Helena Capital girls outlast Bulldogs in battle

Helena Capital girls outlast Bulldogs in battle
Butte High's Haley Herron goes up for a shot as Helena Capital's Taylor Sullivan (23) and Kacie Gross defend Thursday night at the Butte Civic Center. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

Some night, that will be a game the Butte High girls’ basketball team will win.

That night wasn’t Thursday night, however. The Bulldogs couldn’t overcome a cold second half, and Helena Capital left the Butte Civic Center with a 44-38 non-conference win over Butte High.

“We just got tight,” Butte High head coach Maury Cook said of his Bulldogs, who clearly demonstrated in two home games this week that they are not the same team that went 2-19 last season. “We were close, and we aren’t there that often.”

The loss wiped out what had been a terrific first half for the Bulldogs.

Butte High was particularly sharp in the first quarter, jumping out to a 20-15 lead after the first 8 minutes.

Junior guard Brittney Tierney hit three 3-poitners and scored 11 of her game-high 15 points in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs found themselves on top most of the first half. Butte led by as many as nine points before taking a 29-25 advantage into halftime.

“I just think we played an awesome game that first half,” Cook said. “The first quarter was great. We were so aggressive offensively. Then they just kind of got tight.

“Capital switched into the zone, and we didn’t pass the ball. We didn’t move the ball as well out of that zone.”

The second half belonged to the Bruins, who returned five starters from last year’s 14-9 team.

Recent West Point signee Taylor Sullivan, a 6-foot-2 senior, scored eight of her team-leading 12 points in the second half. Eight of Sullivan’s points came in an 8-for-13 performance from the free throw line.

The Bulldogs sent the Bruins to the line 20 times on the night. Even though Capital was whistled for more fouls than the Bulldogs, Butte High went to the stripe just 11 times.

“We’ve got to keep kids out of foul trouble. We’ll get those things shored up,” Cook said. “It was pretty much just free throw, free throw, free throw there at the end. We’ve got to learn to play those players, learn their tendencies and try to keep them from getting comfortable there in the middle.”

Capital (2-0) opened the second half with a 10-2 run to take the lead for good. Capital outscored Butte High 19-9 in the second half.

Katie Culver added 11 points for Capital, which got seven points from Sydney Sheridan and four apiece from Megan Lindbo, Kacie Gross and Emily Kidder. Ayanna Syvrud scored two.

Cook praised the energy of his Bulldogs, whose tenacity takes a back seat to nobody.

“Defensively our kids, for being undersized, just played their hearts out,” Cook said. “They didn’t lose it because of effort. You can’t fault our effort. They girls played a really good game.”

Before the game, Capital coach Bill Pilgeram pointed out that this was the first time in his long coaching career that he had five returning starters entering the season.

“We’re excited. That’s a great program Bill has,” Cook said. “Those kids are always very disciplined, and they play very well. I was proud of our kids, the way they played. Every kid who stepped on the floor tonight played hard and gave us great minutes.”

Aspen Lovshin scored seven points for the Bulldogs, while Justise Birkenbuel and Ally Cleverly each scored five points. Birkenbuel and Cleverly each hit one 3-point shot. Kira Mortensen, Haley Herron and Trisha Ericson each scored two poins. Emily Kelly also played for the Bulldogs, who fell to 1-2.

Mortensen was also a force on the boards. The 6-1 sophomore battled toe-to-toe with Sullivan before fouling out. Mortensen blocked a couple of shots.

“Kira battles so hard,” Cook said. “She’s got a couple of good blocks in there. She knows how to rise and take away shots.”

The Bulldogs are off until Dec. 22 when they head to Kalispell to take on Flathead. That is the final game before the holiday break.

“We’ve got a week off to correct some stuff here and go up and see what we can do against Kalispell,” Cook said.

HELENA CAPITAL (2-1) — Megan Lindbo 2 0-0 4, Katie Culver 5 1-2 11, Kacie Gross 2 0-2 4, Taylor Sullivan 2 8-13 12, Sydney Sheridan 2 3-3 7, Ayanna Syvrud 1 0-0 2, Madi McMahon 0 0-0 0, Emily Kidder 2 0-0 4. Totals 16 12-20 44.
BUTTE HIGH (1-2) — Aspen Lovshin 2 3-6 7, Kira Mortensen 1 0-0 2, Ally Cleverly 2 0-1 5, Haley Herron 1 0-0 2, Brittney Tierney 3 4-4 15, Justise Birkenbuel 2 0-0 5, Trisha Ericson 1 0-0 2, Emily Kelly 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 7-11 38.
Capital           15        10        10        9 — 44
Butte               20        9          5          5 — 38

3-point goals — Capital 0, Butte 5 (Tierney 3, Cleverly 1, Birkenbuel 1). Fouls — Capital 18, Butte 15. Fouled out — Mortensen. Technical — Sullivan.

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