steal for a hoop.
Central, though got right back in it.
A three from Hasquet before Smith turned a three-point play. Sophomore Brooke Badovinac hit a jumper before added a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 25-20 at the half.
Whitefish quickly opened the game up in the second. BC made several runs, but the Bulldogs had an answer each time.
After leading 48-39, Whitefish ended BC’s comeback hopes with a 15-2 run.
Smith finished with a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds — despite missing time in foul trouble — to lead the Bulldogs, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed from the Northwestern A.
Smyley scored 14 points, while Ramsey tossed in 11. Whitefish also got nine from Ells, five from Walburn and two from Taylor Means.
Badovinac shot 7 for 8 from the free throw line and scored 15 points to lead the Maroons. Hasquet tossed in 11 points.
Central also got seven points from Thatcher, four from Avery Kelly, three from Maddi Kump and two from Taylor Harrington an Amira Bolton.
Payton Hartwick, Brenna Foley, Mollie Drew and Kathryn Lalicker also saw time late for BC, which was playing without promising freshman Ella Moodry.
The game was the high school hoops finale for BC’s five seniors — Kelly, Bolton, Hasquet, Kump and Harrington. All were contributors for three or four years, and they will be missed. That was evident by the many tears following a long postgame team meeting.
“You always think you have next year when you’re a senior, and you don’t,” Murphy said.
The season will not end like it hoped for the Maroons, who started out with 10 wins in their first 11 games. The campaign, though, will still go down as one of the better ones in school history.
The Maroons went 1-18 last year, losing the play-in game and missing out on the divisional tournament. Playing mostly with the same cast of characters, Central turned things around to the tune of the Southwestern A regular-season title.
That is something that cannot be erased by a disappointing divisional tournament.
“You know what, it beats being 1-18 and not playing in the divisional tournament,” Murphy said. “I told them I’m proud of them.”