Lady Bulldogs cruise past Helena High on Senior Night

The Lady Bulldogs woke up Thursday morning wanting to prove to the state that they could play with the best of them. The Lady Bulldogs of Butte High School kicked off the doubleheader against the Helena High Bengals on Senior Night for the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams. With Butte High needing to win the last two games on the schedule to make their record an even .500, the 12-5 Bengals were one of those two teams standing in their way. Helena High, who are coming off a tough loss to the 16-2 Missoula Big Sky Eagles, were looking to end their season on a high note.

The opening quarter showed how well-rounded the Butte High girls’ team is on both sides of the court. The offense kept the ball moving while taking advantage of the overly aggressive Lady Bengal defense. The defense inside the paint was firmly contained by senior Selene Morrell, who led the team in rebounds. Morrell scored first for the Lady Bulldogs with an aggressive layup and one.

With the Bulldogs up 6-3, “Lefty” Cadence Graham would take a rebound coast-to-coast to make it an 8-3 Lady Dog lead. A pair of free throws from Helena High senior Kylee Gardipee would cut the Lady Bulldog lead to three points. The Lady Dogs would answer back with seven straight points off the backs of Brityn Stewart, Franki Salusso, and Ashlinn Mullaney. A lone free-throw from Second team All-Western AA guard Avery Kraft meant the Bulldogs would lead 15-6 at the end of one.

The stingy Helena High defense would test the Lady Bulldog’s strategy throughout the second quarter. Butte High would turn the ball over eight times in the second quarter, but they would still find ways to score baskets when given the opportunity. The defense continued to pressure the lady Bengals, who looked immobilized inside the paint.

Lefty Graham scored eight second-quarter points in the back-and-forth scoring effort against Avery Kraft, who led the second-quarter scoring for the Lady Bengals with six. Brityn Stewart would splash a three-pointer in the final minute for the Bulldogs as the score sat at 26-19 heading into halftime.

The start of the second half saw Brityn Stewart heat up. Aside from her ankle-breaking offensive maneuvers, she was able to drain two back-to-back free throws to extend the lead to 36-25. Stewart scored ten of the bulldog’s 16 third-quarter points. Helena High was able to find a little more success inside the paint but could not overcome the turnovers and missed defensive opportunities. With the Bulldogs up 42-29, it was time to enter the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter for the Lady Dogs was one of offensive focus. The only thing that plagued the Bulldogs in the final quarter were fouls. Helena High went to the line ten times in the fourth and made all but one of the free throws. Brityn Stewart iced the game and put it out of reach after a two-point bucket plus the foul. The Bulldogs sank 8 for 9 on the free-throw line, with five of them in the closing minutes. In the final minutes, the Butte crowd wanted more. The chants of “We want Lanie” echoed through RJR gym.

With the score 61-48 in the final minute, Team manager and senior  Lanie “Legend” Lowney got the call that she was going. Lowney, wearing number 51, fulfilled a dream of playing among her teammates in the final home game of the season.

The Lady Bulldogs controlled the entire game without giving up the lead once in a game that saw them score a season-high 61 points. Brityn Stewart led the Bulldogs in the scoring effort with 23 points. Cadence Graham finished with 21 points, while Selene Morrell finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Ashlinn Mullaney added a three-point bucket in the first quarter. Franki Salusso and senior Taylor Drakos round out the scoring efforts with 2 points a piece.

Avery Kraft led the Helena High Lady Bengals with 15 points, followed by Madi Todorovich with 12. Kylee Gardipee added ten points, going 6 for 6 on the free throw line. Grace Murgel sank two three-pointers in the fourth quarter to add 6 points to the total. Cassidy Smith scored 3 points, and Addi Roush scored 2 points.

The Lady Bulldogs attempt to break even as they travel to Helena to play the 8-9 Helena Capital Lady Bruins in a battle for the 4th seed in the west. The game takes place on February 24th at 3:30 pm at Capital High School.

Congrats to Taylor Drakos, Selene Morrell, and Lanie Lowney on a fantastic senior night win. Best of luck in your future endeavors!