Maroon girls pull away from Vigilantes in home opener

By Bruce Sayler 

 Talk about a numbers racket. 

The stats were especially noisy Thursday night in a whistlefest of a high school girls’ basketball game that saw Butte Central defeat East Helena 62-48 in Maroon Activities Center. 

It was the first-ever basketball game between the two schools as East Helena is in its first year of varsity sports, third year of existence.  

A rough-and-tumble first half gave way to a Maroons’ pullaway after intermission, a 30-point third quarter that opened enough distance for the victory. Brooke Badovinac’s 21 points, four blocks and nine steals combined with Sofee Thatcher’s 19 points, five assists and 14 rebounds to assure the Southwestern A Conference win. 

It was the league opener for both schools and was BC’s first home game of the season.

Five players fouled out of tilt in which 45 fouls were charged and 49 turnovers called. 

Butte Central head coach Meg Murphy acknowledged her team, with a roster of new faces to with returning starters Thatcher and Badovinac, showed her areas needing attention. 

“So much to work on that’s hard because there’s not enough time to practice, right now,” she said. “We’re so inexperienced that I’d really like to have a break right now to work on things.” 

There’s no time. The Maroons are slated to be home against rival Dillon on Saturday. 

Thatcher is a four-year starter and Badovinac, a junior, is in her third year on the varsity, second as a starter.  

“I’m biting my tongue, right now,” Murphy said about the trials of growing a new group into a contender. “But, I warned them they’re going to bring the coach’s voice out in me. I have to be patient and we need to be patient.” 

Whatever frustrations arrive with the growth pains, BC is hiding them so far in a winning record, 2-1 for the season and 1-0 in conference. 

East Helena, coached by former Deer Lodge and Montana Grizzly football standout athlete Carson Bender, is in a similar station. No seniors dot the Vigilante roster and every player is a first-year varsity contestant. 

“They’re similar,” Murphy said. “They look familiar and I expected that.” 

East Helena took an early lead after Badovinac put Butte Central on the scoreboard first with a basket from the key. The Vigilantes then reeled off six straight points, all by 5-foot-10 sophomore Dymon Root, who wound up leading all scorers with 25 points. The Maroons responded with a seven-point run to the quarter break and had a 9-6 edge going into the second period. Badovinac and Thatcher accounted for all the scoring. 

Thatcher added to the lead with a rebound basket barely into the second frame. Free throws by Isabelle Surginer and Root, and a three-point play by Montana Pierson tied the score for East Helena.  

Badovinac fed Thatcher on a fast break to snap the tie, and Ella Moodry and Thatcher sank free throws. Butte Central had a 15-14 edge at halftime. 

Baskets by Pierson and Root lifted the Vigilantes to an 18-15 advantage and the teams played basket-for-basket until Butte Central grabbed the lead, 26-24, for good when Kathryn Lalicker hooped two charity tosses. 

The Maroons outscored East Helena 19-5 the rest of the quarter in a balanced effort and East Helena was unable to climb back into contention. The difference was 45-29 going into the last period. 

An 11-5 surge for Butte Central the first 3 ½ minutes of the last frame tightened the Maroons’ grip on the lead. 

Many of BC’s 19 steals were turned into points during the team’s 30-point third quarter. 

“That press in the third quarter caused them some problems,” Murphy said. 

Lalicker came off the bench to score eight points, Payton Hartwick drilled a 3-point basket for half of her six points, Moodry finished with five and Mollie Drew scored three. Brenna Foley, Maycee Anderson, Ali Stajcar and Renee Creekmore also played in the Butte Central win. 

“In Brenna, Payton, Mollie and Kathryn, there’s not a lot of experience,” Murphy said. “They were on JV last year. Each will get better as the season goes on.” 

 East Helena’ record dropped to 0-4 with the loss. The Vigilantes are 0-1 in league play. Natell Goodman scored nine points to back Root and the team’s point totals. 

Butte Central’s game with Dillon Saturday will be the opening half of a doubleheader at the MAC. The girls are to tip off at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30. 

EAST HELENA (0-4, 0-1) — Natell Goodman 2-6 4-7 9, Reagan Fasbender 1-1 0-0 2, Montana Pierson 2-4 2-3 6, Dymon Root 7-16 10-14 25, Ella Pickett 0-4 0-0 0, Isabella Surginer 1-7 2-4 4, Janelle Taylor 1-1 0-2 2, Carly Copenhaver 0-0 0-0 0, Brooke Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Lizzie Sturges 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-39 18-25 48. 

BUTTE CENTRAL (2-1, 0-1) — Brenna Foley 0-1 0-0 0, Payton Hartwick 1-4 3-4 6, Sofee Thatcher 6-16 6-13 19, Brooke Badovinac 7-18 7-9 21, Ella Moodry 1-5 3-6 5, Mollie Drew 1-1 1-2 3, Maycee Anderson 0-0 0-1 0, Kathryn Lalicker 3-4 2-2 8, Ali Stajcar 0-0 0-0 0, Renee Creekmore 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 22-37 62. 

East Helena 6 8 15 19 – 48 

Butte Central 9 6 30 17 – 62 

3-point goals – East Helena 2-5 (Goodman 1-2, Root 1-2, Surginer 0-1), Butte Central 2-12 (Hartwick 1-2, Thatcher 1-3, Badovinac 0-5, Anderson 0-1, Lalicker 0-1) Fouled out – Pickett, Pierson, Foley, Moodry, Lalicker). Total fouls – East Helena 24, Butte Central 21. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Helena 35 (Pickett 9, Root 8), Butte Central 38 (Thatcher 14, Badovinac 6). Blocks – East Helena 3 (Root 2), Butte Central 7 (Badovinac 4, Drew 2). Assists – East Helena 3 (Goodman 2), Butte Central 6 (Thatcher 5). Steals – East Helena 7 (Goodman 4), Butte Central 19 (Badovinac 9, Hartwick 4). Turnovers – East Helena 28, Butte Central 21.