Butte Central girls honor retiring coach, roll past Rangers
By Bill Foley
When Meg Murphy took a seat at the end of the Butte Central bench Saturday, it was a well-deserved break.
It was a break that was 40 years coming.
With a large group of her former players looking on, the current Butte Central Maroons honored Murphy the best way possible.
With a win.
An easy win at that.
Butte Central never trailed, and the Maroons rolled to a 60-30 win over Livingston in a non-conference girls’ basketball game at the Maroon Activities Center.
“She told us before the game, ‘The one thing I want for this game is that my blood pressure cannot go up. Let me enjoy one game,’” BC senior Sofee Thatcher said. “So, we did.”
“I told them, ‘Just once can’t you let me sit on the bench?” Murphy added with a laugh.
Saturday was not Murphy’s last game on the bench for the Maroons. It was not even her last home game. But it was a day to honor the coach who announced this week that this will be the last season of a coaching career that has spanned 40 years.
Before the game, a couple dozen of Murphy’s former players joined the coach and her current players on the court. A tribute video was played in honor of the coach, who entered the Butte Sports Hall of Fame as an athlete in 2005.
Then, the Maroons went out and rolled the Rangers for their fourth straight victory.
It was a game the Maroons were not about to lose.
“We wanted it so bad,” Thatcher said. “That’s all we wanted for her.”
Central took control by scoring eight straight points for a 16-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Maroons led 25-11 at the half, and BC blew the game open with a 10-0 run in the third quarter.
BC took a 38-19 lead into the fourth quarter, and Central put the win to bed by outscoring the Rangers 22-11.
“I didn’t get no technicals,” Murphy said with a laugh. “I didn’t have to scream a lot. That was a good thing.”
The lead was so comfortable that Murphy finally took a seat. The coach knows exactly how many times she has done that, too.
“Twice,” Murphy said. “Once in Dillon when I lost my voice and I couldn’t stand anymore. Kellie Johnson never forgave me.”
Johnson, whose last name is now Mead, was one of the former players who came to honor Murphy.
Emotions clearly caught up with Murphy at the scene before the game.
“Several of them came in from out of town, out of state,” the coach said of her former players. “I see them a lot, but it’s a special occasion and they made it up here just to see me.”
Thatcher has known Murphy for as long as she can remember, and she knows why those players came back for their coach.
“She’s the best. She’s so cool, so funny,” Thatcher said of Murphy. “She just has a lot of respect for us, and that just makes us want to play for her. She treats us all like we’re her own kids. She loves us to death, and we would all dive on the floor or go through a brick wall for her. I think she would do the same for us.”
Junior Brooke Badovinac poured in 20 points to lead the Maroons, who improved to 10-6 overall. Sophomore Ella Moodry scored 16 points, while Thatcher scored seven points and dished out seven assists.
Thatcher described some of the assists as “cherry picking.”
“We’re getting better each week,” Murphy said. “The younger kids are starting to get better, and that helps us a ton. We’ve got two weeks to get where we want to go. Hopefully things go the right way.
“I think we’re one of those teams that you probably don’t want.”
The Maroons got contributions from up and down their lineup. All 10 players on the roster played, and eight scored.
Senior Payton Hartwick tossed in five points, sophomores Kathryn Lalicker an Mollie Drew each scored four, and senior Brenna Foley joined junior Maycee Anderson with two points.
Sophomore Renee Creekmore and junior Tameli Bayarou also played for the Maroons.
Taylor Young scored 14 points before fouling out to lead the Rangers, who fell to 2-14. She sank 8 of 10 free throws.
Elsa Cajune added six points for Livingston. Lily Weimer netted five, Emily Jesson and Maya Stenseth each scored two, and Ellie King tossed in one.
The win ran Murphy’s career record at Butte Central to 273-231. That is something we know because Katie English, a former player and assistant coach with Murphy, did the research.
That record includes state championships in 2011 and 2016. The 2016 went undefeated.
It includes five divisional championships, two second-place finishes at state and one third-place performance.
Murphy started coaching at Butte Central as a basketball and track assistant in 1984. That is two years after she started coaching Little League. She served as head coach from 1989 through 1997.
After a stint as an assistant and then head coach at Montana Tech, Murphy went back to BC as an assistant in 2006. She took over as head coach the next year.
Murphy was also instrumental in starting BC’s softball program. In 10 seasons, she posted a 152-71 record. That includes state titles in 1997, 1999 and 2000. Another likely title in 1996 was rained out.
Murphy’s Maroons will go for win No. 274 Tuesday when they celebrate Senior Night against Stevensville.
BC closes the regular season next Saturday at Hamilton. Then the Maroons head to the Southwestern A District tournament Feb. 17-19 in Dillon.
From there, the Maroons are planning on heading to Hamilton for the Western A Divisional tournament and then to Missoula for the March 10-12 Class A State tournament.
Then, Murphy can take a seat at every game.
“It was a tough decision,” the coach said of her coming retirement. “I need a little time for me now.”
LIVINGSTON (2-14) — Taylor Young 3 8-10 14, Bailey Opitz 0 0-0 0, Elsa Cajune 2 2-4 6, Kaylee Roberts 0 0-0 0, Lily Weimer 2 0-3 5, Emily Jesson 0 2-2 2, Maya Stenseth 1 0-0 2, Gray Hoglund 0 0-0 0, Ellie King 0 1-2 1, Hailey Strupp 0 0-0. Totals 8 13-21 30.
BUTTE CENTRAL (10-6) — Brenna Foley 1 0-0 2, Payton Hartwick 2 1-2 5, Sofee Thatcher 3 1-3 7, Brooke Badovinac 8 3-4 20, Ella Moodry 7 2-6 16, Kathryn Lalicker 2 0-2 4, Maycee Anderson 1 0-0 2, Mollie Drew 2 0-0 4, Tameli Bayarou 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 7-15 60.
Livingston 7 4 8 11 — 30
Butte Central 16 9 13 22 — 60
3-point goals — Livingston 1 (Weimer), BC 1 (Badovinac). Fouls — Livingston 14, BC 17. Fouled out — Young. Technicals — none.