(Feature Image by Alycia Holland photography.)
A year removed from last season’s Bulldog team, this year’s team has made a complete 180 turnaround as the team continues to gel and the dynamic duo of junior Brit Stewart and freshman Cadence Graham continues to be a problem for opposing teams.If you haven’t been out to watch a Butte High girls game yet, you most certainly should, they are playing great team basketball and only get better each week.
Butte hosted Missoula Sentinel today at the Butte Civic Center and the Spartans came out sizzling hitting 3, three balls in the first minute and a half of the game to lead Butte 10-5 after a Cadence Graham 30 footer for 3. Ashlinn Mullaney tossed in a bucket from the corner, followed by a great fast break run from Graham who threw the outlet pass to Mullaney who then found a cutting Brit Stewart to the bucket she was fouled and completed the and 1, Bulldogs would lead 14-12 forcing a Spartan timeout.
Sentinel would attack the paint and take a 1-point lead with them to the second quarter. Both teams traded buckets through the second quarter, Butte was playing great fundamental hoops boxing out on the glass and doing the little things right.
Things were knotted at 21 apiece with 3:18 to go in the first half. Brit Stewart stepped into a rhythm 3 out of a timeout and and splashed it home to give the Dogs a 3-point advantage. Butte High would hold on to a 2 point half time lead as the Spartans shooting cooled off in the second, 27-25 Butte.
Stewart came out of the half and cashed in another Bulldog triple for 3 more of her game high 23 points to up the the score to 30-27 after 2 minutes gone by in the 3rd quarter. Stewart was as cool as the flip side of the pillow as she continued to let it rain from deep as she splashed home another corner triple off a Graham dish, 33-27 Butte.
Graham then found Emma Johnson in the short corner and Johnson would cash that in for another Bulldogs deuce. Butte would go up 9 but not before Sentinel’s Emily McElmury stopped the bleeding with a corner 3 of her own and cut the Bulldog lead to 6 with just under 3 to play in the period, she would then knock down a pair of shots at the charity stripe and before we knew it the Spartans cut the lead to just one.
Cadence Graham was dishing out the rock left and right and found Mullaney under the hoop for another Bulldogs lay in 40-38 Butte, the Dogs took a 1-point lead to the 4th quarter at 41-40.
Brit Stewart backed her defender down low on the block hit her with the shake and bake and hit a turnaround jumper for 2, leading to an Emily McElmury long two ball from the top of the key leading to a Bulldog timeout with 5:53 to play.
After a Bulldog turnover the Spartans hit another fast break bucket to regain the lead at 47-46 with 5 to go, but it was short lived as Stewart grabbed a board down low and went back up for 2 more, 48-47 Dogs.
Butte would push their lead to 51-47 with just over 2 minutes left to play, Missoula was forcing turnovers but couldn’t capitalize on the offensive end missing multiple lay ins and jumpers before putting one in for 2 more cutting the lead to just 2 with a 1:09 left to play, 51-49 Butte.
Missoula saw multiple chances to take the lead in the final minute of play including a steal at half court after a near ten second call in the backcourt but couldn’t cash in free throws in crunch time and would lead to the Dogs getting an inbound opportunity and being fouled with 3 seconds to play, Franki Salusso knocked down the first free throw and Sentientel would call a time out trying to ice Franki but it was to no prevail as she stepped to line after the timeout full of confidence and splashed home the second icing the Spartans herself by knocking down two huge free throws and the Dogs Escape 53-49.
“Good effort by the team to find a way to get a win, we had some big contributions from everyone. We showed some inexperience in some situations, but it was great to see them move on from those and do what was needed. Some huge free throws from Franki Salusso to ice the game at the end.” Said coach Bryan Arntson.
The win moves the Bulldogs to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play, Butte will welcome the Glacier Wolfpack to town next week in another Western AA matchup.
Brityn Stewart led all scorers with 23 points, Cadence Graham had 14, Ashlinn Mullaney, Franki Salusso, and Dylann Bartoletti all had 4 points each, Emma Johnson and Taylor Drakos both had 2 for Butte High.