By Bruce Sayler.
Hamilton took an early lead and then fended Butte Central off all game long while registering a 44-41 girls’ basketball win Friday evening at the Maroon Activities Center.
The contest matched two 5-0 teams in a Southwestern A Conference counter. It was the last game on the 2017 portion of their season schedules.
“We can’t come out and turn the ball over four or five times in the first quarter (and expect success),” Butte Central head coach Meg Murphy said. “And, we can’t go into a lala-land in the second quarter. But, I guess that’s part of the game.”
Mallory McGill pulled up for a jump shot to five the Broncs the early 2-0 lead and teammate Kara Nye drilled a 3-point basket from the corner. The Maroons answered with a fast-break basket Megan Michelotti converted after Cassidy Strizic rebounded a Hamilton miss and passed to Kloie Thatcher, who dealt the assist.
The Broncs, though, scored the next eight points and had a 13-3 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
The BC girls were guilty of fouls and turnovers while playing the highly athletic Hamilton team. The Broncs swiped the ball from Butte Central 13 times. Butte Central’s 3-point shot left for Christmas Break a day early. The Maroons were 0-for-3 in the first quarter and 1-for-9 at halftime from the trey arc before winding up 2-for-14 for the game.
“And, they weren’t very pretty looking,” Murphy commented about the 3-point tries.
The Broncs’ defensive focus on Thatcher paid dividends as BC suffered through a cold shooting night, one that correlated outside weather.
“Kloie is going to see a lot of garbage defenses, but she knows she has to turn it up and realize she’s that good of a player,” Murphy said. “She can do that.”
Butte Central wasn’t able to cut its deficit to any less tha six points through the second quarter. Hamilton shooters Jorden Taggart and Tessa Della Silva sparked the offense with 10 of the team’s 10 points in the period. Della Silva was successful on drives and runners, while Taggart was a good shooter from both sides of the perimeter stripe.
The halftime difference was 25-17.
The Broncs then scored the first eight points of the second half for a 33-17 command. Murphy called two timeouts before the Maroons scored in the second half — Tricia Joyce on a 10-foot jumper from the side.
It hit with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter and ignited a 9-0 BC rally that closed the quarter. Joyce scored the first five points in the surge.
Hamilton’s lead was 33-28 going in the fourth quarter and Thatcher connected on a pullup to make it a five-point game. The teams traded baskets as Butte Central enforced a deliberate style that melted time off the clock and assured high-percentage shots.
A Taggart basket was followed by two Della Silva free throws to widen the Broncs’ gap to 43-33 with 1:15 on the clock. Butte Central cut it to four points 43-39, on a basket by Joyce and two 15-footers by Strizic.
However, only 23 ticks remained on the clock. Hamilton missed three free throws as the Maroons fouled to stop time and try for possession. However, one made by Lauren Ryter with 4 seconds left insured Hamilton the win.
“We thrive on our man-to-man defense,” Murphy said, “but Hamilton might be one we should try a 2-3 against. That’s me more than the team. I’m just not confident we can play a good 2-3 yet.
“We had to play some freshmen and sophomores tonight and they gave us some good minutes. We feel if we can some stops and board the ball, we’ll be pretty good. Our boarding the ball needs to get better, but this week we did it a lot better than we had been.”
Although the BC girls’ record absorbed its first loss, their coach said she liked how the team has been playing.
“I’m very pleased with where we are, right now,” she said. “There was a chance we coiuld be 6-0, but I’m happy.”
Murphy noted that Butte Central should be gaining two more players next month in 6-foot senior Kailee Murphy and 5-9 junior Bella Sorini. Both are recovering from surgeries. Kailee Murphy, daughter of the coach, was a starter on the 2016 undefeated state Class A championship Maroons team before suffering a torn ACL that following summer. She missed all last season as a result. Sorini underwent corrective foot surgery during the past summer.
Meg Murphy said she is looking forward to how the team progresses during the practices over break before returning to action January 4 at Dillon.
“We have some kids who hadn’t played very much finding their roles, now,” she said. “Tricia Joyce has gotten better every game. Kloie has been throwing some awfully good passes and we’re not catching them. Hopefully, we’ll be recognizing them by February.
“Kloie is going to need to be a little more selfish after the first of the year, I think. There’s been some pressure on her trying to also replace (2017 All-State graduates) Emily St. John and Mollie Peoples. She needs to get to the free throw line for us. And once we get Kailee back, we’ll be a different team.”
Michelotti led Butte Central is scoring Friday with 13 points and Joyce was second with 10. Thatcher and Olivia Bolton each tallied seven points and Strizic finished with four. Emma Keeley, Allyon Mueller, Madison Kump and Amira Bolton also played. Thatcher dished six assists and shared team honors with Olivia Bolton in rebounds with five each.
Della Silva scored 17 points to lead Hamilton and Taggart was next with 12. Cariann Kunkel, a 5-9 senior transfer from Hiawatha, Kansas, pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.
HAMILTON (6-0, 2-0) — Tessa Della Silva 6-10 5-6 17, Tristan Searle 0-3 2-3 2, Kara Nye 1-4 0-0 3, Mallory McGill 2-3 0-0 4, Cariann Kunkel 0-6 0-2 0, Jorden Taggart 4-6 2-2 12, Lauren Ryter 2-3 2-3 6, Madisyn Drake 0-0 0-0 0, Abby Johnson. Totals 15-35, 11-16 44.
BUTTE CENTRAL (5-1, 2-1) — Kloie Thatcher 3-7 0-0 7, Olivia Bolton 3-12 0-0 7, Cassidy Strizic 2-5 0-0 4, Megan Michelotti 5-8 3-4 13, Tricia Joyce 5-13 0-0 10, Emma Keeley 0-0 0-0 0, Allyson Mueller 0-2 0-0 0, Madison Kump 0-0 0-0 0, Amira Bolton 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-47 3-4 41.
Hamilton 13 12 8 11 — 44
Butte Central 4 13 9 15 — 41
3-point goals — Hamilton 3-8 (Searle 0-2, Nye 1-3, McGill 0-1, Taggart 2-2), BC 2-14 (Thatcher 1-5, O. Bolton 1-6, Joyce 0-3). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Hamilton 9, BC 17. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Hamilton 26 (Kunkel 9), BC 27 (Thatcher 5, O. Bolton 5). Blocks — Hamilton 2 (McGill 1, Kunkel 1), BC 1 (Strizic). Assists — Hamilton 8 (Della Silva 4), BC 8 (Thatcher 6). Steals — Hamilton 13 (Ryter 4), BC 9 (Strizic 3). Turnovers — Hamilton 23 BC 17.