Rams deny Maroons in State A opener

Rams deny Maroons in State A opener
Butte Central's Emma Keeley drives as Billings Central's Chloe Paharik defends Thursda night at the Four Seasons Arena. (Bill Foley photo)

GREAT FALL — The Butte Central girls’ basketball team has at least one more day in their improbable season.

That is how the Maroons are looking at Friday after falling 46-35 to Billings Central Thursday night in the first round of the Class A State tournament at the Four Seasons Arena. (Stats)

“Our goal has always been to bring some hardware home,” BC coach Meg Murphy said of her Maroons. “The funny thing about these kids is they probably won’t remember what today was like, and tomorrow is a whole new day. They’re the kids that just keep on going. We survive to play another day, and that’s how we look at it.”

The Maroons (11-14), who were written off for dead when just 13 players went out for the team in November, will play Browning in a 10:30 a.m. loser-out game on Friday.

Browning fell 71-29 just before the Maroons battled their Central counterpart from Billings.

The winner advance Saturday’s loser-out round. The loser heads home.

Butte Central can point to one cold spell for their first-round loss. The Rams used a 17-1 run over the second and third quarters to overcome an early Butte Central lead.

The Maroons battled to the end, but that run was too much to overcome.

That run also erased such a promising start.

Maddie Kump hit a 3-pointer to start the scoring for the Maroons. Sofee Thatcher followed with a three to make it 6-3.

Tricia Joyce, BC’s senior guard, closed the first quarter with a 3-pointer from the corner and a running jump shot to put the Maroons on top 11-7 at the end of the first quarter.

That was the end of the good news for Butte Central, however.

Billings Central’s distinctive size advantage took over in the second quarter, and the Rams opened the frame with eight straight points.

A free throw by Joyce turned out to be the only point of the quarter for the Maroons, who were outscored 11-1 in the second. That gave the rams an 18-12 halftime advantage.

Billings Central scored the first six points of the third quarter, making the advantage double figures.

Billings Central led 31-19 after three quarters, and the Rams led by as much as 41-26.

The game, as the Maroons saw it, was far from over.

Joyce stole the ball and took it for a hoop, drove for another and buried a 3-poitner from the top of the key for a 7-0 run to cut it to 41-33.

That was as close as BC got.

“Our kids executed our defensive game play to a T, and we caused them a lot of problems,” Murphy said. “We did a great job executing, everything I asked them to do. Our kids came out and played to the best of their abilities. I am not disappointed at all. Billings Central is a very good basketball team.”

Billings Central held the Maroons to a 13-for-49 performance from the field, and the Rams won the battle of the boards 40-24.

Isabelle Erickson scored 16 points, while Olivia Moten-Schell scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Rams (18-4). Julia Peterson came off the bench to score six points and grab seven rebounds, and Chloe Paharik contributed with five points and five boards.

The fearless Joyce scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Maroons.

“Tricia Joyce did not back down from any 5-foot-9, 5-foot-11, 6-foot kid,” Murphy said. “She took the ball right at them.”

Thatcher scored eight, Kump finished with five, and Amira Bolton tossed in four.

Bella Sorini grabbed six rebounds, while Taylor Harrington pulled down five. Murphy also pointed to Sha Davis’s play.

“We gave up a huge size advantage inside,” the coach said. “Shea Davis, Taylor Harrington and those kids just battled underneath. I’m proud of them. They caused them some problems.”

Delaney Hasquet and Avery Kelly also contributed for the Maroons.

Overall, Murphy was happy with the way her team played against the Eastern A champions.

“We represented the Western Conference as well as anybody did today,” Murphy said. “Three months ago if you told me we’d be on the floor and have a chance to beat this team, I would have told you that you were crazy.”

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