Eagles feather nest, hold off Bulldog girls

By Bruce Sayler

The Butte High Bulldogs, well, dogged Missoula Big Sky all game long. They just couldn’t catch up to the Eagles and wound up on the low end of a 56-48 score.
The Western AA Conference high school girls’ basketball game was played Friday evening in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School.
The teams took turns leading through the early parts of the first quarter. Butte High’s last edge was 12-11 after Selene Morrell sank a free throw with 2 minutes, 5 seconds left in the frame. Big Sky answered with a pullup jumper from the free throw line and followed it with a driving layup by Butte-rooted Sadie McGuinn. Morrell replied by making two more foul shots and Audrey Hale netted a pair for the Eagles before the quarter ended with Big Sky in front by 17-14.
McGuinn is a granddaughter of late Butte Sports Hall of Famer and longtime American Legion baseball coach Jim Hanley, one of the three legends for which 3 Legends Stadium is named. Former Bute athlete Joe McGuinn is her dad.
League-leader Big Sky was never able to create a double-digit span between itself and the Bulldogs and had to fight off several rallies to preserve the win. The Eagles shot out ahead to 26-17 on 3-pointers by McGuinn and Mya Hubbard, then saw the distance gained dwindle back to three points, 26-23, on Butte High baskets by Cadence Graham, Catherine Sholey an, d Morrell.
The 5-foot-10 Morrell, a senior, recently joined the team after transferring back to Butte from the Seattle-area where her father served as defensive coordinator on the University of Washington football staff. Chuck Morrell formerly was the head football coach at Montana Tech.
The Bulldogs were without usual starter Ashlinn Mullaney, who is missing time with an illness.
The halftime difference was 34-27 and maintained through the third quarter to a 45-38 count.
“There were a lot of positives for us,” Butte High head coach Bryan Arntson said. “We just needed to buckle down a couple times, defensively.
“They’re a good team. But, we got a lot of contributions from younger kids. The kids who came in really provided a spark. I think we took a really big step in the right direction.”
It was so close a game that missing only one piece or part, personnel-wise or strategically, very easily could’ve been the decider.
The Bulldogs closed to within five points of the Eagles twice in the fourth quarter, 49-44 after two more Morrell charity tosses with 3:54 left to play and 51-46 at 2:36 on a 15-foot jumper by Taylor Drakos. However, the Eagles fended off the comeback try. Avory DeCoite shot eight free throws in the last 1:13 and caged five of them – enough to ice the win.
The 3-point shot betrayed the Bulldogs. They were 2-for-19 from deep. Arntson blamed anxiousness and credited the tight Big Sky defense.
“We forced it a couple ties on the 3-ball and we settled for it on a couple of possessions instead of working in for a better look,” he said. “But Big Sky is on top of our conference for a reason. They’ve been playing ball together for a couple of years, now, and they play really good team defense.”
Scary is that the Eagles show only two seniors on their roster.
DeCoite, a 5-7 sophomore, led the win with 20 points and 5-9 junior returning All-Stater Kadynce Couture tallied 15 points to go with 11 rebounds. Big Sky’s 16-1 record includes a 13-0 conference ledger.
Morrell had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs. She scored 12 of her points in the first quarter and was 11-for-14 from the free throw line for the game with her determination to drive to the hoop.
“Selene had a really big game for us,” Arntson said. “And, getting some of the other kids some basketball will help us overall.”
Brityn Stewart had eight points for the Bulldogs, Graham scored six, Addie Hiatt four, Dylann Bartoletti three, and Drakos, Franki Salusso and Sholey tallied two each. Emma Johnson also played. Butte High has a 7-9 record, 4-8 in the Western AA and will play at home next Thursday against Helena High in their next game.
MISSOULA BIG SKY (16-1, 13-0) – Avory DeCoite 6-13 7-11 20, Audrey Hale 1-5 4-4 6, Tina Kirilovich 1-2 0-3 2, Mya Hubbard 2-3 0-0 5, Kadynce Couture 5-11 4-8 15, Delaney Laird 0-1 0-0 0, Sadie McGuinn 2-6 0-0 5, Kyler Latrielle 1-4 0-2 3, Gianna Janacaro 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-46 15-28 56.
BUTTE HIGH (7-9, 4-8) – Dylann Bartoletti 1-2 0-0 3, Cadence Graham 2-9 1-2 6, Brityn Stewart 3-8 2-2 8, Taylor Drakos 1-4 0-0 2, Selene Morrell 5-10 11-14 21, Franki Salusso 1-3 0-0 2, Catherine Sholey 1-2 0-0 2, Addie Hiatt 2-2 0-0 4, Emma Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-40 14-18 48.
Big Sky 17 17 11 11 – 56
Butte High 14 13 11 10 – 48
3-point goals – Big Sky 5-13 (DeCoite 1-2, Hale 0-1, Hubbard 1-2, Couture 1-3, McGuinn 1-2, Latrielle 1-3), Butte High 2-19 (Bartoletti 1-2, Graham 1-7, Stewart 0-3, Drakos 0-3, Morrell 0-1, Salusso 0-2, Sholey 0-1). Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Big Sky 14, Butte High 20. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Big Sky 30 (Couture 11, DeCoite 7), Butte High 32 (Morrell 7, Stewart 6). Blocks – Big Sky 1 (Couture), Butte High 0. Assists – Big Sky 10 (Couture 5), Butte High 11 (Morrell 3). Steals – Big Sky 8 (Hale 2), Butte High 5 (Salusso 2). Turnovers – Big Sky 10, Butte High 13.