Great Falls girls run past Bulldogs

Fourth-quarter fatigue shackled Butte High Thursday night in a 67-52 girls’ basketball loss to a good Great Falls High team.
Played in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High School, the game was the Eastern AA Conference opener for the Bulldogs.
Butte High had rallied from a 29-21 halftime hole to hold a 41-40 edge early in the fourth quarter.
However, a winded Bulldog defense lost three players to foul quotas in the fourth period, a frame in which Great Falls High outscored the home team 27-13. The quarter saw the Bison net 13 of 17 free throw shots and a run of 21-3 the middle moments of the period.
“Could you see it?” Butte High head coach Liza Dennehy asked rhetorically about the fatigue factor. “A few of the fouls were caused by fatigue. We still have some Christmas turkey in our tummies.”
“We had planned to control the tempo, which I think we did very effectively.”
The coach noted that even when her high-speed offense took it down a gear a time or two, it affected Great Falls High play because the Bison did not seem to expect it.
“There were a lot of good things tonight we’re going to walk away with,” Dennehy said. “We had a good effort the whole game and good execution.”
It was a rough-and-tumble contest with 53 fouls called and 47 turnovers committed. The Butte High side of the tally showed 32 fouls and 29 turnovers.
Great Falls closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run that put the Bison ahead 17-10. Mercedes Bourgeau and Lizzy Klinker led the effort and Bourgeau eventually led the win with 22 points, seven rebounds and four steals. The Bison maintained the advantage through halftime before Butte High put together a spirited run of its own.
The Bulldogs trailed 35-23 before Sammy McGree, held to two points in the first half, nailed a 3-point basket. Great Falls missed four straight foul shots and the Bulldogs responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Kassidy Caprara as a 14-0 run was lit.
McGree capped it with two made free throws and another trey.
The result was a 37-35 Butte High edge. The Bison recovered to eke out the 40-39 edge heading into the final frame.
Dennehy said the Bulldogs knew they needed to win the first few minutes of the second half to stay in the game against a Great Falls team that has lost just once this season.
“We owned it,” Dennehy said.
The hard play, though, came at a price. The legs became rubbery and reach was without lift. Fouls were committed and the Bison were honed in from the charity stripe. The loss of oomph showed in the Butte High foul shooting, too, as the Bulldogs caged only 13 of 30 chances from the foul line during the entire contest. Their 3-point shooting rate was 7-for-23.
Great Falls sank 10 free throws in its decisive run at the end of the game. Bourgeau and Markaela Francis combined for 11 of the 21 points in the Bison spree.
Francis finished with eight points, eight rebounds and a block. Taylor Komm scored 14 points, notching seven of them in the fourth quarter.
McGree led Butte High with 16 points and also pulled down three rebounds, dished four assists and stole the ball four times. Caprara scored 11 points, Maria Michelotti marked nine points and six rebounds, Mariah Richardson scored eight, Andie Hogan tallied six and Bethany McLean registered two points and six rebounds. Lexi Murphy, McKaul Ori and Ashten McCloskey also played a lot of minutes.
“We’re seeing improvement,” Dennehy said, adding that a bit more conditioning to work the girls into basketball playing shape is needed.
“We‘ll be a lot better,” she added.
The win put Great Falls High at 6-1 this season. Butte High will take records of 0-1 in conference and 2-4 overall to Great Falls on Saturday to play C.M. Russell.

Lizzy Klinker 2-4 5-6 9, Nora Klick 1-4 0-1 2, Mercedes Bourgeau 7-14 8-11 22, Markaela Francis 1-1 6-9 8, Taylor Komm 5-9 3-4 14, Natalie Klinker 3-4 3-9 9, Mikaela Kynett 0-1 1-2 1, Darbi Fought 1-4 0-2 2, Brooke Dart 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-41 26-44 67.
BUTTE HIGH (2-4, 0-1)
Mariah Richardson 3-8 0-0 8, Bethany McLean 1-2 0-0 2, Sammy McGree 6-14 2-2 16, Maria Michelotti 0-2 9-14 9, Kassidy Caprara 4-9 0-3 11, Lexi Murphy 0-1 0-3 0, Andie Hogan 2-5 2-4 6, McKaul Ori 0-0 0-0 0, Ashten McCloskey 0-6 0-4 0. Totals 16-47 13-30 52.
Great Falls 17 12 11 27 — 67
Butte High 10 11 18 13 — 52
3-point goals — GF 1-10 (L. Klink 0-2, Klick 0-2, Bourgeau 0-2, Komm 1-3, Kynett 0-1), Butte 7-23 (Richardson 2-6, McLean 0-1, McGree 2-6, Michelotti 0-1, Caprara 3-6, McCloskey 0-3). Fouled out — Michelotti, Caprara, McCloskey. Total fouls — GF 22, Butte 32. Technicals — none. Rebounds — GF 37 (N. Klinker 10_, Butte 35 (McLean 6, Michelotti 6). Blocks — GF 1 (Francis), Butte 3(McGree 1, Murphy 1, Hogan 1). Assists — GF 8 (L. Klinker 3), Butte 8 (McGree 4). Steals — GF 13 (Bourgeau 4), Butte 9 (McGree 4). Turnovers — GF 18, Butte 29.

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