Natalee Faupel wasn’t about to let Senior Night be spoiled.
The Butte High senior scored 27 points to lead the way as the No. 3 Bulldogs won their 12th straight game, beating Billings West 60-49 Saturday at the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gymnasium.
Faupel, a future MSU-Northern Skylight, hit five 3-pointers. She also scored seven points in the fourth quarter as Butte High outscored the Golden Bears 15-5 to pull out the win.
“It was nerve-racking, but we knew we could step up and do it,” Faupel said. “We wanted to finish with a win at home.”
Sammy McGree poured in 11 points, while Erika McLeod came off the bench to score nine points and Carlie Haeffner tossed in eight. Hailey Hoagland scored five in the win, while Hattie Thatcher dished out six assists.
Mariah Michelotti also contributed for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs beat West 54-44 Jan. 19 in Billings. Faupel was held to a season-low six points in that game.
“They have a really good defense,” Faupel said. “They’re really quick, they’re physical and they’re so much bigger than us. They’ve gotten so much better than the first time we played them.”
For the better part of three quarters, the Bears kept answering every time the Bulldogs were going to make a run.
The Bulldogs led 17-11 after the first quarter. Mika Robinson, though, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half, tying the game at 17.
West led 28-27 at halftime, and Hailey Hoagland sank a 3-pointer and hit a free throw to put the Bulldogs up 31-28 early in the third quarter.
Then Haley Swan and Steph Boehm hit back-to-back 3-pointers before Boehm fed KC Christensen for a hoop to put the Bears up 36-31.
Butte High tied the game at the free throw line before Sammy McGree turned a pair of steals into layups to put the Bulldogs 40-36. With nine straight points, it looked like Butte High flipped the switch as was ready to put the game away.
However, the Bears again fought back. Robinson hit two 3-pointers sandwiched around a Erin Schreibeis inside hoop for an 8-0 run and a 44-40 lead.
The Bulldogs took a 45-44 lead into the fourth quarter when McLeod sank a 3-pointer and Faupel hit an inside hoop to close out the quarter.
“They kept after us,” Butte High coach Jeff Arntson said. “We switched to a zone. That was a big change for us. It was a nip and tuck game, and we switched to a zone. Sammy got a few steals out of that, and some layups. That kind of changed momentum a little bit.”
Schreibeis hit one free throw before Robinson hit two to open the fourth quarter, putting the Bears up 47-45.
Then Faupel put the Bulldogs up for good with a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 29 seconds left in the game.
Butte High scored the game’s last 10 points, including a three-point play by McLeod, who played much of the fourth quarter with Haeffner on the bench in foul trouble.
“She did awesome,” Faupel said of the junior. “She came when we needed her.”
The Bulldogs struggled from the free throw line, hitting on just 18 of 33 attempts. Butte High, though, hit them when they needed to, sinking 8 of 11 down the stretch.
“We made some big free throws,” Arntson said. “We hit a few when we needed to at the end.”
Robinson scored 16 points before fouling out to lead the Bears. Christenson scored 14.
The Bulldogs, who close out the season at Bozeman and Billings Senior next week, improved to 16-2 overall and 9-1 in Eastern AA play. Butte High is tied for first place with Great Falls High, which beat Bozeman at home Saturday.
The top team in the conference receives a bye to the Class AA State tournament.
Before the game, the Bulldogs honored their seniors — Faupel, Thatcher and Haeffner.
“We’re getting better at finishing games,” Faupel said. “It was awesome. It was the exact way I wanted to end it.”
BILLINGS WEST (5-5, 9-10) — Steph Boehm 3 0-1 9, Samirah Dennis 1 0-0 2, Mika Robinson 5 2-2 16, KC Christenson 6 2-2 14, Erin Schreibeis 1 3-4 5, Haley Swan 1 0-0 3, Delaney Clement 0 0-0 0, Jessica Lamp 0 0-0 0, Ashley MacDonald 0 0-0 0, Brianna White 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 7-9 49.
BUTTE HIGH (9-1, 16-2) — Hailey Hoagland 1 2-4 5, Natalee Faupel 7 8-11 27, Sammy McGree 4 2-4 11, Hattie Thatcher 0 0-2 0, Carlie Haeffner 2 4-7 8, Erika McLeod 2 2-5 9, Maria Michelotti 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 18-33 60.
West 11 17 16 5 — 49
Butte 17 10 18 15 — 60
3-point goals — West 8 (Robinson 4, Boem 3, Swan), Butte 7 (Faupel 5, McGree, McLeod). Fouls — West 21, Butte 12. Fouled out — Robinson, Schreibeis. Technicals — none.